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Raymond Burr Regretted Taking 'Perry Mason' Role as He Did Not Get to Marry or Have a Family

Olawale Ogunjimi
Jul 24, 2022
12:40 A.M.
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Raymond Burr became famous thanks to his lead role as Perry Mason in the iconic TV series “Perry Mason." But his fame came at a cost he spent years regretting.

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No list of iconic legal dramas is complete without the mention of “Perry Mason.” Be it the outstanding storyline or the ultimate depiction of an incorruptible attorney dedicated to liberating the innocent, the iconic 50s movie certainly left its mark in showbiz.

Standing at the forefront of the classic was the lead character Perry Mason. Notably, the actor Raymond Burr, who played the lead role, attracted stardom to himself—as a result, redefining his life in more ways than one.

Portrait of Actor Raymond Burr. | Source: Getty Images

Portrait of Actor Raymond Burr. | Source: Getty Images

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While “Perry Mason” remains Burr’s most famous gig, his career went beyond being the best defense attorney in television history. Long before snagging the role of Mason, Burr began acting as part of a repertory theatre touring Canada.

He made his first Broadway appearance in 1940 on “Crazy With the Heat.” He also starred in “The Duke in Darkness” production before branching into film.

Some of his iconic movies include “Desperate,” “Abandoned,” “Crime of passion,” “Red Light,” “Affair in Havana,” and “A Place in the Sun,” “Rear Window,” and “A Cry in the Night,” among others. He also did radio broadcasts and appeared in a handful of television shows like “Ironside” and “Perry Mason,” shooting him to impressive heights.

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HOW PERRY MASON IMPARTED RAYMOND BURR’S LIFE

Actors Lewis Martin as Judge Libott and Raymond Burr as Perry Mason perform in a courtroom scene in an episode of the TV series "Perry Mason" on November 13, 1961. | Source: Getty Images

Actors Lewis Martin as Judge Libott and Raymond Burr as Perry Mason perform in a courtroom scene in an episode of the TV series "Perry Mason" on November 13, 1961. | Source: Getty Images

Despite reaching the height of his stardom thanks to his stint on “Perry Mason,” Raymond Burr never stopped imagining what life would have been like had he not taken the role. He admittedly wished he never did. Burr has been open about his regrets regarding his path to stardom, especially taking on “Perry Mason.”

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He once revealed the television series took more from him than most would know, leading to a life of regrets. The legend described it as the only thing he regretted in his life. Explaining further, he noted:

“I’m sorry I spent nine years of my life tying myself down. I couldn’t be married, have a family, or even have friends.”

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason on location for the show PERRY MASON. Image dated August 3, 1962. | Source: Getty Images

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason on location for the show PERRY MASON. Image dated August 3, 1962. | Source: Getty Images

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Burr, who was already forty when the productions took off in 1957, spent the next decade tied to his work on the show. Sources revealed the television idol resided in a Bungalow on the studio lot. He had no cause to leave the apartment except for filming the one-hour weekly series, which took up most of his day.

BURR’S RELATIONSHIP AND FAMILY

Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale as Perry Mason and Della Street from the television show Perry Mason. | Source: Getty Images

Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale as Perry Mason and Della Street from the television show Perry Mason. | Source: Getty Images

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Raymond Burr’s closest chance at a relationship at the time was with his onscreen secretary Barbara Hale. However, Hale was already married with three kids, crushing any chances he might have had with her. Instead, he seemed to make up tales centered around the life he so much craved.

In fact, his made-up stories earned him a reputation as the greatest mythomaniac in Hollywood’s history. Burr’s tendency to lie and exaggerate details saw him brandish non-existent bullet wounds sustained in battle and years of military service.

He also claimed to have sustained romantic affairs with starlets like Natalie Woods. Additionally, the actor supposedly married at least two women earlier on in his lifetime and had a son Michael who died of leukemia at ten.

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

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

According to Burr, he married his first wife, actress Arnette Sutherland in the forties. She reportedly died in 1943 in the same plane crash as Leslie Howard, but not before giving birth to Michael.

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Next, he claimed to have married a woman named Laura Andrina Morgan, who conveniently lost her battle with cancer just before their planned honeymoon. However, records of these supposed wives and deceased sons were never known to members of the Burr family.

Natalie Wood has also failed to admit to having an affair with Burr, finding the idea laughable. His only marriage on record was to Isabella Ward in 1948, which only lasted a few months. It turned out the legendary actor only made up his other stories, even having them published by his first biographer Ona Hill.

BURR HAD A BIG SECRET

ROBERT BENEVIDES. | Source: Getty Images

ROBERT BENEVIDES. | Source: Getty Images

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Fifteen years after his demise, biographer Michael Seth published the book “Hiding In Plain Sight: The Secret Life Of Raymond Burr,” which confronted several of Burr’s lies.

The book and other discoveries brought to light that the legendary entertainer was only selling his made-up fantasies to cover the fact that he was gay all along and spent his life with male lover Robert Benevides.

Apparently, he feared the revelation of his sexual orientation would result in him losing his role on “Perry Mason.” Hence, he put on a front all his life to hide the bigger picture.

Portrait of Raymond Burr. | Source: Getty Images

Portrait of Raymond Burr. | Source: Getty Images

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Burr and Benevides first met in 1960 when the latter was an aspiring actor. Soon after, they kicked off their relationship but tried to keep it hidden from the world. The two spend the next 33 years of their lives together, with the world only recognizing them as business partners and friends.

This explains why neither married nor had kids during that period. Notwithstanding, Burr managed to build a family in his way, fostering at least 26 children from various parts of the world.

He specifically requested foster kids with the most medical need and went out of his way to provide for them and their known relatives. His contributions to their lives paid off, with most of them growing up to become successful adults with whom he often kept in touch.

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A LIFE WELL-LIVED

Canadian actor Raymond Burr (1917 - 1993), circa 1985. | Source: Getty Images

Canadian actor Raymond Burr (1917 - 1993), circa 1985. | Source: Getty Images

Outside his acting career, Burr lived a rich life dedicated to philanthropy. His philanthropic efforts earned him a reputation for being incredibly kind and generous to people in his everyday life. Additionally, he had wide-reaching interests in everything from cultivating orchids to collecting win, stamps, and sea shells.

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It isn’t surprising then that the philanthropist was a vulnerable and sensitive soul who craved love and peace. At some point in his life, he migrated to the Fiji Islands because he considered the residents more caring and respectful of others.

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. | Source: Getty Images

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. | Source: Getty Images

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Burr spent the remaining years of his life pursuing his career and upholding his charitable efforts. He eventually passed away on September 12, 1993, months after undergoing surgery to remove a renal cell carcinoma.

Several people and groups paid tribute to the television idol, singing his praise. His longtime partner Benevides speaks fondly of him and spent years after Burr’s demise reliving their shared memories and fulfilling several of their joint dreams and ambitions, including the Raymond Burr Vineyards.

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