How Each Perry Mason Cast Member Died (2023)

A poll by the National Law Journal shows that Perry Mason sits just behind attorney F. Lee Bailey as the most-admired lawyer in the world. Despite being fictional, he gave a positive picture of what a lawyer should be.

Perry Mason Series

The Perry Mason series ran from 1957-1966 and spawned several TV movies. It was based on a series of novels by lawyer and author Erle Stanley Gardner. It was one of the first hour-long TV shows to ever air and most successful law shows of all time.

Each Perry Mason cast member served as part of the show’s success. They created memorable personas who were crucial to solving each case.

Like and subscribe for more on this memorable group of characters and is anyone still alive from perry mason. Watch our video to learn how each Perry Mason cast member died.

Raymond Burr

Raymond William Stacy Burr was born in New Westminster, British Columbia on May 21, 1917. After his parents divorced when he was 6, he grew up in Vallejo near his grandfather’s small hotel.

Raymond went to Hollywood in 1946 and made his film debut in San Quentin. His imposing appearance left him typecast in villain roles for some time, one of the most memorable of which was in Rear Window. He also appeared in films such as A Place in the Sun, A Cry in the Night, Ruthless, the Adventures of Don Juan, Key to the City, Meet Danny Wilson, Tarzan and the She-Devil, You’re Never Too Young, and Tomorrow Never Comes.

Raymond Burr Big Break

His big break was his role as the titular lawyer in Perry Mason. He also was famous for starring as the wheelchair-bound detective in Ironside.

Edward P. Burke, executive director of the National Council on Disabilities in Washington, D.C, called Ironside a tremendous inspiration. Raymond’s longtime friend Melvin Belli, a San Francisco lawyer, said he did more for the law than anyone else by showing that right will always win in the end.

Ray’s Philosophy

Ray’s first wife Annette Sutherland died in a 1943 plane crash. He divorced his 2nd wife Isabelle Ward and lost his 3rd wife Laura Morgan to cancer in 1955. He lost his only child Michael Evan Burr to leukemia at the age of 10 in 1953.

Despite these tragedies, Perry Mason cast member Don Galloway said Ray’s philosophy was to “leave the world greater than you found it.” He achieved this goal by playing inspirational characters.

Raymond Burr died of liver cancer at his Northern California ranch at the age of 76.

Ray Collins

Ray Collins was born on December 10th, 1889 in Sacramento, California. His desire to become an actor began when he saw his uncle Ulric Collins in a performance of Way Down East. He put on plays with his fellow neighborhood kids and made his professional stage debut at the age of 13 at the Liberty Playhouse in Oakland, California. He earned over 900 stage roles throughout his career.

Ray set up a vaudeville team with his first wife Margaret Marriot in December of 1912. They performed at the Alhambra Theater in Seattle until moving to Vancouver with their son Junius in July of 1914.

Vancouver’s Popular Players

Ray joined a stock company called Vancouver’s Popular Players at the Orpheum Theatre and ran his own stock company for 5 years at the Empress Theatre. He continued to work in vaudeville and eventually found his way to New York.

Ray spent only 5 weeks of his career from the ages of 17-30 out of work. When the Great Depression began, he turned his focus to radio. He completed 18 broadcasts a week and worked up to 16 hours a day.

This extreme work schedule may have harmed his relationships. He divorced Margaret in 1924 and married Joan Uron in 1926.

The American School of the Air

Ray met Orson Wells in 1935 while working on his first radio job as part of the repertory cast of The American School of the Air. He became part of his Mercury Theater, worked with him on The Cavalcade of America for 6 years, and appeared in his version of Les Miserables in 1937 and The Shadow from 1937-1938.

One of his best-known appearances was when he played 3 different roles in the well-known broadcast of War of the Worlds. Orson Wells even gave him his film debut in the acclaimed Citizen Kane. Ray appeared in 75 films after that.

Ray had several regular TV roles. He appeared in The Hall of Ivy from 1954-1955, played Judge Harper in the 1955 adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street, and played Lieutenant Arthur Tragg on Perry Mason.

By 1960, Ray’s physical health and memory began to decline. He blamed the change on shifting from the stage to radio where he no longer had to memorize lines.

Ray’s final Perry Mason episode, The Case of the Capering Camera, aired on January 16th, 1964. Producers insisted his name remain in the title sequence because he still watched the show every week.

Ray Collins died on July 11th, 1965 of emphysema in Santa Monica, California at the age of 75.

Like and subscribe for more on actors from the most memorable TV dramas of all time. Keep watching to learn about the careers of the rest of the Perry Mason cast.

Wesley Lau

Wesley Lau was born on June 18, 1921, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. His acting career was successful there, but he was unknown everywhere else. He was a patient man and wanted to stretch his acting muscles.

Wesley appeared on Perry Mason as client Amory Fallon in 1961. He then permanently joined the cast as Lieutenant Andy Anderson to replace Ray Collins as Lieutenant Arthur Tragg. The character was not part of the original Perry Mason novels but appeared in 82 episodes and lasted until the 8th-season finale.

Wesley disagreed with certain aspects of the role. He wanted to inject humor into it, but the script usually called for his character to give suspicious looks. He and his wife didn’t like the hat he wore, so he slipped it off as often as possible.

The public continued to overlook Wesley, but the show’s crew appreciated his contribution. Producer Gail Patrick Jackson even considered him to play the lead in a future Erle Stanley Gardner crime series.

Wesley Lau died of heart failure on August 30th, 1984 at the age of 63.

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson was born on August 8th, 1926 in Long Branch, N.J. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was 10. He studied at the Actor’s Laboratory after graduating from University High School and serving for 17 months in the Army during World War II.

Anderson began his career with MGM in the mailroom. He was working on an NBC show called Lights, Camera, Action in 1949 and got a phone call to come in for a screen test. That led to a 6-year contract, and 30 films. A few examples include The Magnificent Yankee in 1950, Scaramouche in 1952, Escape from Fort Bravo in 1953, and Forbidden Planet in 1956.

Richard later moved to Fox and appeared in The Long, Hot Summer in 1958.

He played Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man TV show, TV films, and spinoff The Bionic Woman from 1978-1994. This made him the first actor to play the same character on 2 TV series running at the same time on 2 different networks.

Richard was a major TV figure in the 1960s. He played Richard Kimble in the 2-episode finale of The Fugitive, Police Chief George Untermeyer on Dan August, and Police Lieutenant Steve Drumm on the final season of Perry Mason.

Richard Anderson loved to collect vintage cars and was dedicated to causes like the Veterans Park Conservancy and the California Indian Manpower Consortium.

Richard was married twice, first to Carol Lee Ladd and next to Katharine Thalberg. He had 3 daughters, Ashley, Brooke, and Deva.

Richard Anderson died of natural causes at his Beverly Hills home at the age of 91.

William Talman

William Talman was born in Detroit, Michigan. He founded the drama club at the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and acted while studying at Dartmouth College and The University of Michigan.

After graduating college, William joined a stock company to begin his stage acting career.

He played District Attorney Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason. William said in a 1958 interview that, although his character lost all but 3 of his cases throughout the series, it’s not technically a loss when a District Attorney fails to convict an innocent man and that he always acted in the interest of justice.

William was the first Hollywood actor to film an antismoking PSA for the American Cancer Society. He had been a heavy smoker all his life and was dying of lung cancer while filming. He began with the words “Before I die, I want to do what I can to leave a world free of cancer for my six children.”

Per his requests, the commercial wasn’t aired until after William Talman died on August 30th, 1968 at the age of 53.

William Hopper

William Hopper was the only child of Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper.

Playing Detective Paul Drake on Perry Mason. He was with the show from its debut in 1957 until his death.

Appears in 3 films in 1937, including Footloose Heiress, Over the Goal, and Torchy Blane, the Adventurous Blonde. He also earned a role in Track of the Cat in 1954,

William Hopper died of a heart attack on March 6th, 1970 at the age of 54 after being hospitalized for 2 weeks.

Barbara Hale

Barbara Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois in 1922 as the 2nd child of Willa and Luther Hale.

Spending her early career under contract with RKO. She appeared in films like Higher and Higher, Lady Luck, The Window, Jolson Sings Again, Lorna Doone, and The Far Horizons.

Barbara played Della Street in 9 seasons of Perry Mason and 30 TV movies based on the series. She earned a Primetime Emmy Award for the role in 1959 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

A Facebook post from her son William Katt revealed her death. She died of natural causes surrounded by family and friends at her home in Sherman Oaks, California at the age of 94. She’s survived by her son, daughters Johanna Katt and Juanita King, 6 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

Perry Mason was a show that proved the power of the human ability to stand up against injustice and corruption. This made it a popular standard of 1960s TV and ensures the memory of its characters remains with fans.

Which Perry Mason actor or actress was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below. Like and subscribe for more on the lives and deaths of memorable dramatic actors.


What was the cause of Perry Mason's death? ›

Raymond Burr, the burly, impassive actor who played the defense lawyer Perry Mason and the police detective Robert T. Ironside on television, died on Sunday at his ranch in Dry Creek Valley, near Healdsburg, Calif. He was 76. The cause was kidney cancer, said his doctor, Paul J.

Why did Wesley Lau leave Perry Mason? ›

Although his goal in life was to be a writer, he ended up acting simply because he found more jobs as an actor than as a playwright when he arrived in New York City seeking work. He first acted in a high school play, an experience that changed his life.

Was there ever a black person on Perry Mason? ›

Vince Townsend as the silent black judge who sat on the bench in “The Case of the Skeleton's Closet” was not the only African American seen during the run of the original Perry Mason series.

Who was the most frequent guest star on Perry Mason? ›

George E. Stone had the most credited guest appearances in the series with 45. He played the court clerk.

Is Paul Drake on Perry Mason still alive? ›

He became best known for his work as private detective Paul Drake in the CBS television series Perry Mason.
William DeWolf Hopper Jr.
William Hopper
DiedMarch 6, 1970 (aged 55) Palm Springs, California, U.S.
Resting placeRose Hills Memorial Park
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Why was Perry Mason's arm in a sling? ›

In reality, Raymond Burr had been injured in a helicopter crash on one of his many tours of Vietnam to entertain the troops, during a hiatus in filming Perry Mason. He wore a cast on his arm and shoulder for three months.

Why did William Talman leave Perry Mason? ›

Arrest for narcotics and lewd vagrancy. Talman was fired from Perry Mason for a short period in 1960. Sheriff's deputies, suspicious of marijuana use, raided a party on March 13, 1960, in the West Hollywood apartment of Richard Reibold, an advertising agency executive.

Is William Talman still alive? ›

Is Wesley Lau still alive? ›

How long did Ironside run? ›

Ironside is an American television crime drama that aired on NBC over eight seasons from 1967 to 1975.

Did Perry Mason ever defend Paul Drake? ›

He hires Paul to payoff the widow. Perry Mason finds himself defending his private investigator Paul Drake against a charge of murder. It all began when Frank Thatcher hit a pedestrian walking on the side of the road and kills him.

Who is the statue of in Perry Mason's office? ›

Who is that ↑ bust in Perry's office? This question was first asked by Paul in May 2002. In the Perry Mason novels, it's Sir William Blackstone, the famous 18th century British jurist.

Is Barbara Hale still alive? ›

What is Raymond Burr worth? ›

Burr bequeathed his estate to Robert Benevides, and excluded all relatives, including a sister, nieces, and nephews. His will was challenged, without success, by the two children of his late brother, James E. Burr. Benevides' attorney said that tabloid reports of an estate worth $32 million were an overestimate.

Is Raymond Burr still alive? ›

Why did Perry Mason wear a pinky ring? ›

Perry Mason wears pinky ring to claim the freedom of homosexuals via the cinema. It is a subtle and courageous act when one knows that it could have destroyed his actor's career at the time of the Mason series. It is ironic to note that Perry Mason, defender of the law, wears a pinky ring like ...

Did Perry Mason ever kiss Della? ›

At the end of the movie Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) and Della Street (Barbara Hale) share the first on screen kiss between the two characters.

Did Perry Mason Love Della Street? ›

Yet throughout the run of the original Perry Mason television series (1957 to 1966), and especially in the 82 Mason novels, it's clear that Perry and Della had a unique relationship, filled with mutual admiration and respect, unquestioning loyalty, and yes, love.

Did Raymond Burr and William Talman get along? ›

Although they played rivals on Perry Mason, Talman and Burr were friends off the set.

Who got fired from Perry Mason? ›

It nearly did. Three days after this story hit the papers, CBS fired Talman from Perry Mason, before his case even went to court. His lawyer found the irony in the act: "Talman has not been tried as yet for any offense.

What was the cause of William Talman death? ›

William Talman, the hot‐tempered dis trict attorney, Hamilton Burger, who always lost his case to Mason,' died in August of 1968 from lung cancer.

Why was there only one color episode of Perry Mason? ›

The one in color

The execs had plans to craft a tenth season in color, so one test episode was shot in the format, "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist." It aired on February 27, 1966. However, shortly after Raymond Burr finally agreed to the tenth season, CBS canceled the series.

Did Perry Mason ever lose a case? ›

Mason only lost one case.

The season six episode "The Case of the Witless Witness" opens with the jury handing down a guilty verdict to Mason's client. It's his only loss that wasn't reversed. Two more episodes see Mason losing a case, but the skilled lawyer was able to reverse the decisions handed down by the jury.

What is LT Tragg first name? ›

Ray Bidwell Collins was an American actor in film, stage, radio and television. One of his best remembered roles was that of Lt. Arthur Tragg in the long-running series Perry Mason (1957).

What nationality is Wesley Lau? ›

When did Wesley Lau leave Perry Mason? ›

Wesley left the show after season 8 for reasons unknown, albeit I've been told his reasons were personal.

Is Don Mitchell still alive? ›

How tall is Raymond Burr? ›

Who was Perry Mason's private investigator? ›

Perry Mason is assisted by Della Street, his faithful secretary, and private investigator Paul Drake.

What is the best Perry Mason episode? ›

I headed to the Perry Mason page and was quickly informed that the best/highest-rated episode of the original run is “The Case of the Lucky Loser” (season two, episode two).

Was William Hopper a Navy SEAL? ›

William Hopper who served in the OSS Maritime Unit, precursor to the Navy SEALs, was born on this date in 1915. He was the son of famed Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper. He appeared in more than 80 films including “Rebel Without a Cause.”

Did Perry Mason ever marry Della Street? ›

Of course, friends can be wrong—after all, in the novels and TV series, Perry and Della never did get married. (They did marry in the 1936 movie version of The Case of the Velvet Claws, but all those 1930s Warner Brothers films strayed far from the storyline established by Erle Stanley Gardner).

Is William Talman still alive? ›

Did Perry Mason ever lose a case? ›

Mason only lost one case.

The season six episode "The Case of the Witless Witness" opens with the jury handing down a guilty verdict to Mason's client. It's his only loss that wasn't reversed. Two more episodes see Mason losing a case, but the skilled lawyer was able to reverse the decisions handed down by the jury.

How long did Ironside run? ›

Ironside is an American television crime drama that aired on NBC over eight seasons from 1967 to 1975.

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