The Perry Mason TV Show Book
Barbara Hale as Della Street

See You in the Funny Papers
Barbara Hale as Della Street. One story goes that Mason series producer Gail Patrick Jackson turned down Erle Stanley Gardner's request that she play Della. Then Jackson screen-tested Hale and liked what she saw. Courtesy of the Cinema Shop

Barbara Hale started her professional career as a cartoon character . . . well, more accurately, she posed as a cartoon character. The comic strip was called "Ramblin' Bill," and while Barbara was working her way through the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, she made some extra money posing for the cartoonist who drew the strip.

The work wasn't that foreign to her; she herself had been sketching since she was a young girl. This rather unusual modeling job led to others, and although Barbara never harbored any intentions of being a movie star, when the head of a modeling school sent her picture to RKO, RKO liked what it saw and wanted her to do a screen test. Thus started the career of the actress who would go on to play the TV role of possibly the world's best-known secretary.

Born in DeKalb, Illinois, on February 18, 1921,* Barbara was one of two children. As a grade-school student, she excelled in tap dancing and ballet. School plays also took up her free time. But she had always intended to major in art and drawing once she got to college.

The call from Hollywood changed all that. One story has it that the only reason she took RKO up on its offer was that she was in love with a soldier who was stationed out on the Coast. The expense-paid trip to Tinseltown would be a convenient way for the two to get together. So, she went west. Eventually, we must assume, the GI shipped out, but Barbara stayed.

* Webmaster's Note: Sharon Butsch Freeland has pointed out that Barbara Hale's correct birthday is April 18, 1922.


The Perry Mason TV Show Book Copyright 1987 by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. All rights reserved. Presented here by permission of the copyright holder. Commercial use prohibited. Web page Copyright 1998 D. M. Brockman. Last edited 04 Nov 2004.