Thursday, May 21, 2015

Raymond Burr, 1917-1993

Raymond Burr and Natalie Wood in A Cry in the Night

Today marks the birth anniversary of Raymond Burr, whom I find to be one of the more intriguing heavies of the 1940s and 1950s. I guess that intrigue stems from the fact that my first experience with Burr was as a good guy from TV. I don't remember whether I first saw Burr on reruns of Perry Mason or of Ironside, but in both of those he was the good guy. And of course, in those days it was only a couple of TV channels and little in the way of old movies.

Probably the first time I would have seen Burr as a bad guy was in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, where he's the man wheelchair-bound photographer James Stewart sees across the courtyard going in and out at odd hours, giving Stewart the belief that the man has murdered his wife. And while Rear Window is an excellent movie, there are other movies in which Burr gets to be much more entertaining as the bad guy. After all, in Rear Window most of the conversation is among the three main players (Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter) in Stewart's apartment; we only hear the other stuff as we would hear it across a courtyard in real life.

The picture at the top is from a fun if overheated movie called A Cry in the Night, in which mama's boy Burr kidnaps Natalie Wood, not realizing she's the daughter of a police officer who is going to go nuts trying to find his daughter. Burr is super-creepy here.

In Pitfall, Burr plays a man who was trying to put the moves on a woman whom Dick Powell gets involved with as part of an insurance fraud case. Burr, needless to say, is quite unhappy about this and proceeds to make everybody's life hell.

And then there's Red Light, in which future TV good guy Burr gets fellow future TV good guy Harry Morgan to kill the brother of Burr's former boss, a boss (George Raft) who sent Burr to prison on an embezzlement charge. Burr, of course, has the perfect alibi for the murder: he's still in prison. There are some serious plot holes, but the movie as a whole is entertaining.

Which movie has your favorite Raymond Burr heavy?

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