The Perry Mason TV Show Book
Raymond Burr as Perry Mason

Perry Mason: The Case of the Faceless Man

The character Mason had no family, no nationality, no politics, no wife. He lived alone, slept alone, and had an unlisted telephone number. His only apparent weakness was the love of a good steak (a habit he picked up from Gardner). His limited social life appeared to consist of taking Della dancing--only dancing--and only on very rare occasions.

The other side of Raymond Burr. The actor visited U.S. troops in Viet Nam a total of ten times during the war, four while starring in "Perry Mason." Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

So when Raymond Burr stepped in to take the role to TV, there was not much to work with. The eyes of the world (literally) were watching Burr in the first episode. After it aired, the critics spoke. Variety was lukewarm. "Raymond Burr . . . comes off as an appropriate reincarnation [of Gardner's book character]," the paper reported in less than boffo style. TV Guide later came to be even less generous: "Mr.Burr [appears] to do his best acting in opening shots of the titles. [He] always seems . . . to have about as much color as a corporation executive on the way to, and slightly late for, the 4:12 club car from Grand Central."

Generous to a fault, Burr has been frequentlyand accuratelyreferred to as a "millionaire philanthropist." Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Whatever the critics said, Burr worked almost pathologically hard to hone the part. He spent most of his time right on the studio lot, using a dressing room originally built for Shirley Temple. He rose at 3:30 every morning, six days a week, to study his script. Because approximately 80 percent of the lines spoken on the show were his, Burr had to learn twelve pages of dialogue every day, or seventy-two pages a week. He once figured out that he spoke 107 words to everyone else's nine. (He didn't start using cue cards until the last six months of the show.) Lee Miller, who was about the same frame size as Burr, and who played a police officer in many episodes, was also Burr's stand-in. Burr once made the joke: "I'm too busy to sleep. Actually, my stand-in, Lee Miller, does my sleeping for me." Not surprisingly, at one point the show had to shut down so Burr could take an enforced rest.

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The Perry Mason TV Show Book Copyright 1987 by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. All rights reserved. Presented here by permission of the copyright holder. Commercial use prohibited. Web page Copyright 1998 D. M. Brockman. Last edited 04 Nov 2004.