Excerpt: Hiding in Plain Sight

Okay, the reporter, pressed, but there's no wife waiting for you when you return home from the studio? "That is correct and it's a good thing because I'm working eighteen hours a day and sometimes don't come home from the studio at all," he answered. "I don't want to seem to avoid giving direct answers"—which is exactly what he was doing— "but I've played attorneys so many times I'm getting to be a curbstone lawyer."

Raymond was sleeping at the studio, and doing so was now part of his weekday routine while shooting a Perry Mason episode. Because of his backbreaking work schedule, it was often easier to sleep on the lot instead of making the hour-long drive back to Malibu or arising at 2:30 a.m. to make the drive from Malibu to Sunset-Western Fox Studios so he could get there in time to learn his lines for that day's shooting. Barbara Hale went home to her husband and kids at the end of the day. That wasn't an option for the show's star, who carried an enormous workload on his broad shoulders.

Unlike his costars, Raymond was in nearly every Perry Mason scene, and he was often memorizing fourteen or more pages of dialogue each day. The courtroom scenes alone were killers. To make his hectic schedule a little easier, he would often sleep at the studio during the week and would rise around 3:30 in the morning to go over that day's script. His companion in these wee-hours script readings was often Paul Kennedy, a young actor who described himself, rather strangely, as being "at liberty" to work with Raymond as a dialogue director (whatever that meant). Raymond averaged around four hours of sleep a night. Six-day workweeks were common, and weekends off were rare. Such was the life of a television star. As Perry Mason grew in popularity and CBS realized it had a hit on its hands, the network went to great lengths to appease its newest meal ticket. Raymond didn't sleep in just any old room at the studio; CBS furnished a three-room bungalow for him on the lot, complete with all the amenities.

The renovated space, which was originally built for Shirley Temple, included a full kitchen, a combination living room/bedroom, a large dressing room with a cedar-lined walk-in closet, a modern bathroom, and a foyer used by his secretary, Bill Swann—an ex–concert singer and "a helluva good guy and rather fey in his way," according to Art Marks.

Midway through the first season of Perry Mason, CBS announced it was renewing the show. But Raymond was already beginning to sound the alarm. It had been a year since filming began on the first episode in April 1957. It was a period Raymond had devoted to working insane hours on a television show that not only put the reticent actor front and center, but kept him from entertaining the troops for the first time in years.

"Let's just say that the part isn't conducive to leisurely living the way I once knew it," Raymond said. "I only hope that I can regain my own identity, once I decide that Perry Mason and myself have come to the parting of the road. "Perry Mason has become a career for me . . . all I know is that I work, eat and sleep Perry Mason. It's a lucky thing I'm not married now. No woman would understand my work schedule."

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