William Talman’s Cause of Death: The Tragic End of a Talented Actor

William Talman was a versatile and prolific actor who appeared in numerous roles on stage, screen, and television. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Los Angeles District Attorney Hamilton Burger in the long-running series Perry Mason, where he faced off against the brilliant defense lawyer played by Raymond Burr. But behind his professional success, Talman had a troubled personal life and a fatal battle with lung cancer that ended his career and life prematurely. In this article, we will explore William Talman’s cause of death and how it affected his legacy.

Early Life and Career

William Whitney Talman Jr. was born on February 4, 1915, in Detroit, Michigan, to a wealthy and prominent family. His father was a vice president of an electronics company and his mother was a descendant of English immigrants. Talman developed an interest in acting at an early age and participated in school plays and drama clubs. He attended Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan, but dropped out after a car accident that resulted in the death of a friend. He then pursued a career in theater and worked in various summer stock companies and Broadway productions.

Talman moved to Hollywood in 1949 and made his film debut in San Quentin. He quickly established himself as a villain in several film noir thrillers, such as Armored Car Robbery, The Hitch-Hiker, and City That Never Sleeps. He also appeared in comedies, westerns, dramas, and war films, often playing tough or ruthless characters. He worked with some of the most famous actors and directors of his time, such as Ida Lupino, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Alfred Hitchcock, and Fritz Lang.

Perry Mason and Hamilton Burger

In 1957, Talman was cast as Hamilton Burger, the district attorney who opposed Perry Mason in the courtroom. The show was based on the novels by Erle Stanley Gardner and became one of the most popular and successful legal dramas of all time. Talman’s character was a competent and honest prosecutor who respected Mason but often lost to him due to his superior skills and luck. Talman played Burger with dignity and professionalism, making him a worthy adversary and not a caricature.

Talman appeared in 271 episodes of Perry Mason from 1957 to 1966, making him the only regular cast member besides Burr to appear in every season. He also reprised his role in two TV movies based on the show in 1985 and 1986. Talman’s performance as Burger earned him praise from critics and fans alike, as well as from lawyers and judges who admired his portrayal of the legal profession.

Personal Problems and Health Issues

Despite his success on screen, Talman faced many difficulties in his personal life. He was married three times and divorced twice. His first wife, Lynne Carter, was an actress whom he met while working in theater. They had two children together but divorced in 1952. His second wife, Barbara Read, was also an actress who appeared with him in The Racket. They had three children together but divorced in 1959 after Read suffered from mental illness and alcoholism. His third wife, Margaret Flanagan, was a secretary whom he married in 1963. They had one child together and remained married until his death.

Talman also had legal troubles that threatened his career. In 1960, he was arrested along with several other people at a party where marijuana was found. He was charged with possession of narcotics and conspiracy to commit a felony. He claimed that he was innocent and that he did not know about the drugs at the party. He was suspended from Perry Mason by CBS until his case was resolved. He received support from Raymond Burr, Erle Stanley Gardner, Gail Patrick Jackson (the executive producer of the show), and thousands of fans who wrote letters to CBS demanding his reinstatement. He was eventually acquitted of all charges after a trial that lasted six weeks. He returned to Perry Mason in 1961 but his reputation was tarnished by the scandal.

Talman also suffered from health problems that affected his appearance and performance. He was a heavy smoker since his teenage years and developed lung cancer in 1966. He underwent surgery to remove part of his right lung but the cancer spread to other parts of his body. He continued to work on Perry Mason until the show ended in 1966 but his condition worsened over time. He lost weight and hair and had difficulty breathing and speaking.

Death and Legacy

William Talman died of cardiac arrest due to complications from lung cancer at West Valley Community Hospital in Encino, California, on August 30, 1968, at the age of 53. He was survived by his wife Margaret and six children from his previous marriages. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. He was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California, in the Court of Liberty section.

William Talman left behind a legacy of a talented and versatile actor who played memorable roles in various genres and media. He is best known for his role as Hamilton Burger, the district attorney who always lost to Perry Mason but never gave up. He is also remembered for his roles as a villain in film noir classics and for his appearances in other TV shows, such as The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and was inducted into the Michigan Walk of Fame in 2006.

William Talman’s cause of death was a tragic end to a brilliant career and a troubled life. He was a victim of lung cancer, a disease that affects millions of people around the world. He was also a victim of the social stigma and legal consequences of marijuana use, which are still debated today. He was a man who faced many challenges and obstacles but never gave up on his passion and profession. He was a man who inspired and entertained many people with his talent and charisma. He was a man who deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

Doms Desk

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