March, 1959 Volume 60, No.11
Discerning Raymond Burr looked serious--deadly serious. Behind those penetrating blue eyes, however, there was a smile--a smile provoked by his own wry amusement, as he recalled a recent event that epitomizes the current state of his singular life.
"Naturally, there's a lady in the case," observed the energetic star of CBS-TV's "Perry Mason" series. "She was a very fascinating lady, one who enjoys a most popular position in Hollywood. I guess I lost my head! Translated--that means I was optimistic enough to believe I could make a date a week in advance and keep it.
"Heaven knows that was my intention and I planned accordingly. A choice table for two was reserved, flowers were duly dispatched and I eagerly looked forward to escaping from my daily sound stage incarceration. Filming an hour-long television show each week is a tremendous task, the demands are endless and there are even disheartening moments when you feel like you've lost all contact with the outside world.
"On this particular day there were many unexpected interruptions and additional chores. By six that evening, and I had been up since dawn, I knew I was going to be an hour late for my date. So I called to apologize and explain. Then I had to call every hour to say I would still be delayed another hour, until finally when I called close to midnight the lady said 'now it is too late' and indeed it was! It was also too late to hope for another date at a more propitious time.
"I must say she was gracious enough to disguise her annoyance, but why should anyone in her position have to be subjected to this routine! Had she been my wife she might have been equally displeased, but at least she'd have been conditioned to accept it as par for our marital course. On second thought, perhaps I should put it this way. A wife should be conditioned to accept it, but trying to find such a rare creature under these circumstances, makes marriage a pretty hazardous proposition, don't you think?"
Occasionally, very occasionally, you'll come across an eligible bachelor who prefers to be married, but shies away from prevalent pitfalls that beset Hollywood marriage. Raymond Burr is such a man. A thoughtful, intelligent man who is unselfish in his thinking, he eyes the situation objectively and this in itself is a rarity in these parts. It's been conceded, with exception, that Hollywood husbands, despite their obvious appeal, fail in being the best husband material. The very nature of their work rules out normal routine and discourages acceptance and, generally speaking their self-engrossment leaves little time and less inclination for observing the basic principles of marriage. Raymond Burr may or may not possess the solution, but by being keenly aware it makes him doubly anxious to safeguard future failure in marriage.
"It is not my intention, nor do I feel qualified, to launch into a lengthy discourse on Hollywood marriage, as such," says TV's would famous lawyer-sleuth, "and to the contrary, having been married before makes me just vulnerable enough to believe that marriage in any town, under any circumstances, is pretty much a personal issue that exists between two people. However, we all know that Hollywood does present a highly individual set of standards and circumstances that influence personal and private lives. But I repeat, I can only sit in judgment on one life--my own!
"It's true that I could like to be married and after this series is over, perhaps I can take time to find someone. So far I haven't met anyone and with an average 15-hour workday schedule, I hardly think it's probable to plan it for some Sunday afternoon between 2:30 and 5:30 when I happen to be free! For the sake of making my point, however, let's stretch our imagination and believe that the dream girl does exist. When would we go through the period of courtship which is very important to a woman especially--and to marriage? And when would we have time to get the marriage license?"
As he talked, Raymond Burr paced the floor of his three room "home" on the old Sunset-Western Fox Studio lot. After a series of unavoidable delays, including his siege in the hospital which set production behind schedule, he had finally found some free time at lunch (consisting of one glass of orange juice) for our visit. Amiable Bill Swan's (his secretary) office guarded the entrance leading into the large living room, which featured a king-size bed that refused to be squeezed through the narrow door leading into a bedroom. There was a bath, dining alcove, kitchenette and a sprinkling of personal possessions that served to relieve the monotony of studio decor. As Raymond continued to patrol his beat, he appraised the room with a meaningful look and gesticulated.
"Literally speaking, I stay in this place at least five days a week. Last night we worked until nine and by then I was even too beat to leave the lot for a good dinner. Naturally, I was also too beat to learn today's lines, so I had to get up at three-thirty this morning and start studying. This happens quite often. At seven thirty I reported to the makeup department, as usual. At eight-thirty we were back on the set shooting again.
"Now I have a beautiful home at Malibu beach, but I'm lucky if I get to be in it over a weekend. So if I had a wife, I'd probably only get to see her over a weekend--unless of course (this with a sardonic grin) she moved in here with me. What a nice life for her this would be! She could watch me sign photographs and listen to me dictate letters, when I wasn't on the set, that is. She could take a powder during story conferences, wardrobe fittings and interviews such as this!
"Seriously--quite seriously--I firmly believe that marriage is to be enjoyed and shared. This applies especially during the first year or so of marriage, when you're working things out and making necessary adjustments. I've always believed in timing, believed that at certain times you lend yourself better to certain things and later to other things for example, when I spent time overseas entertaining our troops there, that was the right time for me. I was able to do my best. For me, the one way is to pick the right time for anything important and then be prepared to give my all to it.
"Without reservation, this includes my sincerest feelings when I consider marriage. Isn't it better to select such time when you can smooth off the usual rough edges at the beginning of marriage and gradually grow closer together? I think it is. As I see it, this enables you to enjoy a full, rich life, as opposed to going through years of agony before you arrive at that plane of mutual camaraderie."
Primed for further analytical discussion, Raymond was suddenly interrupted by the unscheduled arrival of Ernie Tarzia, the popular Hollywood tailor. Challenging luck with wishful thing, Tarzia had brought along with him ten tailored suits that were in various stages of incompletion.
"You see what I mean!" exclaimed an exasperated Burr, as he shrugged his massive shoulders. "These suits were ordered months ago and there just hasn't been time to give this patient man proper fittings. Most of my personal shopping has to be done over the telephone these days. I really think a doctor has better hours than mine."
They made a date for a lengthy fitting session--at five o'clock the following morning! Glancing anxiously at his wrist watch, Raymond channeled his thoughts again. "Of course I genuinely like doing the 'Perry Mason' shows," he continued. "What I don't like is the unfortunate position, or working conditions, of television. You see, we aren't given the generous budgets allowed for the making of a major motion picture. So we must work fast and aside from the pressure, it's a great responsibility too. Our shows attract people form all walks of life--judges, school teachers, attorneys across the country, and we've had great effect on the general public.
"Being aware of this, how could I expect marriage to take second place and still do it justice? Even a Perry Mason couldn't solve that one! In life, or in my life, a man is dedicated to his job and a woman has to be twice as dedicated, because she as the responsibility of running the home along with social amenities. My social activity is almost out these days and many engagements have to be cancelled, including those parties I give myself--or don't attend if I do give. Why, even when my parents were here visiting from Canada recently, I couldn't accompany them on the grand tour of the town I had arranged. It was their first vacation in many years and they were here for a week before I managed to be with them for an hour!
"This would be pretty tough for the average woman to take, and even a very special woman, I'm afraid, would gradually grow restless and discontented. Women like attention more than men and men like attention. Rightly so for women. They like things more emotional and it isn't enough to send flowers, to say I love you--and mean it. They want and need a little more evidence. A man should be conscious of this, which is why there is need for a longer time to get acquainted before marriage and a longer time after the marriage ceremony.
"Personally, I believe in long honeymoons and not a 24-hour infatuation. Wouldn't you think most people would want a two or three month honeymoon if it's humanly possible and not settle for a few days? The great adjustment period in married life is the first few months and newlyweds are bound to make unhappy compromises under pressure. As a rule, there are decisions that husband and wives should make together, so they have to be together to make them.
"In my case I have no objections to marrying a professional woman, because the chances for greater understanding are more prevalent. I'll give you an example of such a woman.
"I have a great and good friend, Evelyn Russell, who is a wonderful actress. We did shows overseas and during the course of our tour, I broke nine consecutive dates with her and she understood! Recently, when I went East we had a date for a happy reunion. Well, along came a hurricane this time and I had to call Evelyn from Boston and tell her I couldn't get there. Now she happens to be a most sought-after gal! But she understood because she is a great person and there aren't too many like her around!"
Since "The Perry Mason Show" started in April, 1957, Raymond Burr has averaged no more than four or five hours sleep each night. He's on the television screen more than 90 percent of each Saturday night's show, which is comparable to learning a Shakespearean play each week. Despite this, Raymond still plans to produce five pictures independently for his recently formed Del Mare Productions. Somehow, some way, he still manages not to neglect charities for all races and religions, pet projects quite close to his warm, enthusiastic heart. When then, if ever, will he find time for marriage which would complete the circle of his richly endowed life?
"Perhaps," he muses, "I should follow the admirable example set by Jack Kelly and May Wynn. We are close friends, even if I've only had time to visit their home--once! As you know, Jack is a big hit in the 'Maverick' series and they both work constantly. Because they refuse to be separated, he won't make a personal appearance tour unless she goes along. Neither Jack nor May will take a job that keeps them apart and I think they are very wise. A lot of people here started out very happy and I don't believe Hollywood broke them up. No, it's selfishness and refusing to accept conditions that does it most of the time.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all could peek into the future and see what is waiting for us? On second though--I guess I for one shall continue to hand on and pray that everything, including marriage, will all work out for me when the time is right."