William Talman denied that Hamilton Burger always lost. He said that Perry Mason prevented him from wrongfully convicting people, and that was winning. It’s an extremely healthy attitude to have, one that frankly more real-life prosecutors should have. Sure, okay, we only ever see him go up against Perry, so we only ever see him trying to convict innocent people, but Perry himself makes quite clear that Hamilton Burger is a good DA who just happens to have been wrong on well over two hundred episodes.
It’s a close race for the fourth-best known character on Perry Mason, between Hamilton Burger and Arthur Tragg. Honestly, though, I think Burger wins. I’m not sure everyone realizes that it was the same cop most epiosdes (until Ray Collins became too sick with emphysema to continue), and I’m more sure that most people don’t realize that it wasn’t the same prosecutor on every episode. And that leaves out a handful of times where Perry was defending someone in military court or in another county or something. I think I learned a year or two ago about the time Talman was fired from the show.
By the sound of it, there might have been an orgy going on. Certainly he was at a party that was busted by the cops on suspicion of marijuana use; there was no evidence of that, but apparently the people there were “naked or partially naked.” No one’s saying for sure how clothed, or not, Talman was; he said he wasn’t involved in what was happening. But he was arrested, and he was fired on a morals clause, and when he was acquitted—without even Perry as his lawyer—the headline in The Windsor Star was “Finally! Victory for Berger!”
In fact, he was so popular that despite his personal life, there was a letter-writing campaign from the fans to have him reinstated. A successful one, in fact, as producer Gail Patrick Simon was able to get him back, in part because they were personal friends. But while various others filled in for the character, it’s hard to picture Perry without Burger. I’d have to look it up to be sure, but I think most of the “and the trial is military” and so forth episodes are from that stretch of time. And none of the other prosecutors from those days ever had the pleasant rapport that Perry and Burger so often did.
And, okay, let’s say you’re not into Perry Mason; he was cast in the role because of his chilling performance in The Hitch-Hiker. Apparently, someone saw him stopped at a light in Hollywood. The person asked if he was the Hitch-Hiker. He said yes. The guy got in his car, punched him, and climbed out again. Talman said he may never have won an Oscar, but that was definitely a tribute to his acting. And then one of the last things he did was record one of the first anti-smoking commercials intended to be played after the actor’s death of smoking-related causes.