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Barbara Hale Was Close with Raymond Burr's Partner after Star's Death - He Kept Their Relationship a Secret for 35 Years

Busayo Ogunjimi
Mar 15, 2022
02:40 A.M.
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Barbara Hale and Raymond Burr had known each other before being cast as the main characters in the "Perry Mason" series. Working together on the series strengthened their relationship, and she also knew about Burr's secret relationship. 

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Even though Raymond Burr kept most of the information about his life secret behind the scenes, including inventing a false biography for himself, he and Barbara Hale remained like family until his death. 

After Burr's demise, the actress continued being friends with the late actor's partner, who he kept a secret for most of his life. 

Barbara Hale and Raymond Burr in a photo together | Source: Getty Images

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BARBARA HALE AND RAYMOND BURR'S ICONIC ROLE. 

NBC's mystery television hit show "Perry Mason" is regarded as one of the best series of its era. The show, which aired its first episode on September 21, 1957, accumulated 271 episodes before the finale on September 4, 1966. 

Spearheading the show's success were lead characters Canadian-born actor Burr, who played the titular character Perry Mason. Hale portrayed his equally popular co-star Hale, who portrayed private secretary Della Street in the series. 

The pair had known each other since the 1940s. Burr and Hale were upcoming actors under the RKO Studios, had independently worked in multiple television series, and made up to 50 movies before they were cast together in the "Perry Mason" series. 

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Raymond Burr pictured outside the Royal Courts of Justice during a promotional tour for "Perry Mason," London, 1961. | Source: Getty Images

Between 1958 and 1959, a year after the series debuted to much critical acclaim, Hale was named the Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, while Burr himself eventually won two Emmy awards. 

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Burr and Hale's role in the series brought them worldwide fame, and it even made the former to be television's highest-paid episode actor at the time.

A headshot of television icon Raymond Burr wearing a checkered shirt. | Source: Getty Images

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Their friendship as upcoming actors and working together on the series made their relationship stronger, and the pair became like family. Speaking about their relationship, Hale 

said

:

"He was my brother. He was family."

When the series ended, Hale made history by becoming the only actor to have appeared in every one of the "Perry Mason" episodes since it began in 1957. Burr missed just four episodes after a short time out due to cancer. 

Raymond Burr with co-star actress Barbara Hale as Perry Mason and Della Street in the TV series "Perry Mason" which aired from 1957 to 1966. | Source: Getty Images

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BURR'S HIDDEN SEXUALITY. 

As "Perry Mason" became more popular over the years of its airing and Burr dazzled fans with his brilliant performances, it also led to an inquiry about his personal life. 

At the time, his biographical data alluded that the actor had previously been married three times. He divorced his second wife in 1947. Burr tragically lost his first wife in a plane crash in 1943 and the third one to cancer. 

The actor had also once said he lost a son, Michael, who died of leukemia at age 11. All this information could not be confirmed, and whenever reporters asked the veteran star about it, he would refuse to address them. 

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"Ironside" star Raymond Burr pictured smiling wearing a black jacket in 1962. | Source: Getty Images

Burr would sometimes deflect the questions by talking about his brief alleged sexual relationships with female Hollywood stars, one of whom was Natalie Wood. 

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Sometimes he would make passing comments about his marriage to Isabella Ward, which ended within months, and when questioned further about his past wives and son, the actor would reply he was not ready to discuss it. 

Journalists soon gave up on asking about his relationships since he would not give concrete answers, so instead, they just retold the story of his dead son and wife as fact. 

Actress Natalie Wood with Raymond Burr attending the premiere of "A Cry in the Night" in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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Also, whenever queried about remarrying, Burr would tout his busy schedule filming "Perry Mason" as the reason he had not considered it. 

However, behind the scenes, Burr lived as a closeted gay man and was in a relationship with actor and Korean War veteran Robert Benevides who he met on the set of "Perry Mason."

The actor could not come out about his sexuality because homosexuals were not accepted in Hollywood back then, and that revelation would have impacted his career. 

Raymond Burr as Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside, in the police drama "Ironside" in 1975 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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HIS DEATH

The veteran "Perry Mason" star Raymond Burr died of liver cancer on September 12, 1993, at his California home in Sonoma County. He was 76 years old. 

The actor who had been very sick made his last movie appearance on the Perry Mason TV film, "The Case of the Killer Kiss." Burr was survived by his partner, Benevides, and his sister Geraldine Fuller of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The actor left his entire $32 million estate to Benevides and surprisingly excluded his sister and the rest of his family. After Burr's passing, Benevides, who now ran the family vineyard he inherited, explained that he had always wanted to own land ever since he read "The Good Earth" by Pearl Buck as a kid. 

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Raymond Burr wearing a pinstriped suit in a promotional headshot for the film, "Bride of Vengeance." | Source: Getty Images

Initially, he and Burr had bought the land to have a property close to the family, but the late actor decided they should plant some grapes because he had always wanted wine since he loved cooking.  

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In 1986, they planted the grapes, and three years later, they bottled their first wine. They started making wine from that moment. 

Benevides was a struggling actor when he met Burr, and three years after they started their relationship, the former explained he got tired of acting, unlike his partner, who enjoyed every moment of it. 

Raymond Burr photographed smiling with his hand on a car door in 1985 | Source: Getty Images

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After that, they subsequently started two production companies. The first one they called Harbour Productions; the second they named RB Productions. Benevides also declared he remained close friends with Hale after Burr's death. He explained

"I am still very much in love with Barbara [Hale] and she with me. I just spent two dinners and a brunch with her down in Los Angeles. We get along beautifully."

Even though Benevides and Burr tried to keep their relationship secret, it would seem that Hale was one of the few people who knew what was going on between the pair. 

Raymond Burr attending rehearsals for the 37th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on September 21, in 1985 | Source: Getty Images

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HALE'S LIFE AFTER THE SHOW AND DEATH 

Barbara Hale died at her Sherman Oaks, California, home in 2017, aged 94. Her son, William Katt, announced her death in a Facebook post. He wrote

“We’ve all been so lucky to have her for so long. She was gracious and kind and silly and always fun to be with. A wonderful actress and smart businesswoman, she was most of all a treasure as a friend and mother.”

The veteran actress was survived by her three children, including William Katt, Jody, and Juanita; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and two half brothers.

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Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale and other "Perry Mason" stars at an award event, circa 1958 | Source: Getty Images

She and Burr remained friends until the latter's death, and afterward, Hale went on to appear in three more films inspired by the "Perry Mason" series. 

The last was "A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Jealous Jokester" in 1995, where she starred alongside Hal Holbrook. Unfortunately, it also proved to be her last screen appearance. 

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