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Barbara Hale
Barbara Hale Seminole.jpg
Hale in 1953
Born (1922-04-18)April 18, 1922
Died January 26, 2017(2017-01-26) (aged 94)
Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1943–2000
Known for Perry Mason
Bill Williams
(m. 1946; died 1992)
Children 3; including William Katt

Barbara Hale (April 18, 1922 – January 26, 2017) was an American actress who portrayed legal secretary Della Street in the dramatic television series Perry Mason (1957–1966), earning her a 1959 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She reprised the role in 30 Perry Mason made-for-television movies (1985–1995).

Early life

Barbara Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois, to Wilma (née Colvin) and Luther Ezra Hale, a landscape gardener. She had one sister, Juanita, for whom Hale's younger daughter was named. The family was of Scotch-Irish ancestry. In 1940, Hale was a member of the final graduating class from Rockford High School in Rockford, Illinois, then attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, planning to be an artist. Her performing career began in Chicago, when she started modeling to pay for her education.



Barbara Hale in Jolson Sings Again trailer
Hale in Jolson Sings Again (1949)

Hale moved to Hollywood in 1943, and under contract to RKO Radio Pictures, made her first screen appearance (uncredited) in Gildersleeve's Bad Day. She continued to make small uncredited appearances in films, until her first credited role alongside Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher (1943) (even singing with him in the film). Hale had leading roles in movies including West of the Pecos (1945) with Robert Mitchum in his second film as the leading man, Lady Luck (1946) — opposite Robert Young in what she described as her first "full stardom" and "her fifth A picture" — and The Window (1949). She received excellent notices for her co-starring performance opposite Larry Parks in the musical biography Jolson Sings Again (1949). She and Parks were teamed for subsequent films.

Her roles in 1950s films such as the adventure Lorna Doone (1951); the comedy The Jackpot (with James Stewart) (also 1951); the drama A Lion Is in the Streets (1953) with James Cagney, and the Westerns Seminole (also 1953) and The Oklahoman (1957) continued Hale's run of successful movies during that decade. The latter film, co-starring Joel McCrea, would mark Hale's last leading role in a motion picture. She seldom appeared in film after this time, but was part of an all-star cast in the 1970 movie Airport, playing the wife of an airline pilot (played by Dean Martin). Hale's final appearance in a feature film was in the 1978 drama Big Wednesday as Mrs. Barlow, the mother of the character played by Hale's real-life son William Katt.


Raymond Burr Barbara Hale Perry Mason 1958
Hale and Raymond Burr in the CBS-TV series Perry Mason (1958)

Hale was considering retirement from acting when she accepted her best known role, as legal secretary Della Street in the television series Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr as the titular character. The show ran for nine seasons from 1957 to 1966, with 271 episodes produced. The role won Hale a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.

Hale with William Hopper (left) and Frank Sully in Perry Mason (1958)

In 1985, Hale and Burr (by then the only surviving cast members from the original series) reprised their roles for the TV movie Perry Mason Returns. The film was such a ratings hit that a further 29 movies were produced until 1995. Hale continued her role as Della in the four telefilms produced after Burr's death in 1993, subtitled A Perry Mason Mystery (and starring Paul Sorvino as Anthony Caruso in the first film and Hal Holbrook as "Wild" Bill McKenzie in the remaining three). Hale is thus the only actor to feature in all 30 films.

Hale's son William Katt played detective Paul Drake, Jr., alongside Hale in nine of the Perry Mason TV movies from 1985 to 1988. Hale in turn guest-starred on Katt's series, The Greatest American Hero in which Katt played the title role, aka Ralph Hinkley; Hale played Hinkley's mother in the 1982 episode, "Who's Woo in America". She also played his mother in the 1978 movie Big Wednesday.

Hale guest-starred in "Murder Impromptu", a 1971 episode of Ironside, Burr's first post-Perry Mason series.

Her last on-screen appearance was a TV biographical documentary about Burr that aired in 2000.


Hale's activity in radio was limited; she appeared in one episode each of Voice of the Army (1947), Lux Radio Theatre (1950), and Proudly We Hail (syndicated), as well as five episodes of Family Theater (1950–1954).


Hale worked as a spokeswoman for Amana, makers of Radarange microwave ovens, memorably intoning, "If it doesn't say Amana, it's not a Radarange."

Private life and death

In 1945, during the filming of West of the Pecos, Hale met actor Bill Williams (birth name Herman August Wilhelm Katt). They were married on June 22, 1946. The couple had two daughters, Jodi and Juanita, and a son, actor William Katt.

Hale became a follower of the Baháʼí Faith.

Hale died at her home in Sherman Oaks, California, on January 26, 2017, at age 94 of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Hale was recognized as a Star of Television (with a marker at 1628 Vine Street) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. She won the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series in 1959 and was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series in 1961.

She was presented one of the Golden Boot Awards in 2001 for her contributions to western cinema.



Year Title Role Notes
1943 Gildersleeve's Bad Day Girl at Party Getting Peavey to Donate Film debut; Uncredited
Mexican Spitfire's Blessed Event Girl at Airport Uncredited
The Seventh Victim Subway Passenger Uncredited
The Iron Major Sarah Cavanaugh Uncredited
Gildersleeve on Broadway Stocking Salesgirl Uncredited
Government Girl Girl in Hotel Lobby Uncredited
Around the World Barbara Hale Uncredited
Higher and Higher Katherine Keating
1944 Prunes and Politics Short
The Falcon Out West Marion Colby
Goin' To Town Patty
Heavenly Days Angie
The Falcon in Hollywood Peggy Callahan
1945 West of the Pecos Rill Lambeth
First Yank into Tokyo Abby Drake
1946 Lady Luck Mary Audrey
1947 A Likely Story Vickie North
1948 The Boy with Green Hair Miss Brand
1949 The Clay Pigeon Martha Gregory
The Window Mrs. Mary Woodry
Jolson Sings Again Ellen Clark
And Baby Makes Three Jacqueline 'Jackie' Walsh
1950 The Jackpot Amy Lawrence
Emergency Wedding Dr. Helen Hunt
1951 Lorna Doone Lorna Doone
1952 The First Time Betsey Bennet
Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder Barbara Hale Uncredited
1953 Last of the Comanches Julia Lanning
Seminole Revere Muldoon
The Lone Hand Sarah Jane Skaggs
A Lion Is in the Streets Verity Wade
1955 Unchained Mary Davitt
The Far Horizons Julia Hancock
1956 The Houston Story Zoe Crane
7th Cavalry Martha Kellogg
1957 The Oklahoman Anne Barnes
Slim Carter Allie Hanneman
1958 Desert Hell Celie Edwards
1968 Buckskin Sarah Cody
1970 Airport Sarah Demerest
The Red, White and Black Mrs. Alice Grierson
1975 The Giant Spider Invasion Dr. Jenny Langer
1978 Big Wednesday Mrs. Barlow Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1952–56 The Ford Television Theatre Marta Linden, Nora White Episodes: "The Divided Heart", "Remember to Live", "Behind the Mask"
1953 Footlights Theater Katherine Charles Episode: "Change of Heart"
1953–55 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Episodes: "Vacation for Ginny", "Tourists-Overnight"
1955 Studio 57 Ruth Episode: "Young Couples Only"
General Electric Theater Ellen Newman Episode: "The Windmill"
Screen Director's Playhouse June Waters Episode: "Meet the Governor"
Celebrity Playhouse Episode: "He Knew All About Women"
Climax! Mamie Eunson Episode: "The Day They Gave Babies Away"
Science Fiction Theatre Nancy Stanton, Pat Hastings Episodes: "Conversations With an Ape", "The Hastings Secret"
1956 The Loretta Young Show Bill's Wife Episode: "The Challenge"
Damon Runyon Theater Wendy Longfield Episode: "The Good Luck Kid"
Crossroads Jane Sherman Episode: "Lifeline"
The Millionaire Kathy Munson and Marian Munson Episode: "The Kathy Munson Story"
1956–57 Playhouse 90 Mrs. Julia Wiley, Ann Barnes, Allie Hanneman Episodes: "The Country Husband", "The Blackwell Story"
1957–66 Perry Mason Della Street Credited in all 271 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1959)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1961)
1959 General Electric Theater Lorraine Episode: "Night Club"
1960 Here's Hollywood Herself
1963 Stump the Stars Herself 2 episodes
1967 Custer Melinda Terry Episode: "Death Hunt"
1969 Insight Mom Episode: "A Thousand Red Flowers"
Lassie Sarah Caldwell Episode: "Lassie and the Water Bottles"
1970 The Most Deadly Game Episode: "Model for Murder"
1971 Ironside Marsha Connell Episode: "Murder Impromptu"
Adam-12 Bonnie Jessup Episode: "Pick-up"; Hale's husband Bill Williams also appears
1972 The Doris Day Show Thelma King Episode: "Doris' House Guest"
1973–78 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Mrs. Belle Kincaid, Mrs. Hanson, Mrs. Ogle, Mrs. Barlow Episodes: "Chester, Yesterday's Horse", "Flight of the Grey Wolf, Parts 1 and 2", "The Young Runaways", "Big Wednesday"
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D. Marjorie Episode: "The Faith of Childish Things"
1976 Dinah! Herself
1982 The Greatest American Hero Paula Hinkley Episode: "Who's Woo in America"
1985 Perry Mason Returns Della Street Perry Mason TV movie
1986 The Case of the Notorious Nun
The Case of the Shooting Star
1987 The Case of the Lost Love
The Case of the Sinister Spirit
The Case of the Murdered Madam
The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel
1988 The Case of the Avenging Ace
The Case of the Lady in the Lake
1989 The Case of the Lethal Lesson
The Case of the Musical Murder
The Case of the All-Star Assassin
1990 The Case of the Poisoned Pen
The Case of the Desperate Deception
The Case of the Silenced Singer
The Case of the Defiant Daughter
1991 The Case of the Ruthless Reporter
The Case of the Maligned Mobster
The Case of the Glass Coffin
The Case of the Fatal Fashion
1992 The Case of the Fatal Framing
The Case of the Reckless Romeo
The Case of the Heartbroken Bride
1993 The Case of the Skin-Deep Scandal
The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
The Case of the Killer Kiss
The Case of the Wicked Wives A Perry Mason Mystery TV movie
1994 The Case of the Lethal Lifestyle
The Case of the Grimacing Governor
1995 The Case of the Jealous Jokester
2000 Biography Herself Episode: "Raymond Burr, The Case of the TV Legend"
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