Actress Barbara Hale, who played loyal secretary Della Street in the "Perry Mason" television series from 1957 to 1966, died Thursday, The Associated Press reported. She was 94.
Her son, actor William Katt, announced Hale’s death in a Facebook post. Katt said his mother died surrounded by family at her Sherman Oaks, California, home.
"She was gracious and kind and silly and always fun to be with," wrote Katt, who appeared in the “Perry Mason” series with his mother when it was revived in 1985.
Hale was the steadfast secretary to Perry Mason, played by Raymond Burr in the long-running CBS drama for nine seasons and 30 television movies, winning an Emmy as best actress in 1959. She continued her role in the two-hour movies when the series was revived by NBC in the 1980s, even after Burr died in 1993. Hal Holbrook took over the role as the lead attorney through 1995.
"I guess I was just meant to be a secretary who doesn't take shorthand," the AP reported. "I'm a lousy typist, too — 33 words a minute."
Hale was part of a stellar cast on "Perry Mason" that included Burr, William Hopper as private investigator Paul Drake, William Talman as the forever frustrated prosecutor Hamilton Burger and Ray Collins as cagey police lieutenant Arthur Tragg.
Hale spent her early career under contract with RKO, and went on to star in “Higher and Higher” with Frank Sinatra, “Lady Luck” with Robert Young and Frank Morgan, "The Window," "Jolson Sings Again," "Lorna Doone," and "The Far Horizons" with Charlton Heston, Variety reported.
Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois, the daughter of a landscape gardener and a homemaker, the AP reported. The family moved to Rockford when she was 4, and she later took part in a local theater. But her goals were to be a nurse or journalist.
Her work for a modeling agency in Chicago led to an offer for a routine contract at the RKO studio in Hollywood.
Hale also appeared in films like the original "Airport," playing the husband of Dean Martin's pilot character; "The Giant Spider Invasion;" and "Big Wednesday," in which she appeared with her son.