The Perry Mason TV Show Book
William Talman: TV's Hamilton Burger

The Case of the Built-in Loser

The most crucial criminal case that William Talman--the actor who played Hamilton Burger on "Perry Mason"--ever had to face was not on TV, but in real life. It was early in 1960. Police raided a "wild" Hollywood party that Talman was attending. The cops claimed that not only were drugs (as in marijuana) being used, but that everyone at the party--including Talman--was nude. The actor and six other people were arrested.

Talman's arrest in this "morals raid" not only caused him to lose his job on the Mason show, it led to his being virtually blackballed by Hollywood and the TV community. But it also gave him the opportunity to find out just what friends are for.

The "nude drug party" scandal was just one of several unusual chapters in "Willie" Talman's life. A director and screenwriter as well as an actor on stage, film, and TV, he was best known for portraying L.A. District Attorney Hamilton Burger, the role The New York Times so aptly described as "the built-in loser." Talman was no stranger to trouble. In fact, it seemed to follow him wherever he went, be it on the TV screen or in real life. But unlike his costar and friend Raymond Burr, who experienced many fateful tragedies in his life, most of Talman's problems stemmed from his own doings.

William Talman was born February 4, 1915, in Detroit. His father was wealthy, having made it big manufacturing yachts and heat-measuring devices. Talman had a younger brother, Tom, who would go on to teach at Douglas College (Rutgers).

Willie was a fighter from way back. He once told reporters he had to fight his way in and out of public school because he showed up in a limousine every day. He liked the fisticuffs enough to take up boxing for his church team. As it turned out, this was about the only arena where Talman was frequently the winner.


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.