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Why did Raymond Burr miss Perry Mason?

Raymond Burr is best known for his iconic portrayal of the defense attorney Perry Mason in the popular television series of the same name, which ran from 1957 to 1966. However, during the final season of the show, Burr was noticeably absent from several episodes – so what happened to make him miss playing his most famous role?

Burr’s Health Issues

The main reason Raymond Burr was missing from over a third of the episodes in the ninth and final season of Perry Mason was health issues. In the mid-1960s, Burr began experiencing severe pain and weakness. He was eventually diagnosed with a neurological disorder that made it extremely difficult for him to stay on his feet for long periods of time.

This disorder, known as Guillain-Barré syndrome, occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own nerves. It can cause paralysis and muscle weakness, making it hard to walk or even stand. As Perry Mason required long hours standing to film courtroom scenes, Burr found it increasingly challenging to keep up the demanding schedule.

Working Around Burr’s Absences

To work around Burr’s absences while still keeping the show going, the producers and writers came up with creative solutions. Many episodes minimized Mason’s screen time or shifted focus to other characters. Some written narratives described Mason as away on business or gave excuses for his off-screen presence.

The show also relied heavily on Burr’s stand-in, Bill Mumy. As an adolescent actor who resembled Burr, Mumy would be shown from behind as Mason or with his face obscured. This allowed the show to retain the essence of the Mason character while accommodating Burr’s limitations.

Guest Stars and New Regulars

With Burr missing from so many episodes, Perry Mason also featured an extensive lineup of guest stars and new regular cast members. Some of the notable personalities who appeared in season nine included Bette Davis, Walter Pidgeon, and Dick Clark.

To introduce new regular characters, attorney Ken Malansky (played by William Katt) and secretary Amy Jo Jennings (played by Barbara Hale’s real-life daughter Johanna Klass) were added to the cast. This allowed the show to explore new plot lines even without Burr’s consistent presence.

Burr’s Dedication to the Role

Despite his health challenges, Raymond Burr was determined to see Perry Mason through to the end of its nine year run. Out of the 30 episodes in season nine, he still managed to appear in 15 – barely over half. This required immense effort and resilience on Burr’s part.

Even when he was unable to be on set, Burr would make time to review scripts and share his input. He was truly dedicated to maintaining the integrity of his iconic character for the show’s loyal audience.

The End of an Era

When Perry Mason concluded its final season in May 1966, it marked the end of an era. The show had been a top ten ratings hit for its entire run and still commanding huge audiences. However, with Burr’s health making it impossible to continue, he and the producers decided season nine would be the last.

Perry Mason went out on a high note, retaining popularity right through to the end. Despite Burr’s absences, the final season still pulled in solid viewership. The show’s cancellation was attributed to declining health rather than declining ratings.

Burr’s Post-Perry Acting Career

Though Raymond Burr was forced to give up his career-defining role as Mason, he went on to star as the title character in the TV series Ironside from 1967 to 1975. He played a paraplegic chief of detectives, in a role perfectly suited to his limited mobility. Burr also reprised his role as Mason in TV films between 1985-1993.

In a remarkable comeback after years battling severe health problems, Burr rebuilt his acting career as a new iconic TV detective. He demonstrated that with perseverance and ingenuity, major obstacles can be overcome.

Perry Mason’s Enduring Legacy

Year aired Number of episodes Number of seasons
1957-1966 271 9

Though Perry Mason ended its original run over 50 years ago, the series remains hugely popular thanks to syndication and streaming. Generations of viewers have been introduced to Mason’s courtroom theatrics and Burr’s unforgettable portrayal.

Perry Mason is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest legal dramas in television history. The American Bar Association even honored the show for promoting public understanding of the legal system. Raymond Burr’s performance as Mason is an iconic touchstone of American pop culture.

Burr truly embodied the role and made it his own. Even debilitating health problems could not keep him from seeing his beloved character through to the series’ conclusion. His determination is a testament to both his acting mastery and devotion to loyal fans.

Though Burr’s absence was felt in the final season, he and the show’s producers took every effort to deliver a strong finish. Creative solutions allowed the spirit of Perry Mason to live on despite the star’s physical limitations. This ensured the iconic character received a worthy swan song after nine memorable years.

Perry Mason survived the end of its original run and remains a classic today largely thanks to Raymond Burr’s talent and tireless performance. His compelling portrayal of the quick-witted attorney made an indelible cultural impact. Even missing over a third of the final season could not diminish Burr and Mason’s enduring legacy.