After watching Alan Marshal in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I thought I would watch him play a TV role in the old show, Perry Mason. It was the Case of the Terrified Typist shown in 1958 and you can see it in full at the above link). Marshal was good (though he didn’t have to work very hard), and as usual, the prosecutor, Hamilton Burger (played by Bill Talman), lost the case and his composure by the end of the show. Here is Bill in character (from the Perry Mason site)
But when I read Bill Talman’s real life bio, I got a different impression of the man behind the scenes. This bit caught my eye
… Near the end of his life, Talman did something that, while common nowadays, was an extraordinarily courageous thing for an actor to do at that time. A heavy smoker for most of his life, he was angered by a newspaper article he read about actors being afraid to make anti-smoking messages for fear of losing opportunities to make lucrative cigarette commercials. He decided to do something about it. Talman volunteered to make a short film for the American Cancer Society, part of which was shown in late 1968 and 1969 as a television anti-smoking commercial. He was the first actor to ever make such a commercial. When the message was being filmed, Talman knew he was dying, was in a great deal of pain and was in fact under heavy sedation for it. The short film begins, “Before I die I want to do what I can to leave a world free of cancer for my six children . . . ” 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.
I like that story.