Social Icons

Social Connect

Barbara Hale

  • Birthplace: DeKalb, IL
  • Birthday: April 18
Date of passing: 
January 26, 2017

Barbara Hale, who died January 26, 2017 at age 94,  once said, in reference to her iconic performance as Della Street on TV’s long-running Perry Mason mystery series, “I liked playing women with an independent streak.”.

Raymond Burr played the lead in the show of the top attorney (who never lost a case!), and which originally aired on CBS from 1957 to 1966, and which remains popular in reruns today. 

Barbara Hale, who died January 26, 2017 at age 94,  once said, in reference to her iconic performance as Della Street on TV’s long-running Perry Mason mystery series, “I liked playing women with an independent streak.”.

Raymond Burr played the lead in the show of the top attorney (who never lost a case!), and which originally aired on CBS from 1957 to 1966, and which remains popular in reruns today. 

First and foremost, Hale’s Street was one of television’s first single professional working women.  As Hale explains, she was close friends with two of the show’s producers, Corny and Gail Patrick Jackson.  Hale had worked with Corny at an advertising agency in Chicago, and with Gail on a doll-making venture. 

The doll project never panned out, but Hale remained friends with Corny and Gail, the latter of whom later remembered Barbara for a part in the yet-to-air Mason series then-still in development.

Because she had young children at home, Hale was initially not interested in doing a series. However, after being told that the show would be a limited run, she reconsidered.

Intrigued with the limited workload and, once hearing it the project was Perry Mason, based on the famous Early Stanley Gardner books – and starring Burr, she was thrilled.

As she remembered, Burr was one of the first people she had met at RKO, the initial studio to sign her to contract.  “I had known him since the day I arrived in Hollywood.  We were both under contract with RKO, and we got to know each other very well.  He was a wonderful actor and a dear friend.”

Hale stayed with the Mason series for nine seasons, and 332 episodes, certainly more than the initial 18 segments promised to her.  After the show ended in 1966, she found herself working with Burr a few other times; first, on his second hit series, Ironside, in the 1970s and, in 1994 – for the TV-reunion movie Perry Mason Returns, which begot a series of sequels based on the original series.

These new Mason movies also starred William Katt, who played Paul Drake, Jr., the son of the character made famous by William Hopper on the original series.  Hale was somewhat familiar with the actor who replaced Hopper in the subsequent reunions. William Katt is her son in real life.

As to her Della Street portrayal, one of TV’s first single professional working-women, Hale remained both humble at the reception, and proud of her positive influence as a role model.


This material is an edited excerpt from Glamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door: Television’s Iconic Women from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s by Herbie J Pilato, host of Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, a new classic TV talk show that will debut on the Decades network later this year. 


   

Show more