The name Barbara Hale is one that many will not forget in a hurry, especially those who grew up watching her TV series in the mid-1950s and 60s. Hale was one of the actresses who graced the silver screen with their performances back in the days. She is best known for playing secretary Della Street in Perry Mason – a legal drama series that aired on CBS from 1957 to 1966. Her role in the TV series earned her Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series at the 1959 annual Emmy Awards. Between 1985 and 1995, Barabra Hale reprised her role as Della Street in thirty Perry Mason movies for TV. She also starred in 1949 black and white suspense film The Window and in several other films and TV series in her career that spanned over four decades.
Here is all you need to know about the legendary actress, including her career, husband, children, life, and death.
Barbara Hale Bio, Age
Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois on the 18th of April 1922 to Wilma and Luther Ezra Hale. Her family is of Scots-Irish ancestry. Her father was a landscape gardener. She had a sister named Juanita.
Hale attended Rockford High School, Rockford, Illinois, where she graduated from in 1940, After high school, she went to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts where she modeled to support herself in school.
In 1943, Barbara Hale moved to Hollywood; she soon landed a contract with RKO Radio Pictures and made her first screen appearance in Gildersleeve’s Bad Day, although, it was uncredited. She didn’t stop there but continued making uncredited appearances in films until she landed her first credited role later that year in Higher and Higher alongside Frank Sinatra.
Hale soon landed lead roles in West of the Pecos, Lady Luck, and The Window. Her other films in the 1950s include playing adventurous Lorna Doone in The Jackpot alongside James Stewart, A Lion Is in the Streets, Seminole, and The Oklahoman.
After starring in The Oklahoman, Barbara took a break from starring in feature films and focused on the TV series Perry Mason through which she gained prominence. The next time she appeared in a feature film was in the 1970s; first in the 1970 movie Airport, where she played the wife of a pilot and in 1978 drama Big Wednesday playing Mrs. Barlow, alongside her real-life son William Katt.
Barbara Hale was contemplating retirement when she landed the best role ever in her acting career which was playing legal secretary Della Street alongside Raymond Burr who was the titular character in the TV series Perry Mason. The series aired on CBS from 1957 to 1966. The role didn’t only earn Hale a name in the industry but also earned her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
She also reprised the character in thirty Perry Mason movies for TV alongside Burr, who was the only surviving original cast member after Hale at the time from 1985. Even after Burr’s death in 1993, Barbara Hale continued starring in the film until 1995 becoming the only actor from the original cast to appear in all of the thirty films.
Hale ended her acting career in 2000 appearing in TV biographical documentary about Burr. She was not just successful on screen but also on the radio as she was heard in an episode of 1947’s Voice of the Army. 1950’s Lux Radio Theatre, five episodes of Family Theater which aired from 1950 to 1954 and also in an episode of Proudly We Hail.
Asides winning Emmy Awards in 1959 for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series, in 1961, Barbara Hale earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series. In February 1960, she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2001, she was presented with a Golden Boot Awards for her outstanding contributions to western cinema.
Her Husband and Children
Hale was married to actor Herman August Wilhelm Katt, popularly known as Bill William from June 22, 1946, until his death in September 1992. As at the time of Bill’s death, the couple had been married for 46 years.
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They had three children; a son William Katt and two daughters (Jodi and Juanita). Katt took to acting like his parents; in the 1960s, he made guest appearances in some episodes of Perry Mason and played detective Paul Drake, Jr. in 9 of Perry Mason’s movies from 1985 to 1988 alongside his mom. He also played Hale’s son in the 1978 movie Big Wednesday.
Is She Dead or Still Alive?
Barbara Hale died in January 2017 at her Sherman Oaks, California home at the age of 94 from complications resulting from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Prior to this, she had survived bladder cancer. She was buried next to her husband at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).