Raymond Burr blamed Ironside for his health problems

Was the wheelchair to blame for a heart attack?

By 1973, Raymond Burr was famous a few times over. He was the main (human) character in the American version of one of the biggest monster movies of all time, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Then, for nine seasons, from 1957 to 1966, Burr was Perry Mason, the title attorney on the same-named procedural. After Perry Mason, Burr immediately pivoted to Ironside, where he was the wheelchair-bound consultant to the San Francisco Police Department. Each role pushed his career forward, and in turn, raised Burr's profile in the industry. 

However, by Ironside's seventh season, that back-to-back schedule seemingly caught up with Burr, and his health began to deteriorate. In the fall of '73, Burr suffered a heart attack, which sounded an alarm, internally. He needed to take inventory of his lifestyle and determine what needed to change.

Two months after his cardiac episode, Burr spoke with the Leicester Chronicle about several topics, mostly related to his time in the spotlight on Perry Mason and Ironside. Naturally, his health crisis was mentioned, and Burr set the record straight regarding the culprit.

"It's sitting around in that wheelchair all the time that makes me put on weight," he said. The show would only last another season. The last one, the show's eighth, would be an abbreviated 19 episodes long.

"Lots of people think I really am paraplegic," said Burr, "but actually I can bound around as well as anyone."

His health also affected his diet, a difficult change for a passionate home chef.

"I do all my own cooking," said Burr. "I'm an expert at the specialty dishes of most countries. The only problem is I can't eat them myself."

Burr rebounded from his health scare, living another twenty years after that initial heart attack.

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6 Comments

ColorTVisapassingfad 18 days ago
Raymond Burr struggled with his weight from childhood
Even in Bride of the Gorilla and Rear Window it's clear he was a hefty guy. What's interesting to watch is the padding in his suits as the years pass. His shoulders get increasingly more broad to make his trunk appear thinner.
Runeshaper 18 days ago
I'm glad Burr made the changes to live longer. He was a GREAT actor!
cperrynaples 18 days ago
Well, if you remember the PM movies, he was nearly ALWAYS sitting!
justjeff 19 days ago
I think the reality of the situation is that Burr just loved to EAT! He lost weight to win the role of Perry Mason, and steadily - over the series' run - regained that weight and more.

Sitting in a chair all day doesn'r help your cardiovasular system or weight, it's true... but the "blame" is spread out over numerous factors. Burr could have easily afforded a home gym [should he have wanted one] and drastically changed his eating habits.

I'm *not* judging anyone for having weight or health issues, I'm just say that knowing Burr's propensity to stretch the truth (like his "deceased wife and son" to cover up his alternative lifestyle) makes me a bit more suspicious than if someone on here had told that same story about their own experiences.

Blaming the wheelchair solely for his health issues is like blaming MeTV for you gaining weight while sitting on the couch with a bag of chips, a bowl or pretzels, a hamburger and a giant, sugary soda...
CaptainDunsel 19 days ago
Apparently the "Ironside" role also had an impact on his vision. The wheelchair forced him to spend long working hours looking UP into bright studio lights.
Cougar90 CaptainDunsel 5 hours ago
David Spade had the same problem on "Rules Of Engagement." They had to rearrange the lights whenever he had a scene.
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