Barbara Hale, an actress best known for playing Perry Mason’s secretary, has died at age 94.
Her death was announced by her son, actor William Katt, reports the Daily Mirror.
“We’ve all been so lucky to have her for so long,” he wrote. “She was gracious and kind and silly and always fun to be with. A wonderful actress and smart businesswoman, she was most of all a treasure as a friend and mother!”
Hale’s first prominent movie role was in the 1944 film “Higher and Higher,” appearing alongside Frank Sinatra, notes her fan website. Soon she was sharing the silver screen with other big-name stars like James Stewart in “The Jackpot,” and Robert Young in “Lady Luck.”
She also appeared in numerous films of lesser stature, including “The Falcon Out West,” and “First Yank Into Tokyo” during World War II, and westerns like “West of the Peco,” “Lone Hand,” and “Last of the Commanches.”
In the 1950s, she appeared on many live television drama programs that were popular at the time, including “Playhouse 90” and “General Electric Theatre.”
But her part on the television show “Perry Mason” is what made her a household name. The courtroom drama, starring Raymond Burr in the title role, ran for over 300 episodes from 1957 to 1966, winning an Emmy in 1959. Hale’s portrayal as his wise secretary and sidekick, Della Street, was a crucial element of the show.
In a 1962 interview with the industry magazine TV Radio Mirror, cited on Hale’s fan website, Burr explained why he cast Hale in the role. “It happened when we were both working for RKO in 1943,” he said. “I was there briefly before she came out from Illinois. She certainly made a lasting impression on me. When I left for service again, I took with me the image of a bright, lovely and wholesome personality whose charm kept lingering in my mind.”
Following “Perry Mason,” Hale made guest appearances in a wide variety of popular television shows, including “Lassie,” “Adam 12,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” and “Ironside,” in which Burr starred as a wheelchair-bound detective.
When “Perry Mason” was revived as a series of television movies in the 1980s and 1990s, Hale reprised her role as the lawyer’s trusty secretary.
One of her final roles was in an episode of the campy television show “Greatest American Hero,” starring her son, William Katt.
Sources: Daily Mirror, BarbaraHale.com / Photo credit: MeTV