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 William Talman

William Talman

Birth
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 30 Aug 1968 (aged 53)
Encino, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Court of Liberty, lot 833
Memorial ID 1892 · View Source
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Actor. Best known as 'Hamilton Burger,' the perpetually unsuccessful District Attorney on the popular "Perry Mason" television series (1957-1966), William Whitney Talman Jr. was born in Detroit, the son of a wealthy businessman. Jealousy of his family’s conspicuous affluence got young Talman into frequent scrapes with other boys at the public schools he attended, but he apparently thrived on the resultant fisticuffs and even ended up with a spot on his church’s boxing team. After a failed attempt at studying law, he made his way to New York, where family friends in show business enabled him to get a start in the acting profession. Working his way up through a series of small stage roles, Talman gradually built an extensive stage career in New York, including the touring company of "Of Mice and Men." He then moved to Hollywood, where in 1949, he played his first major screen role as the gangster 'Bunny Harris' in "Red, Hot and Blue." Talman was soon in demand as a Hollywood “heavy” and proceeded to compile a long list of villainous film credits, most notably as the psycho killer 'Emmett Myers' in the 1953 Film Noir classic "The Hitch-Hiker." Talman was married 3 times and divorced twice, to Lynne Carter, Barbara Read and Margaret Flanagan. He fathered 6 children, 2 in each of his three marriages. In 1957, Talman was cast in the role of 'Hamilton Burger' in the Perry Mason series, who he once termed "the most unsuccessful prosecuting attorney in the history of the legal profession." He would portray the eternally frustrated Burger in a total of 210 episodes over the whole 9-year run of the series, except for the time he was briefly fired during the third season. In March of 1960 he was arrested in a police raid on a Hollywood party he was attending, where illegal drugs were found and all the participants were reportedly nude. Despite his claims of innocence and his acquittal on all formal charges, the producers of Perry Mason felt that the media scandal that resulted from his arrest was sufficient grounds to fire Talman for violating the “morals clause” in his contract. However, the intervention of his fellow cast members, most notably Raymond Burr, as well as public pressure on CBS, got him reinstated as Burger after an absence of 7 episodes. Despite his reinstatement, Talman was still effectively blackballed elsewhere in Hollywood, so outside of Perry Mason, he worked very little in show business after the party incident. In September 1967, Talman sought medical treatment for a persistent cough and was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable lung cancer. The cancer did not respond to treatment and spread rapidly. By the following summer the actor realized he was dying and made a fateful decision. In July, 1968 the 53-year-old Talman, gaunt and in obvious pain, taped a landmark antismoking public service announcement that warned of the hazards of cigarettes, the first such ad ever made by a celebrity. The tape was made at his home in Encino, California and at his request, was not aired until after his death 6 weeks later.

Bio by: Edward Parsons


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1892
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Talman (4 Feb 1915–30 Aug 1968), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1892, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .