Raymond Burr said finding time was his biggest problem in the '50s
With a lot of success comes very little time to enjoy it. Burr was one busy man who put all of his time into Perry Mason.
Many of us have a variety of interests and hobbies that we wish we could dedicate all of our time and energy to. However, full-time jobs, children, dating, friends and other life events can get in the way. For Raymond Burr, time was always counting down.
Burr probably watched the clock more times during his run on Perry Mason (1957) than he did on any other project. Time was of the essence for him on a daily basis while working on the series. When the towering actor decided to jump head first into television, many people had their doubts and warnings about the state of TV.
According to a 1958 interview with the Clarion-Ledger, many people told him that acting was a business and "to the hell with art." Burr took their advice and started to approach acting with a business mentality. His approach paid off. Perry Mason gathered a lot of success and even sparked a remake in 2020 under the same name.
Of course, the approach also left Burr with too much to do and very little time to get it done. Burr said he would do as much work as most actors did in one year each month.
According to the interview, season two started with 17 episodes already filmed, but Burr would have to work overtime in order to finish the rest of the season on time.
"It's just impossible for one man to shoot an hour-long show week after week," Burr said. "Next season I am hoping we'll only make 26."
Season two had a total of 30 episodes — way too many for one person to handle. According to the interview, Perry Mason would shoot six days a week. Burr also spent most of his week nights in his dressing room at the 20th Century Fox lot where he would either catch up on work, or avoid the 50 mile trek in traffic back home.
"I find that I have to budget my time more carefully than ever before," Burr said. "After all, there are only 24 hours in a day, and if anything is important now, it's time."
Part of his business approach to Hollywood involved going on tour and meeting people face-to-face. Many of those people were ones whose job included appraising Perry Mason in publications.
"I feel it's important to know critics and make an in-person evaluation of them," Burr said. "Quite frankly, I can name 20 critics whose opinions mean nothing to me. I don't care a hoot what they say about me or the show."
"On the other hand, I can name 18 or 20 others whose opinions are important to me," Burr continued. "Whatever they say, I pay attention. If they say a show is good, I go along with them. If they say it isn't, I start checking into the show to see what's wrong."
Perry Mason opened season two as the nation's 64th ranked show on television. The series continued to rise in popularity as the season went on. So, with an already successful show on-air, why did Burr push himself so hard and leave little time to recover?
"With all that is going on today, with all the opportunities that are available, a person should be pretty darned sure that when he kicks off he leaves this world a better place — or at least not a worse one," Burr said.
He's a man whose almost punishing work schedule and ethic grabbed the attention of co-stars, producers and fellow actors. They both admired him and were puzzled by him. His lack of time inspired him to make the best of the time he did have.