Ray Bidwell Collins was an American actor in film, stage, radio and television. One of his best remembered roles was that of Lt. Arthur Tragg in the long-running series Perry Mason (1957). Collins was born in Sacramento, California, to Lillie Bidwell and William C. Collins, a newspaper drama editor. He started acting on stage at the age of 14. In the mid 1930s, now an established stage and radio actor, Collins began working with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre (Welles himself called Collins “the finest actor I’ve ever worked with”), leading to some of his most memorable roles. Having already appeared on radio with Welles in “The Shadow” (a regular as Commissioner Weston) and in Welles’ serial adaptation of “Les Miserables” from 1937, Collins became a regular on “The Mercury Theatre on the Air” program; through the run of the series, he played many roles in literary adaptations, from Squire Livesey from “Treasure Island” and Dr. Watson in “Sherlock Holmes” to Mr. Pickwick in an adaptation of “The Pickwick Papers”. Collins’ best known (albeit uncredited) work on this series, however, was in the infamous “The War of the Worlds” broadcast, playing three roles, including Mr. Wilmuth (on whose farm the Martian craft lands) and the newscaster who describes the destruction of New York. Along with other Mercury Theatre players, Collins made his first notable screen appearance in Citizen Kane (1941), as ruthless Boss Jim Gettys. He would also play key roles in Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Touch of Evil (1958). Collins appeared in over 90 films in all, including Leave Her to Heaven (1945), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and Crack-Up (1946), A Double Life (1947), two entries in the “Ma and Pa Kettle” series (as in-law Benjamin Parker), and The Desert Song (1953), in which he played the non-singing role of Kathryn Grayson’s father. He displayed comic ability in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) and The Man from Colorado (1948). He may be best remembered for his work on television. He was also a regular as John Merriweather on the television version of The Halls of Ivy (1954) starring Ronald Colman.
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