Although Erle Stanley Gardner never got around
to describing to his readers what Perry Mason really
looked like, he did once say that Perry gave the
impression of "bigness." Burr fit this bill.
During the show's heyday, Burr weighed in at 210 pounds,
packed into an extra large 6-foot-2-1/2-inch frame.
"A massive inverted pyramid" is how one TV
writer once described him.
|Shortly before he would debut as Perry Mason,
Raymond Burr was being tempted by the leg of a
showgirl in The Brass Legend, one of the
actors ninety-plus movies made before he came to
TV. Courtesy of Jerry
Ohlinger's Movie Material Store
But, compared to his
earlier years, that would qualify as a economy-sized
pyramid. Always plump as a child, Burr remained heavy
into his teen years and by the time he was discharged
from the navy after World War II, he was lugging around
340 pounds. After the war, he realized that this battle
of the bulge was getting in the way of his dream to be a
movie star. With a grim determination that would surface
many times in his professional and personal life, the
actor checked into a shabby Hollywood rooming house and
stayed there, prescribing for himself a spare diet of 750
calories a day. He stuck to it, forcing down only cottage
cheese and little else for more than six months. When the
self-imposed exile was over, he had lost 130 pounds. His
fighting weight down in the low 200s, he commenced to
take on the acting world.
|Burr portrayed a psychotic killer obsessed
with Natalie Wood in A Cry in the Night,
released in 1956. Courtesy of
Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Material Store
In fact, when he was
chosen to play the killer in Rear Window, Burr had
to wear padding to make him appear bigger. However, this
was a temporary situation. Burr would continue to fight
his chubbiness for some time to come.