A. Raymond William Stacy Burr was born May 21, 1917, in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. His father, William Johnston Burr was a hardware salesman; his mother, Minerva Annette was a pianist and music teacher who was born in Chicago, Illinois.
When Burr was six, his parents divorced. Burr’s mother moved to Vallejo, California, with him and his younger siblings, Geraldine and James. His father remained in New Westminster. Burr attended San Rafael Military Academy in San Rafael, California, for a while and graduated from Berkeley High School.
In later years, Burr freely invented stories of a happy childhood. In 1986 he told journalist Jane Ardmore that when he was 12 years old his mother sent him to New Mexico for a year to work as a ranch hand. He was already his full adult height and rather large and “had fallen in with a group of college-aged kids who didn’t realize how young Raymond was, and they let him tag along with them in activities and situations far too sophisticated for him to handle.” He developed a passion for growing things and, while still a teenager, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps for a year. Throughout his teenage years, he had some acting work, making his stage debut at age 12 with a Vancouver stock company.
Burr appeared in more than 50 feature films between 1946 and 1957, creating an array of villains that established him as an icon of film noir including in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window.
In 1956, Burr auditioned for the role of District Attorney Hamilton Burger in Perry Mason, a new CBS-TV courtroom drama based on the highly successful novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. Impressed with his courtroom performance in the 1951 film A Place in the Sun, executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson told Burr he was perfect for Perry Mason, but at least 60 pounds (27 kg) overweight. Over the next month, Burr went on a crash diet. When he returned, he tested as Perry Mason and won the role.
The series ran from 1957 to 1966. Burr received three consecutive Emmy Award nominations and won the award in 1959 and 1961 for his performance as Perry Mason. The series has been rerun in syndication ever since, and was released on DVD between 2006 and 2013. Though Burr’s character is often said never to have lost a case, he did lose two murder cases in early episodes of the series.
Burr moved from CBS to Universal Studios, where he played the title role in the television drama Ironside, which ran on NBC from 1967 to 1975. In the pilot episode, San Francisco Chief of Detectives Robert T. Ironside is wounded by a sniper during an attempt on his life and, after his recovery, uses a wheelchair for mobility. This role gave Burr another hit series, the first crime drama show ever to star a police officer with a disability. The show earned Burr six Emmy nominations—one for the pilot and five for his work in the series and two Golden Globe nominations.
Raymond Burr, used to be distantly related to him until my cousin divorced his cousin…watched all the shows
One degree of separation – very cool!