Raymond Burr was Perry Mason until the very end

Burr was noticeably different on set, saving all of his energy to be the best Perry Mason possible.

When speaking of Perry Mason, it's hard not to think of the legendary courtroom drama star who portrayed the character, Raymond Burr. 

Burr is synonymous with Mason. The actor gave up a lot of his time and, in ways, even his house, to best portray the character, devoting endless hours, days, weeks and months to perfecting his craft.

Burr began playing Perry Mason in the network television drama in 1957, and morphed the character into a legendary one over the next nine years. 

Almost 20 years after the TV series ended, Burr revived his career-defining role as Perry Mason in the TV film series, which featured 30 films, 26 of which starred Burr as the title character. 

In 1993, Burr lost his battle with kidney cancer, and couldn't complete the entire film series, one that stretched from 1985 to 1995. In the wake of Burr's death, there were several questions surrounding the continuation of the TV film series, mainly; who steps in as Perry Mason now?

The answer to that question was nobody.

Dean Hargrove, producer of the film series, admitted in a 1993 Los Angeles Times newspaper article that there wasn't a clear path for the series, but one thing was certain. 

"At the moment, there are no specific plans in terms of continuing the franchise," he said. "Certainly, the first thing is that no one's going to try to replace Raymond Burr." 

How could anyone replace him? Though Perry Mason was created before Burr played the character, Burr's portrayal of the lawyer would become the standard, and it was hard to imagine anybody else filling the role. Burr knew that too, which is why he poured his heart and soul into the character.

"Raymond always operated on the premise that he was going to live forever," Hargrove said. "He was a very forceful personality, and he decided he was going to do Perry Mason until people stopped watching them." 

Unfortunately, that dedication wasn't helping his heath issues, which began taking their toll towards the end of his life. Even so, he mustered up all the energy he could, to go as long as he could. 

"When he got to [the location of his final episode], he didn't feel as well as he hoped he would feel..." Hargrove said. "When he was on the set, he would not have any casual discussions with anyone so he could save all his energy for his performance." 

Burr's contributions to the character were too strong to continue the film series beyond the 30 initial installments. However, the final four still needed to air. As a result, the Perry Mason TV film series concluded with actors Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook starring in place of Mason, but not as Mason. 

Sorvino's character, Anthony Caruso, was a visiting attorney who starred in the first film after Burr's death, while Holbrook played Bill McKenzie in the final three films, all of which were branded as A Perry Mason Mystery, followed by the film title. 

It was a testament to Burr's hard work, dedication and determination that even after his death, the legendary character of Perry Mason wasn't swiftly replaced with another actor. 

Watch Perry Mason: The TV Movies on MeTV!

Starting May 8

Sundays at 8 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
 
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

21 Comments

Nala92129 1 month ago
Great actor, great humanitarian!
averagemilnerenjoyer 1 month ago
raymond burr is one of my favorite actors! a.. very specific group of people definitely look up to him, some of you know what i mean 😉
Lantern 1 month ago
He also was excellent as the prosecutor in "A Place in the Sun".

Runeshaper 1 month ago
Raymond Burr was an AMAZING actor and this story speaks to his dedication. I watched a film last week called, "Please Murder Me", starring Raymond Burr and Angela Lansbury. It was EXCELLENT!
KJExpress 1 month ago
As with some others, I liked him as Robert T. Ironside. Loved him as Perry, though.
WGH 1 month ago
I loved Raymond Burr in Godzilla.
mikestertz 1 month ago
Both the original show, and the later movies, were excellent. They are still more than worth watching.
essexdiva 1 month ago
Raymond Burr is and was the only Perry Mason, I watch him every night on METV.
Hilary 1 month ago
Always Raymond Burr-will be Perry Mason. And in death , he took it with him.Miss him.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Barbara Hale was in all 4 of the post-Burr movies, but it was just to say Perry was away on business! Notice that MeTV doesn't play of them!
pharris14 1 month ago
There's only one Perry Mason. May he rest in peace and prayer🙏🏾
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
He will always be Perry Mason to me.
rikkirat 1 month ago
Raymond Burr will always be Perry Mason personified.
cperrynaples rikkirat 1 month ago
Well, I may be in the minority, but I actually like the HBO reboot! Yes, it's not the same but it's still good!
Michael 1 month ago
He'll always be Ironside to me.

And he has a subdued role in Rear Window, I had to watch it a few times to realize it was him.
birddog Michael 1 month ago
Perry to Me.... Tv :))
marmetv20 Michael 1 month ago
Loved Ironside also!
MrsPhilHarris Michael 1 month ago
I don’t think I’ve ever watched Ironsides. 🤔. He was good in Rear Window and in Blue Gardenia.
CaptainDunsel Michael 1 month ago
"Subdued role "?
I thought he was a bit of a cut-up.
(Sorry - I'll show myself out. )
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?