Birth Date: May 21, 1917
Birth Place: New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Date of Death: September 12, 1993 / Age: 76
Location of Death: Sonoma, California
Cause of Death: kidney cancer
Biography: Raymond William Stacey Burr (May 21, 1917 – September 12, 1993) was an actor, most known for his roles in the television dramas Perry Mason and Ironside.
He was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, and it is not known if he ever received or requested U.S. citizenship. Burr became interested in acting after naval service in World War II (he was wounded at the Battle of Okinawa). Burr broke into films in 1946 and made 90 in the next decade. He co-starred in the classics A Place in the Sun and Rear Window. Burr usually played menacing villains on the screen, although in 1956 he played the hero reporter Steve Martin in the Godzilla, King Of The Monsters, the American version of the Japanese film Gojira, a role he reprised in the American version of The Return of Godzilla, known as Godzilla 1985.
With the international success of the westernised Godzilla, and shortly after starring on the radio drama Fort Laramie, Burr was chosen to star in 1957 in Perry Mason where he played Erle Stanley Gardner's clever defence attorney who always defended the innocent and only lost one case ("The Case of the Deadly Verdict," 10/17/1963; his client withheld evidence needed to win). The show was very popular and lasted nine years. In 1967, Burr started another long running television series Ironside (known as A Man Called Ironside in the UK) in which he played a wheelchair-bound police chief. This show ran until 1975. Subsequent to this, Burr had a couple of other short-lived series but was unable to repeat his earlier hits. He co-starred in such TV films as Love's Savage Fury (1979), Eischied: Only The Pretty Girls Die (1979), Disaster On The Coastliner (1979), The Curse Of King Tut's Tomb (1980), The Night The City Screamed (1980), and Peter And Paul (1981). Burr also had a supporting role in Dennis Hopper's controversial film Out of the Blue (1980) and spoofed his Perry Mason image in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). In 1985, Burr made a comeback as Perry Mason and made a series of 26 two-hour movies that were enormous ratings blockbusters, the last being completed only a few weeks prior to his death. By this time both he and the Mason character were wheelchair-bound, as his character in Ironside had been, but this time due to his real-life failing health.
In contrast to the "bad guys" and hard, unbending heroes he often played, Raymond Burr was in real life a generous man who gave enormous sums of money to charity. He once sponsored 20 foster children. He would insist that TV executives and directors treat his co-stars with the same respect shown him.
Raymond Burr lived with his partner Robert Benevides for 35 years until Burr's death of kidney cancer on September 12, 1993 in Sonoma, California. He is interred in the Fraser Cemetery, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada.
The Raymond Burr Performing Arts Centre in New Westminster, British Columbia opened in October 2000 near a city block bearing the family name of Burr. At present a 238-seat intimate theatre, plans exist to expand the theatre to become a 650-seat regional performing arts facility. Since the theatre began producing plays, it has been the custom always to have a picture of Raymond Burr included somewhere on each set, and the first toast on the opening night of every production is always dedicated to his memory.
Raymond Burr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6656 Hollywood Blvd.