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Multiple Years / Fictitious Past of Raymond Burr
Raymond Burr, the popular Canadian-born actor who starred in both Perry Mason and Ironside, wildly fabricated parts of his past, presumably to hide his homosexuality. Most of the blatant falsehoods weren't exposed until after his death in 1993. Burr married actress Isabella Ward on January 10, 1949. They lived together for less than a year and divorced after four years. Neither remarried. At various times in his career, Burr or his managers offered biographical details that appear spurious or unverifiable. These include marriage to a Scottish actress named Annette Sutherland, supposedly killed in the same plane crash as Leslie Howard. A son named Michael Evan was said to have resulted from another invented marriage to Laura Andrina Morgan. Burr provided the only evidence of the boy's existence and death from leukemia at age 10. As late as 1991, Burr told Parade magazine that when he realized his son was dying, he took him on a one-year tour of the United States. He said, "Before my boy left, before his time was gone, I wanted him to see the beauty of his country and its people." Later research proved Burr was working in Hollywood throughout the year he was supposedly travelling with his ill son. Burr also claimed to have served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and said he had been seriously wounded on Okinawa. Many of these fictions were believed and widely reported during Burr's lifetime. In the mid 1950s, Burr met Robert Benevides, a young actor and Korean War veteran, on the set of Perry Mason. According to Benevides, they became a couple around 1960. He later became a production consultant for 21 of the Perry Mason TV movies. Together they owned and operated an orchid business and then a vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley. They were partners until Burr's death. Burr left Benevides his entire estate. Later accounts of Burr's life explain he hid his sexuality to protect his career. In 2000, AP reporter Bob Thomas recalled the situation: "It was an open secret...that Burr was gay. He had a companion who was with him all the time. That was a time in Hollywood history when homosexuality was not countenanced. Ray was not a romantic star by any means, but he was a very popular figure...If it was revealed at that time in Hollywood history [that he was gay] it would have been very difficult for him to continue."