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Raymond Burr Lived His Secret Life in Excruciating Pain

We don’t just follow our favorite film stars for their incredible work – but we often follow them for the endless gossip. It seems that we know more about the personal lives of our favorite celebrities than about some of our closest friends! But there was a time when some celebrities kept much of their life secret – often, living in excruciating pain.

One of those actors who did this was Raymond Burr. He had many secrets that he didn’t reveal, perhaps out of fear that this would jeopardize his incredibly successful career. But living a secret life caused him lots of grief and it took a lot of fortitude to get through his struggles.

But how did Raymond Burr start his career? And what was his secret life that caused him such trouble?

Raymond Burr Lived His Secret Life in Excruciating Pain. Join FactsVerse to learn more…


Raymond William Stacy Burr was born on May 21, 1917, in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. While he didn’t come from a show business background, his mother was a music teacher, and this perhaps led to his love to the arts. His father was a hardware salesman, and this perhaps led to Raymond’s tough persona which he exemplified in so many of his great characters.

His parents divorced when he was only six and he moved to the United States with his mother and siblings, settling in California. Here, he was in the state where the film and television industry had been established so it seemed that it was fate that he’d become part of it.

Not too much is known about his childhood otherwise and his formative years. It’s rumored that many of the stories he gave in interviews weren’t true and there’s little evidence or records that can tell us about his upbringing.

For example, he once claimed that during his teens he was sent to New Mexico to work on a ranch for one year. We still don’t know if this is actually true. But we do know that he took an interest in acting at a young age and began acting in local plays during his teens. He became very passionate about acting and knew that this was the career he wanted to pursue.

He eventually joined the Pasadena Playhouse to study acting. He also stated, though this hasn’t been verified, that he joined a theater group in Vancouver and traveled the world with them to perform plays – going to countries as diverse as India, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

In 1940, when he was 23, he decided to move to New York to pursue a career in acting. He couldn’t have made the move at the right time. While California was the homeplace of Hollywood, New York also had a rich cultural scene.

He performed many plays with the Pasadena Playhouse in New York and even appeared in a few Broadway plays. Though he didn’t exactly become a star through his theatre work it was enough to help him becoming known in the acting fraternity. It was theatre where he was able to develop his craft.

But ultimately, theatre was what got him his big break in television and cinema. In 1944, he appeared in the Broadway play The Duke in Darkness. Though he had a supporting role it was enough for him to gain attention from an executive at RKO Radio Pictures. This was the beginning of his acting career.

What starts now is a reflection on one of the most incredible film and television careers we’ve seen in America. Raymond Burr’s career is truly one that all of us can envy. But you’ll soon learn about how he had to juggle this successful career with his secret life – that caused him excruciating pain.



Raymond Burr began his film career in 1946 when he had a small role as Paul Gill in the feature film Without Reservations. This was followed by a drama film called San Quentin which is largely acknowledged as his first major role even though it was a supporting role, and he starred along Lawrence Tierney – one of the biggest stars of the time.

But he continued to get steady work for the remainder of the 40s and into the 50s – sometimes these were supporting roles and sometimes they were larger. His roles were diverse, but he became mostly known for his villainous roles in many great film noirs. Among the notable films he appeared in during these decades are Desperate, Sleep My Love, Pitfall, Red Light, M, and Crime of Passion.

But arguably one of the roles which he’s most loved to in the 1950s was in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window. He played Lars Thorwald – a man who is spied upon by James Stewart’s character L.B. Jeffries, who believes he’s murdered his wife. The role was actually small, and we don’t hear Raymond Burr’s voice till the end of the film! Alfred Hitchcock wanted an actor who was known to audiences but still had an air of mystery to him and that’s exactly who Raymond Burr was. This remains one of his best films and best roles.

He had a commanding presence on screen which made him perfect for mystery films and film noir which he was best known for. But he also did exceptionally well in Westerns and Horror films. He had regular roles in many of the original Godzilla films. He was arguably one of the most entertaining actors to watch and is still recognized as one of the greatest actors of his generation.

His deep voice also made him perfect for the radio and he also had a great career as a radio actor. But he entered the next phase of his career in the late 1950s after already having an incredibly successful career in cinema.

He was cast as Perry Mason in the self-titled TV series – though he had originally auditioned for the supporting role as District Attorney Hamilton Burger. This was a legal drama and showed that Raymond Burr’s presence was big enough for the small screen as well. Later, he also became known Ironside – in which he played the titular character in this riveting crime series.

Raymond Burr was absolutely unstoppable, and he gave us so many great characters, some heroic, many villainous, but always powerful and commanding. What was also great is that he worked consistently until his death in 1993 – with his final works being reunion projects about Perry Mason and Ironside.

One assumes that because of his commanding presence on screen, he must have been a tough and formidable character behind the screen. He was – but there was also a lot of vulnerability and sadness that he hid from the public.



Raymond Burr was known for telling tall tales about his childhood and even his adult life. But why did he do such a strange thing? Is it because his early was too bland – or was it because he had something to hide?

Raymond Burr was briefly married to Isabella Ward from 1948 to 1952 when they got divorced. He even invented the story that he had other wives. But his relationships with women never went too far.

Raymond Burr was gay, and he kept this hidden from the public. After all his career took off in the 1940s and 1950s which were a lot more conservative. Even as the liberal 1960s approached and themes of homosexuality became more prevalent in film and television, it was still taboo for actors to be open about their homosexuality.

But there were always others who were eager to ‘out’ celebrities and perhaps its even more so now. Raymond Burr had to live a secret life, not telling most people that he was gay and that he had a partner – though later we learned that he had a partner, Robert Benavides. Raymond Burr lived his secret life in excruciating pain – feeling that he had to hide who he was to avoid getting blacklisted and perhaps to avoid it ruining the incredible image he had carved in film and television.

After his passing, many people around him including his colleagues stated that they felt Raymond Burr was gay but he didn’t want to reveal it in case it ruined his career. It’s a testament to who the man was that others didn’t try to blackmail him or ‘out’ him without his consent. But he made so many tall tales and various biographies state differing accounts of his personal life. He would often talk about his wives and children perhaps as a way to hide his relationship with men.

Today, perhaps things would be much easier. But Raymond Burr had to put up with a lot of pain in order to not jeopardize his career or the tough guy image he put up in his various characters. He is an inspiration to all actors but he’s often recognized as a trailblazer who paved the way for other gay actors.

For his incredible life and career we can only look at him with awe.

Raymond Burr died on September 12, 1993, in California at the age of 76. He’s still recognized as one of the greatest actors of his generation and for generations to come, we’ll be watching his films and television shows.

So, now let’s hear from you:

Were you aware of Raymond Burr’s secret life? What do you think about his struggles?

Despite his tough life and his secrets he managed to have a successful career and we admire him for that.

With that being said, here’s what we want to know:

Do you think that it’s good that today’s actors and actresses are more open about their personal life?

Or was there more dignity in celebrities keeping certain aspects of their life private?

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