William Talman (actor)
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William Talman in The Hitch-Hiker (1953).
|Born||William Whitney Talman, Jr.
February 4, 1915
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||August 30, 1968
Encino, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film and television actor|
|Spouse(s)||Lynne Carter (1942-1952) (divorced) 1 child
Barbara Read (1953-1959) (divorced) 2 children
Margaret Flanagan (1961-1968) (his death) 2 children
William Whitney Talman, Jr. (February 4, 1915 – August 30, 1968) was an American television and movie actor, who played Los Angeles District Attorney Hamilton Burger in the long-running series Perry Mason.
Family and education
Talman was born in Detroit, Michigan to Ada Barber and William Whitney Talman, a vice president of an electronics company. His maternal grandparents, Catherine Gandy and James Wells Barber, were immigrants from England.
Talman founded the drama club at the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He continued to act at Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan. After college he worked in summer stock and at an iron foundry, paper mills, boat yards, and as an automobile salesman.
Talman served for 30 months in the army in the Pacific in World War II, beginning his service as a private on February 4, 1942 at Camp Upton in Yaphank, (Long Island) New York. He was ultimately commissioned a major during the war.
Before his iconic television role, Talman worked on the Broadway stage and in movies. He played a sadistic psychopathic killer in Ida Lupino's 1953 film noir, The Hitch-Hiker. The New York Times said of him: "William Talman, as the ruthless murderer, makes the most of one of the year's juiciest assignments." But in the Collier Young produced thriller Beware, My Lovely (1952), about a war widow who is terrorized by a madman in her home, a photograph of Talman is used for the picture of her late, heroic husband.
Aside from his major supporting role in Perry Mason, Talman also guest-starred in various television series. He appeared in a first season episode of The Invaders, "Quantity: Unknown". This would be his last on-screen acting role before his death.
Originally Talman auditioned for the title role of Perry Mason and Raymond Burr auditioned for the role of Hamilton Burger, but Perry Mason creator and author, Erle Stanley Gardner was present and demanded that the actors switch parts. Burr was then given the title role and Talman got the role of Burger. Talman, as Burger, would go on to lose all but three cases in the nine-year series, including a record two separate murder trials in the final episode. He called his record "the longest losing streak in history." Talman had the title role in the 1960 episode, "The Case of the Prudent Prosecutor," when Burger disqualified himself from prosecuting a long-time personal friend, Jefferson Pike, who was accused of murder. At the end of the episode after Pike was cleared by Mason, Burger said, "You know, I think I won this case."
Talman was fired from Perry Mason for a short period in 1960. Sheriff's deputies, suspicious of marijuana use, raided a party on March 13, 1960, in a private home in Beverly Hills at which Talman was a guest. The deputies reported finding Talman and seven other defendants either nude or semi-nude. All were arrested for possession of marijuana (which was later dropped) and lewd vagrancy, but municipal judge Adolph Alexander dismissed the lewd vagrancy charges against Talman and the others on June 17 for lack of proof. "I don’t approve of their conduct," the judge ruled, "but it is not for you and me to approve but to enforce the statutes." Despite this Talman was fired by CBS which refused to give a reason. Talman was later rehired after Perry Mason producer Gail Patrick Jackson made a request to CBS following a massive letter-writing campaign by viewers.
Talman was married three times. His first wife was the actress Lynne Carter – their marriage lasted from just before Talman left for active service in 1942 to September 1952 and produced one daughter, Lynda. His second wife was the actress Barbara Read. They had one daughter, Barbie, and one son, William Whitney Talman III. The couple divorced on August 23, 1960. His third wife was Margaret Flanagan whom he married in 1963. Margaret had a son (Steve) and daughter (Debbie) from a previous marriage. William and Margaret had two children: a son, Timothy, and a daughter, Susan. Widow Margaret Talman outlived Talman by 34 years, until her death in January 2002, at age 73.
Anti-smoking advocacy and death
Talman is also known for being the first actor in Hollywood to film an anti-smoking public service announcement (PSA) for the American Cancer Society. A lifelong heavy smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and knew he was dying when he filmed the commercial. The short film began with the words, "Before I die, I want to do what I can to leave a world free of cancer for my six children... " Talman requested that the commercial not be aired until after his death.
He had made another such PSA, which opened with his voice-over and a picture of his home, followed by filmed shots of his wife and kids, then a still of himself "with a friend of mine you might recognize," Raymond Burr, from the Perry Mason TV series. He then said, "You know, I didn't mind losing those courtroom battles, but I'm in a battle now I don't want to lose at all. Because if I lose it, it means losing my wife and those kids you just met. I've got lung cancer...If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit! Don't be a loser."
Four weeks after filming the second PSA, Talman died on August 30, 1968, at the age of 53, and was buried in the George Washington Section, 2nd Terrace, at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. His widow, Margaret "Peggy" Louise Talman, joined him there at the time of her death in January 2002, aged 73.
|1949||Red, Hot and Blue||Bunny Harris|
|1949||Woman on Pier 13, TheThe Woman on Pier 13||Bailey, younger henchman|
|1950||Kid From Texas, TheThe Kid From Texas||Minninger|
|1950||Armored Car Robbery||Dave Purvis
|1951||Racket, TheThe Racket||Officer Bob Johnson|
|1952||One Minute to Zero||Col. Joe Parker|
|1953||Hitch-Hiker, TheThe Hitch-Hiker||Emmett Myers|
|1953||City That Never Sleeps||Hayes Stewart|
|1954||Lux Video Theatre||Brad Ringer||Pick of the Litter|
|1955||Big House U.S.A.||William 'Machine Gun' Mason|
|1955||Four Star Playhouse||Eddie||Eddie's Place|
alias Swanee Rawlins
aka Reverend Remington
|1955||Smoke Signal||Capt. Harper|
|1955||Cavalcade of America||Wes Hardin||The Texas Rangers|
|1955||Two-Gun Lady||Marshal Dan Corbin|
|1955||TV Reader's Digest||Old Master Detective|
|1955||Science Fiction Theatre||Norman Conway||The Water Maker|
|1955||Ford Television Theatre, TheThe Ford Television Theatre||Jock McLain||South of Selangor|
|1956||Screen Directors Playhouse||Barney||Number Five Checked Out|
|1956||Uranium Boom||Grady Mathews|
|1956||The Man Is Armed||Hackett|
|1956||Telephone Time||Lew Reese||Scio, Ohio|
|1956||Telephone Time||Undetermined Role||The Sergeant Boyd Story|
|1956||I've Lived Before||writer|
|1956||Climax!||The Louella Parsons Story|
|1956||Climax!||Joe MacKenzie||Sit Down with Death|
|1957||Persuader, TheThe Persuader||Matt Bonham
|1957||Hell on Devil's island||Bayard|
|1957||Trackdown||Blaine Sand||Like Father|
|Perry Mason||Hamilton Burger||208 episodes|
|1958||Climax!||Gene||Scream in Silence|
|1958||Tombstone Territory||Logan Beatty||The Return of the Outlaw|
|1958||Wagon Train||Walt Archer||The Sarah Drummond Story|
|1958||Alcoa Theatre||Lt. Herman Brule||Disappearance|
|1958||Cimmaron City||Mr. Conway||To Become a Man|
|1960||Have Gun – Will Travel||George Jondill||The Shooting of Jessie May|
|1961||Have Gun – Will Travel||Sheriff||Long Way Home|
|1963||Stump the Stars||Himself||July 8, 1963|
|1963||Gunsmoke||Race Fallon||Legends Don't Sleep|
|1966||Wild Wild West, TheThe Wild Wild West||Sheriff||The Night of the Man-Eating House|
|1967||Virginian, TheThe Virginian||writer
A Welcoming Town
|1967||Ballad of Josie, TheThe Ballad of Josie||District Attorney Charlie Lord|
|1967||Invaders, TheThe Invaders||Colonel Frank Griffith||Quantity: Unknown|
- Rootsweb Genealogy page on William Talman
- The Hitch-Hiker at the Internet Movie Database
- New York Times review of The Hitch-Hiker
- "The Invaders" Quantity: Unknown (1967)/ William Talman at the Internet Movie Database
- District Attorney of TV Show is arrested on marijuana charge
- Finally! Victory for Berger
- Network fires District Attorney on Mason Show
- Back as DA on TV Show