Chicago Sun-Times

‘ PERRY MA­SON’ AC­TRESS, ILLI­NOIS NA­TIVE

- BY LYNN ELBER AP Tele­vi­sion Writer

LOS AN­GE­LES — Bar­bara Hale, a movie ac­tress who found her most fa­mous role on tele­vi­sion as stead­fast sec­re­tary Della Street in the long- run­ning “Perry Ma­son” se­ries, has died. She was 94.

Hale was sur­rounded by fam­ily when she died Thurs­day at her Los An­ge­les area home, said Jaque­line Stander, an agent for Hale’s son, ac­tor Wil­liam Katt (“The Great­est Amer­i­can Hero,” ” Car­rie”).

“She was gra­cious and kind and silly and al­ways fun to be with,” Katt posted on his Face­book page Thurs­day, call­ing Hale a won­der­ful ac­tress and a “trea­sure as a friend and mother.”

Stander de­clined to pro­vide the cause of death.

Hale ap­peared in “Perry Ma­son” on CBS from 1957 to 1966, win­ning an Emmy as best ac­tress in 1959. When the show was re­vived in 1985 on NBC as an oc­ca­sional TV movie, she again ap­peared in court at the side of the ever- vic­to­ri­ous lawyer played by Ray­mond Burr.

She con­tin­ued her role af­ter Burr died in 1993 and was re­placed by Hal Hol­brook for the movies that con­tin­ued into 1995.

“I guess I was just meant to be a sec­re­tary who doesn’t take short­hand,” she once quipped. “I’m a lousy typ­ist, too — 33 words a minute.”

Hale was born in DeKalb, Illi­nois, daugh­ter of a land­scape gar­dener and a home­maker. The fam­ily moved to Rock­ford when she was 4, and she later took part in a lo­cal the­ater. But her goals were to be a nurse or jour­nal­ist.

When her am­bi­tion turned to art she stud­ied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where she was of­ten sought as a model. Her work for a mod­el­ing agency prompted an of­fer for a rou­tine con­tract at the RKO stu­dio in Hol­ly­wood.

When she re­ported to the cast­ing di­rec­tor, he was speak­ing on the phone to some­one who needed an im­me­di­ate re­place­ment for an ac­tress who was sick.

“It hit ev­ery pa­per the next day: the Cin­derella story,” she re­called in a 1993 Chicago Tri­bune in­ter­view. “Of course they said it was a star­ring role. I had one line, but you know about those things.”

The movie was a quickie, “Gilder­sleeve’s Bad Day,” but she went on to ap­pear with Pat O’Brien in “The Iron Ma­jor,” Frank Si­na­tra in “Higher and Higher” and Robert Young in “Lady Luck.”

An­other co- star was a blond ac­tor named Bill Williams ( real name: Wil­liam Katt), with whom she ap­peared in “West of the Pe­cos” and “A Likely Story.” They had met over cof­fee in the stu­dio com­mis­sary and mar­ried in Rock­ford in 1946. The cou­ple had three chil­dren: Nita, Wil­liam and Jody

Williams, who died in 1992, later gained TV fame as star of “The Ad­ven­tures of Kit Car­son.” Their son goes by his father’s orig­i­nal name, Wil­liam Katt.

Af­ter her RKO con­tract ended, Hale worked at other stu­dios, usu­ally as the ador­ing wife of the lead­ing man. She played op­po­site Larry Parks in “Jol­son Sings Again,” James Ste­wart in “Jack­pot” and James Cag­ney in “A Lion Is in the Streets.”

In 1957, she joined the mem­o­rable cast of “Perry Ma­son” that in­cluded Burr as the de­fense at­tor­ney who solved his cases in the court­room, Wil­liam Hopper as in­ves­ti­ga­tor Paul Drake, Wil­liam Tal­man as never- win­ning pros­e­cu­tor Hamil­ton Burger and Ray Collins as po­lice lieu­tenant Arthur Tragg.

“When we started, it was the be­gin­ning of women not work­ing at home,” Hale said in the 1993 in­ter­view. “I liked that she was not mar­ried. My hus­band, Bill, didn’t have to see me mar­ried to an­other man, and our chil­dren didn’t have to see me moth­er­ing other chil­dren.”

 ??  ?? ‘‘ Perry Ma­son’’ ac­tress Bar­bara Hale mar­ried ac­tor Bill Williams in Rock­ford in 1946.
| SUN- TIMES FILES
‘‘ Perry Ma­son’’ ac­tress Bar­bara Hale mar­ried ac­tor Bill Williams in Rock­ford in 1946. | SUN- TIMES FILES

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