Raymond Burr is best known as Perry Mason, Erle Stanley Gardner’s, legal beagle and later Ironsides on television, always shedding light on lies and misdeeds and nary losing the fight. Perry existed before television, he was a radio favorite, but it was Burr’s intensity and drive for excellence that made the L.A. solicitor a household name, and running for a remarkable nine seasons before fading away into rerun history in 1966.
That, though, was not the end of Burr, for he returned as the wheel-chaired crime fighter in Ironsides, which ran for another 8 seasons. Television crime-detective series owe a lot to Burr and Perry Mason, who can easily be called the godfather of all honest lawyers which we know has no price.
The magic of Blarney
Burr was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, near Vancouver. His father, Joseph, was a hardware dealer, and his mother a pianist and music teacher.
Other Burr family members joined him, including his brother Benjamin and Hugh. Joseph settled in New Westminster, as it was the original capitol of British Columbia.The city, aka “The Royal City” was named by Queen Victoria after her favorite part of London, and is twelve miles southeast of Vancouver on the banks of the Fraser River. It became the hub for the Cariboo gold rush and business boomed.
Joseph Burr got a steady job at the new penitentiary and married Mary Jane. Their their eldest son William married Minerva Smith who was born in Chicago 1893, moving back to Canada for the gold boom. During WWI, the Smiths moved again, this time for California, after their daughter was married, and the Burr’s followed with their three children. Alas the California expedition did not pan out for Bill Burr and they were back in New Westminster.
Thus Raymond, conceived in America, born in Canada and made his name back in the States. By his own account he was a “big boy,” weighing twelve and three-quarter pounds at birth and “growing.”1
Does his chart show us anything about Raymond, or why his portrayal of Perry Mason was so darned good? Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it?
There is no birth time for Burr, just the date on Astro.com of May 21, 1917. So reading Michael Seth Starr’s book 1 Hiding in Plain sight, Applause Theatre Book Publishers c. 2009 [\mfn] I have rectified Burr to 06 Libra or Esoteric Symbols on the blackboard 2 from Gavin McClung’s Hyperion Symbols. This symbol highlights how Burr’s public and private life were wildly discordant.
He has a preponderance in the ninth house, rather à propos for a man who played lawyers for the bulk of his career, and highlighting his own interest in justice and integrity.
His Line of Motivation is conjunct via the Ptolemaic orbs Marc Jones used, and so too is his Line of Vitality.
Because his ascendant is Libra and ruled by Venus, the green planet has a strong effect on his overall chart and here we see it conjunct his South Node, suggesting the importance of love and being loved meant to Burr. This was noticeable in his life because of his tendency to overindulge and feel “unloved” from his increasing size, thus Bob’s constancy in their relationship meant a lot to him.
Burr is a bucket with a Uranian handle found in its own sign of Aquarius. Uranus rules electronics and the airwaves and it was a natural for Burr, who struck out in the theatre, to make a splash in television. His preponderance in the ninth house made him naturally interested in the law and its effects on families. As Thomas Leitch in his “Perry Mason: TV Milestones” book notes,
The most obvious reason for Perry Mason’s prodigious popularity is the program’s most frequently noted feature: its dependence on a dramatic formula that varied remarkably little over its television life.
Every episode began with a trouble family, or a quasi-family group (families are ruled by Cancer and for Burr it is in the ninth house of legal affairs) , an innocent threatened with expulsion from the domestic circle (Saturn ) and a murder for which the innocent was arrested (South Node in Cancer 8th house).
Each accused kept Mason (Uranus in the fourth for his courtroom appearance) whose wily legal strategies in and out of the courtroom won the client’s release and often a confession in the witness box to boot. (Pluto in Cancer in eighth house creating a total metamorphosis of the innocent, sort of Le Miserable like.)Thomas Leitch, Perry Mason: TV Milestones, Wayne State University Press, 2005
Reviewing the chart and looking over the role of Perry, Burr used his chart to its utmost, in fulfilling his destiny.
Burr’s Moon in Gemini gave him the ability to have a double life, but unlike the great comedian W. C. Fields who also misled his public about his feelings about boys, Burr is always a staunch ally of children in Perry Mason. He tells the young Billy Mumy “no matter the time or where I am, if you need me, call me” in the Case of the Shifty Shoebox, and the boy does run into the courtroom, interrupting the proceedings with important news.
As for Field’s famous quip in the Bank dick “here’s a nickel go play in traffic kid”, both Fields and Burr are notable for leaving a substantial amount of their fortunes to the welfare of foundling boys. It just was not much of a surprise for Burr but it is a happy ending.
- Starr, Michael Seth, Raymond Burr: Hiding in Plain Sight, c. 2009, Applause Publishing. 280 pp.
- Starr has done several of these exposes. His other works are on Art Carney, Ringo Starr and William Shatner. Most of the reviews complain of the poor writing; sorry to say that’s almost always the case in these books, see Kitty Kelly oeuvre.