William Talman

Active - 1949 - 1968  |   Born - Feb 4, 1915 in Detroit, Michigan  |   Died - Aug 30, 1968   |   Genres - Mystery, Crime, Western, Drama, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The scion of a wealthy Detroit family, William Talman would later claim that he learned to "champion the underdog" while a member of his Episcopal church boxing team. In his 20s, Talman became an evangelist for the Moral Re-Armament Movement, and later made at stab at studying law. He drifted to New York, where, through the intervention of an actor friend of his father, he began picking up small stage roles. After extensive experience in New York and in the touring company of Of Mice and Men, Talman moved to Hollywood, where in 1949 he played his first important screen role as a gangster in Red, Hot and Blue (1949). At his best when his characters were at their worst, Talman developed into one of Tinseltown's most fearsome screen villains, never more so than when he played a psycho killer who slept with one eye open in the noir classic The Hitchhiker (1955). In 1957, Talman was cast as Hamilton Burger, the perennially losing District Attorney on the popular TV weekly Perry Mason. He remained with the series until March of 1960, when he was arrested for throwing a wild party where vast quantities of illegal substances were consumed. The Perry Mason producers had every intention of firing Talman from the series, but he was reinstated thanks to the loyal intervention of his co-stars -- particularly Raymond Burr, who threatened to quit the show if Talman wasn't given a second chance. William Talman was last seen on TV in a series of anti-smoking public service announcements; these spots were run posthumously, at Talman's request, following his death from lung cancer at the age of 53.

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