Excerpt: Hiding in Plain Sight

The mainstream press, though, respected Raymond's privacy, even as Perry Mason took off and he became a household name. The few interviews Raymond did grant after 1957 focused on the show and on his burdensome workload. Several publications sent reporters to spend a day on the Perry Mason set, their stories complemented with the obligatory timeline illustrating Raymond's horrendous work hours. If a publication did delve into his personal life, it was a "Raymond Burr at home"–type feature highlighting the petting zoo at his Malibu ranch or the gourmet meals he cooked for close friends. He was, of course, always "too busy" to date anyone steadily.

"It's true that I could like to be married and after this series is over, perhaps I can take time to find someone," he told Screenland magazine in a 1959 article titled "No Time for Marriage." The article contained one of Raymond's longest published discourses on the subject of matrimony.

"So far I haven't met anyone and with an average fifteen-hour workday schedule, I hardly think it's probable . . . For the sake of my making my point, however, let's stretch our imagination and believe that the damn girl does exist," he said. "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?

"Seriously—quite seriously—I firmly believe that marriage is to be enjoyed and shared," he said. "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 she moved in here with me."

Raymond's talk of marriage was a smokescreen, but there was no denying the enormity of his Perry Mason workload and the effect it was having on his life. He wasn't the only television star carrying a show on his shoulders, but with Perry Mason's one-hour format and its signature courtroom scenes, he was on camera for a staggering 90 percent of each episode. And the Perry Mason cast and crew were shooting thirty-nine episodes per season in the early years—seventeen more episodes than today's standard one-hour television drama.

These work demands made outside employment nearly impossible, and while Raymond talked of movie projects, the show took over his life. Affair in Havana, the last movie he made before shooting the Perry Mason pilot, opened in October 1957, and he was making plans for phantom movies that never materialized. One project for which he had high hopes was Robert Blees's book Naked Is the Flesh. Raymond and agent Lester Salkow bought the rights to Blees's book with plans for turning it into a movie, which Raymond envisioned would be shot in Italy. The project died a quick death.

It would be three years before Raymond had the time or energy to act in another movie. He didn't entirely abandon stage work, though. In November 1959, he appeared with Perry Mason castmates Barbara Hale and William Hopper in a benefit performance of The Happiest Millionaire at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse in Alhambra.

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