Sunday, March 16, 2014

SLEUTHATHON: Perry Mason (1957 - 1966)

"You never need to worry about him.  He's the old human dynamo.  He manufactures energy faster than any human being can use it up."

- Paul Drake describes Perry Mason in The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink, published 1952

Mason's creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, was a man of uncommon energy himself.  As a youngster it often got him into trouble.  As a young man into sports and adventure, he put that energy to use as a boxer, a promoter and as a typist who studied at the law office that had hired him in that capacity.  Gardner passed the Bar age 21 and had a successful practice, in large part due to his ability to speak Chinese and his reputation for helping that community.  No detail was too small to escape his eye and while this appealed to clients, after a few years Gardner looked for more excitement and worlds to conquer.  He became a writer.  Again, that famous energy came into play as he worked at his law office during the day then spent the night writing.  The pulps, such as Black Mask were his training ground and fellow writers like Raymond Chandler became friends. 

"I had no natural ability to write.  Everything I learned I had to learn the hard way.  I'm still not much of a writer.  I'm a fair plotter because I studied the mechanics of plotting and analyzed plotting."

- Erle Stanley Gardner on his secondary trade

Eventually the complicated plots and tough-minded protagonists morphed into the determined and smart attorney Perry Mason in The Case of the Velvet Claws, published in 1953.  The years would bring over 80 Mason novels, translated into dozens of languages and popular all over the world in Gardner's day and ours.  My home library is filled with Perry Mason paperbacks.  They are the original page-turners.  Perry Mason goes to the end of the line and beyond for his frightened and less than honest clients.  Always he gets himself in a pickle, and always he gets out.  Whew!

The success of the book series interested Hollywood and in the 1930s and four features starred Warren William, followed by one each with Ricardo Cortez and Donald Woods as Perry Mason.  They are entertaining Warner Brothers products, but they don't feel like Perry.  In 1943 Perry Mason began a 12 year run on radio and, as with the screen adaptions, Gardner wasn't entirely satisfied with the output.  He learned of himself that he wasn't the person to write the scripts and that he wasn't the "Hollywood" type, but felt keenly the lack of quality control and input.  As the 1950s rolled around and TV was becoming a major entertainment force, Gardner was reluctant to hand his baby over to strange hands again.  Would Hollywood finally understand Perry Mason, Della Street and Paul Drake?

Gail Patrick, film actress
Gail Patrick Jackson, Perry Mason Executive Producer
1911 - 1980

Paisano Productions was born out of the desire to control how Perry Mason would be presented to television audiences.  The company consisted of Gardner, his agent and friend Cornwell Jackson and Corney Jackson's wife, the actress Gail Patrick (My Man Godfrey, Stage Door).  Also with a stake in the company were Jean Bethell, who was Gardner's real-life Della Street, and her sisters, all legal secretaries who worked with Gardner through the lawyer years to author years.  It was a friendly combine, as the name suggests, and a profitable one.  Gail Patrick, who knew Hollywood and who had at one timed planned to be a lawyer, took on the more and more of the responsibilities and became producer.  She was the only female producer of major television programming at the time.  Anne Nelson was her counterpart at CBS, negotiating the myriad contracts as a vice president in charge of business affairs.  Again, the only top female executive at a network.

Eighteen scripts were completed based on familiar Gardner titles and casting was ready to begin.  Fred MacMurray was the early favourite for the lead.  William Hopper and William Talman both read for Perry.  Raymond Burr, on the strength of his District Attorney role in A Place in the Sun was asked to read for Hamilton Burger.  The actor agreed as long as he could also read for Perry.

The 50th Anniversary DVD set includes some of the screen tests.  William Hopper's test shows that he would have been a terrific Perry, but Raymond Burr gave it is all.  He was advised to lose weight and return.  Gardner saw the test and insisted this was the man to play Perry Mason.  Someone who could convey the compassion and the intelligence.  Someone who was smart, but not a smart aleck.
  Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
1917 - 1993

Canada's Raymond Burr, born in New Westminster, BC, had been in Hollywood since 1946 and the talented actor certainly paid his dues.  The large young man attempted to pattern his career on that of the great Laird Cregar, and in his costume dramas like Adventures of Don Juan and film-noir as in Raw Deal, comparisons can certainly be made.  Raymond Burr's film career is a roller coaster ride of uncredited bits and supporting roles to which he brought one hundred percent of his talent and personality, whether the film be a big budget Hitchcock thriller like Rear Window, a sturdy docudrama like Walk a Crooked Mile or something on the cheap side like Bride of the Gorilla.  In a journey through classic entertainment you never know where you will run into Raymond Burr, be it as Joe Friday's boss in an early Dragnet, the sincere reporter in the American release of Godzilla or showing his comedy chops in Casanova's Big Night with Bob Hope.

Some of you may remember Raymond Burr's television commercials for an insurance group in the 1980s.  An acting teacher I knew at the time related an anecdote that Mr. Burr could have gotten a lot more money for the job than he settled for.  The teller of the tale was derisive about Raymond Burr not realizing that he could cash in on his fame.  I thought it was rather sweet that Mr. Burr didn't know he was that guy.

"You got to hand it to Raymond.  He got to be a pretty damn good lawyer."

- Erle Stanley Gardner on his star

William Hopper as Paul Drake
1915 - 1970

William Hopper, the son of columnist Hedda Hopper and stage performer DeWolf Hopper Sr., had been on the screen since the 1930s.  You'll find him in tons of Warner Brothers output as uncredited reporters and servicemen, but you'll also see the handsome, young dark-haired actor in choice roles in films such as The Runaway Heiress and Public Wedding.  After WW2, in which Hopper served in the Navy, he returned to Hollywood with more uncredited bits and larger roles in more interesting features such as Track of the Cat, The Bad Seed, 20 Million Miles to Earth and Rebel Without a Cause.  He is particularly effective in Good-bye, My Lady as the true owner of a lost and claimed dog.  William Hopper gives Paul Drake a lightly wry sense of humour and fun which balances nicely with the serious situations.

"He was a big kid.  He was a wonderful, wonderful man.  I loved him dearly."

- Producer Arthur Marks on his friend, William Hopper

Barbara Hale as Della Street
I don't think she believes what Paul is telling her.

Lovely and talented Barbara Hale aspired to a career as an artist, but was sidetracked into modelling and acting.  Immortalized as Della Street, fans can also appreciate her talents in movies going back to the 1940s including The Falcon Out West, The Boy With Green Hair, The Window, Jolson Sings Again, the title role in Lorna Doone, Unchained, 7th Cavalry and The Houston Story where she's a blonde singer putting the sizzle in Put the Blame on Mame.

Gail Patrick tagged her friend Barbara Hale for Perry's girl friday Della Street and initially Barbara declined as her children were young at the time and she didn't want to work outside of the home.  Gail persisted and after talking it over with her husband actor Bill Williams (married from 1946 to his death in 1992), they decided that it would be worth a shot.  After all, it was a TV show.  It might not run past those initial 18 scripts.

"Perry Mason would be very foolish if he didn't recognize the unusual charm and beauty of Della Street, and I don't think he's that foolish."

- Erle Stanley Gardner on his famous couple


William Talman as Hamilton Burger
1915 - 1968

William Talman was a stage trained actor who's career in films started to take off after his time in the Army during WW2 where he started out as a private and was promoted to major.  He played one of the screen's great villains in Ida Lupino's The Hitchhiker and is another remorseless criminal in Richard Fleischer's Armored Car Robbery.  In The Racket he is just as believable as an honest policeman as he is as his baddies.  Among the cast of the John Cromwell film you will find Ray Collins as a district attorney.  Interesting roles on television would follow including that of a tormented racist in The Sarah Drummond Story on Wagon Train.

During the run of the show William Talman was involved in a tabloid scandal when he was arrested at a "wild party" and although charges were eventually dropped, CBS fired the actor.  However, it was through the intervention of Erle Stanley Gardner, and the vociferous fans of the show, that Hamilton Burger retained his rightful place as adversary to Perry Mason.  William Talman passed from lung cancer in 1968, bravely filming an anti-smoking plea shown on national television in 1968 and 1969.

"Bill Talman is really a wonder.  He actually looks as if he expects to win a case."

- Erle Stanley Gardner on the beleaguered district attorney

"Look at Burger!  I think there's smoke coming out of his ears."

- Janet Hall, 21st century Perry Mason fan

Ray Collins as Lt. Arthur Tragg
1889 - 1965

Ray Collins, an actor from his teen years, who could and did play everything on stage, radio and screen from great dramas like Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons to fluffy comedies like The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and Francis, also turned to television in the 1950s.  He can be found on The Halls of Ivy, Father Knows Best and the anthology series like Playhouse 90.  A boon to every production, he was that and more to Perry Mason.  Nearing 70 when Perry Mason began in 1957, he may have been older than your average cop, but Ray Collins added a touch of class all his own and the fans love him.

Sadly, ill health forced his slowing down on work on the program and he passed away prior to its conclusion.  Official duties were taken over by Lt. Andy Anderson played by Wesley Lau and Lt. Steve Drumm played by Richard Anderson.

"Ray Collins was getting older and having trouble remembering his lines, but we never put any pressure on him.  We only had respect for such a fine actor."

- Arthur Marks, producer/director of Perry Mason



Perry Mason producer Arthur Marks referred to the series as a game show.  It is the whodunnit that keeps fans reading and watching as they match wits with the formidable Perry Mason.  Arthur Marks had been an assistant director at Columbia and MGM, where he first became friends with Ray Collins.  His involvement with Perry Mason began when he replaced an ailing assistant director on the pilot episode.  "Paisano" knew a good thing when they saw it and he was asked to stick around.  After assistant director duties on over a dozen episodes, Gail suggested he become a director and 76 future episodes are to his credit.  Mr. Marks happily moved into production at that time as well.  It was a busy and very creative time in his career.  

The budget from CBS was $172,000 per episode.  On the same network Gunsmoke had a $300,000 budget and over at NBC Bonanza's was over $600,000.  In an interview on the 50th Anniversary DVD Mr. Marks was proud of keeping the seasons within budget although he would go large on the first seven or eight episodes of the year with more sets, location scenes, extras, and maybe name guests to hook the audience and please the critics.  It's something to watch for when you are enjoying the show.

Mr. Marks attributes Perry Mason's to scrupulously sticking to the winning formula of setting up the murder with formidable suspects, the equal of our crusading hero.  He also acknowledges Raymond Burr's intelligence, talent and belief in the role and program.  Occasionally the network would put its oar in suggesting the show become more relevant like The Defenders or make Perry and Della more romantic.  As a concession, Gardner came up with the character of law clerk David Gideon played by Karl Held to handle the romance and appeal to the "young people", but he really wasn't necessary to the winning set-up and lasted only ten episodes.  What fans demanded, and enjoy to this day, are the interesting characters involved in a tangled murder story, the always legal yet tricky machinations of Perry Mason on behalf of his client, and a showdown in court with egg on Burger's face.

Subtle changes can be noted throughout the nine year run especially as it relates to women characters.  Firstly, a nod to the always fashionable Della Street.  The wardrobe department did her, and the guests, proud.  Over the years you will note that female characters moved away from only the damsels in distress and their nasty counterpoints to women in the workplace, burgeoning free spirits, and representatives of different generations.

Perry Mason's television popularity was immediate.  In 1959 it won an Australian Logie Award (the first year of the awards) as Most Popular Overseas Drama.  Raymond Burr became a popular guest on television variety shows and is especially winning on this episode of The Jack Benny Program.  

William Talman, William Hopper, Barbara Hale, Raymond Burr
"Perry" at the Emmy Awards

Emmy recognition also came Perry Mason's way including two in the technical categories.  Surprisingly the program only received one nomination for Best Series.

1958:  Best Dramatic Series with Continuing Characters (winner, Gunsmoke)  
1961:  Outstanding Achievement in Film Editing for Television (winner, Naked City)
1966: Individual Achievements in Electronic Production - Audio Engineering  (winner, Young People's Concerts)

A look at the acting nominations shows the evolving categories for those awards.

1959:
Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
William Hopper - nominated (winner - Dennis Weaver, Gunsmoke)
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
Raymond Burr - winner
Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
Barbara Hale - winner

1960: 
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead or Support)
Raymond Burr - nominated (winner - Robert Stack, The Untouchables)

1961:
Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead)
Raymond Burr - winner
Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series
Barbara Hale - nominated (winner - Don Knotts, The Andy Griffith Show)

It surprises me that the series didn't receive more nominations and wins, and I find it almost unbelievable that William Talman never received an Emmy nomination.  Those Emmy folks are full of surprises.  If there had been an award for main title music in the 1950s, they would probably have overlooked Fred Steiner's Park Avenue Beat.


Through the years of its initial run, the years since in television syndication and the release of the DVD collections we have solved a lot of mysteries with Perry.  We've marveled at the TV adaptions of familiar titles such as The Case of the Empty Tin, The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink, The Case of the Sun Bather's Diary, The Case of the Fiery Fingers, The Case of the Footloose Doll, The Case of the Caretakers Cat and various combinations of Gardner stories and those written originally for the series by the prolific and talented writers like Jackson Gillis, Eugene Wang and Samuel Newman, etc.

Film buffs and today's fans of TCM get a special kick out of the guests appearing on the program.  It's like old home week watching the likes of Julie Adams, Morris Ankrum, Robert Armstrong, James Bell, Bruce Bennett, Willis Bouchey, James Coburn, Jeanne Cooper, Robert Cornthwaite, John Dall, Virginia Field, Constance Ford, Dabbs Greer, Neil Hamilton, Josephine Hutchinson, Otto Kruger, Barbara Lawrence, Keye Luke, Paula Raymond, Ann Rutherford, Kenneth Tobey, Constance Towers, Bobby Troup, and so many, many more.  It is especially nice to spot George E. Stone (The Racket, Little Caesar, The Front Page, 42nd Street, Boston Blackie series, etc.) as a court clerk in the first six seasons.  No lines, but he's a part of the scene, administering oaths and accepting evidence.  Mr. Stone's eyesight was failing him at the time and he could use the work and benefits that went along with being a part of the business.

Declining ratings and schedule shifting contributed to Perry Mason closing up shop at the end of the ninth season in 1966.  They went out on a dandy episode, perhaps the first official finale in TV history and a true shout out to fans and the hard-working crew, The Case of the Final Fade-Out.  An arrogant actor, played by James Stacey, is murdered on the set of a popular television series.  When Lt. Drumm interviews those present at the scene, he is interviewing the actual crew.  A producer played by Denver Pyle is named Jackson Sidemark, a combination of the Jacksons of "Paisano", Jackson Gillis, Art Seid and Arthur Marks.  Everyone gets into the act!  Barbara Hale, in a blonde week, plays a bimbo flirting with Arthur Marks, who claims to know the right people in show business.  Tending bar is Corney Jackson and CBS executive Anne Nelson.  Gail Patrick is a spectator in the courtroom.  The judge is none other than Erle Stanley Gardner.  The episode is a delight and a darn good mystery.

Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale
The Case of the Substitute Face

"We had more fun.  You just can't imagine.  It was a lovely time."

- Barbara Hale on nine seasons of Perry Mason


Fritzi of Movies Silently is hosting the Sleuthathon, a blogathon of gumshoes, risk-takers, and the righteously snoopy.  Let's all curl up with our screens and enjoy time well spent with dedicated bloggers and their favourite sleuths.  


Quotes from:
TV Guide article by Dwight Whitney, 1961
The Case of the Real Perry Mason by Dorothy B. Hughes
50th Anniversary DVD collection - interviews   


42 comments:

  1. Wow, CW, this is a fantastic, extremely informational article. You had to have spent the entire last month doing all the research. Your diligence is very apparent!

    I have to admit that I have never seen a Perry Mason film; however, I LOVE the TV show. I remember watching reruns when I was a kid, and I was always fascinated at Perry's ability to find the hidden clue which would free his client.

    Fast-forward a couple decades to when I caught "The Blue Gardenia" on TCM. In that film, Mr. Burr portrays a womanizing cad, who is killed after trying to force his attentions on Anne Baxter. Seeing him (even as a bad guy) reminded me that he had been Perry Mason, and as my daughter loves crime-type shows, I figured she would enjoy Perry. She loved it, and we have since bought 3 seasons for our collection.

    I am a huge Ray Collins fan...always love seeing him pop up in a film. Thanks for sharing a bit about him.

    Also, Barbara Hale...she is delightful as Della. It is gratifying to learn that her marriage was not the norm in Hollywood and that she and her husband remained married until death separated them after 40+ years. Not often that happens in Hollywood!

    Again, this is a fantastic article. Thanks so much for all the time and hard work put into it.

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  2. Patti, you're a doll. Thanks so much. I adore this series and it was a joy to write about it. Nothing makes me happier than when my daughter says "Let's order a pizza and watch Perry." She knows what gets to me.

    I really enjoy "The Blue Gardenia" as well. What would you think if George Reeves and Raymond Burr had switched parts. It occurred to me one time while watching it that it might have fast-forwarded Burr's stardom and kept Reeves from being typecast as Superman. I also think as good actors, they could have carried it off.

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  3. Great article about Perry Mason which I love. What a lot of research you have done. Thank you.

    Vienna's Classic Hollywood

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    1. Thank you, Vienna. It's a funny yet wonderful thing that after a while you forget who the murder is in a lot of cases, so you can start all over again enjoying "Perry Mason".

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  4. Yet I've never seen Perry Mason, I bet I'd love it, since I really enjoy guessing who is guilty in shows like Monk. I just can't watch them with my mom, because she always guesses it before me!
    Very good behind the scenes details. William Talman looks like an glier version of Joseph Cotten.
    Is the Janet you quoted your daughter?
    Thanks for the comment!
    Kisses!

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    1. Yes, my daughter Janet provided me with the Hamilton Burger quote. She thinks it is fun to freeze-frame Bill Talman when Burger is really angry. It's just one of the pleasures of watching "Perry Mason".

      PS: My mom is the same way. She would always guess the murderer, and it would drive my dad nuts!

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  5. Great write-up on the dean of television legal dramas, Our Lady of Great Caftan. I miss tuning into it on Me-TV late nights, but I still have enough DVD action for a Perry fix every now and then I get the itch.

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    1. Yep. When you get that itch there's only one cure.

      Thanks for the compliment. You make me blush.

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  6. I didn't realize Burr was so popular outside of PERRY MASON. My only impression of him is through GODZILLA and he always struck me as stiff in that one.

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    1. Rich, we have to initiate you into the "Ironside" generation. Those two very popular shows cemented Raymond Burr's fan base. Plus, you've got to check out noirs like "Raw Deal" and "His Kind of Woman" - as nasty a piece of work that ever walked down the mean, dark streets of post-war melodrama.

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    2. I thought I had read somewhere that HIS KIND OF WOMAN was on the lighter side of film noir, but maybe I'm thinking about something different. Will add to the queue.

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    3. "His Kind of Woman" has a perfectly delightful, light performance from Vincent Price, but it is juxtaposed with some over-the-top brutality. It's an odd one having been started by director John Farrow, who ran over budget and over time, and completed by Richard Fleischer. Odd, but intriguing nonetheless.

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  7. I just got schooled! Fantastic write-up. It's been years since I've watched a Mason episode, but its power is brought back beautifully through this entry. What a cast on this show too. Love the bios especially and learning of the journey to get the show made.

    Aurora

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    1. Thanks, Aurora. When I think of classic TV, the first show that comes to my mind is "Perry Mason" - a class act all the way.

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  8. So I take it you're a fan? Oh CW - that was epic!! My parents loved Perry Mason and every once in a while I would join them. I was very distressed in later years when ! thought poor Mr. Burr ended up in a wheelchair (I know - dumb kid!). This series was great fun and set the standard for all courtroom sleuths. And thanks for the shout out to Gail Patrick!

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    1. My fandom really shows on this one, doesn't it? I may have to do a part 2 one of these days!

      You made me laugh. That first episode of "Ironside" had me wondering what had happened to "Perry", and I thought I was a pretty smart kid.

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  9. I've never seen Perry Mason, but since I just started watching Columbo reruns to catch classic stars, I'm not sure why I haven't. You've convinced me. Great to hear that Gail Patrick was so accomplished. Leah

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    1. There are 269 original "Perry Mason" episodes plus 26 made-for-TV movies from the 80s and 90s. I'm sure you'll find many things to enjoy.

      When my husband comments on what a babe he thinks Gail Patrick was, it is nice to remind him that the lady had a brain too!

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  10. Loved the post and enjoyed all the fascinating background information on how the show came together. I have always loved Gail Patrick, a shame was so often typecast as snobs.
    I particularly enjoyed knowing the Gardner wanted Burr for the part. It's always just a little bit special when an author chooses an actor, the way Agatha Christie wanted Joan Hickson for Miss Marple and William Goldman wanted Andre the Giant for Fezzik.
    Anyway, thanks so much for coming aboard the Sleuthathon!

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    1. Thank you, Fritizi. I very much enjoyed being part of the Sleuthathon (love that word!). Congratulations on a fine and fun blogathon.

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  11. What a great post! I learned plenty of new things about Perry Mason, which is also an evergreen I used to watch with my father.

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    1. Thanks!

      The more I learn about the show, the more I want to share, and the more I enjoy the program.

      Some shows have an extra something special to them when we can remember sharing them with someone we love.

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  12. Outstanding! I got turned onto Mr. Mason thanks to my parents (reruns at home) and now vague memories of my late great grandmother (back in 1968) watching the show in its final season. I recall she only had one big black and white TV in her bedroom, so she controlled everything we saw if we got to watch TV there.

    Davey and Goliath scarred me for life (lol), but I did love watching Raymond Burr crack those cases wide open in his inimitable manner. The funny thing was seeing the US version of Godzilla on TV and wondering why Perry Mason was in Japan! Heh, probably looking to take that overgrown lizard to trial for wrecking Tokyo and causing some murders of his own. "This is Steve Martin, signing out!..." (CRASH!)

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    1. I saw Raymond Burr, along with Don Mitchell and Don Galloway from "Ironside" in a play in Toronto in the early 80s. It was a thriller set on a subway train called "Underground". I never spotted him on the street or in a restaurant like some of my friends, but everyone who bumped into him said he was the nicest guy. I guess he really appreciated his fans, whether they watched "Perry" or "Godzilla".

      Grandmothers can be tyrants when it comes to TV. I learned to love Lawrence Welk because I had no choice.

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  13. I can see this is a great article, with such a lot of research and detail. Must admit I've never seen or read any Perry Mason - but will hope to fill in at least a tiny bit of that gap soon!

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  14. When you're in the mood for a whodunnit, "Perry Mason" takes the cake. Plus, you can choose your era as Gardner wrote the books from the 1930s to the 1960s.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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  15. Wonderful post, there's nothing like reading all about it from a true fan! My TV knowledge is woefully inadequate so, whilst I had heard of the delights of Perry Mason, I knew very little about it. Your incredibly detailed post has certainly filled in some gaps and piqued my interest. I particularly enjoyed your comments about the developments of the female characters - sounds like it paralleled the changing roles of women during the 20th century.
    Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks. I gave my inner fangirl free reign on this one.

      I've run into a lot of people who tune into the show as a lark or they remember seeing it with their folks, and it holds up for a variety of reasons both nostalgic and as fun entertainment.

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  16. Great, detailed look at this classic TV series, Caftan Woman! I can't remember a time when this show wasn't on the airwaves...I remember my local TV station airing PERRY MASON at noon back when I was growing up in the 70s, and eating my lunch in front of the tube every weekday as Perry would do his stuff. Burr was a force to be reckoned with as Mason, kind of a cold fish in some ways but a man you certainly would want in your corner if you happened to be accused of a murder you didn't commit. Hopper's Drake and esp. Hale's Della humanized Perry in all the right ways. It was a remarkably consistent show, though now I find myself preferring the first few seasons most of all.

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    1. "I can't remember a time when this show wasn't on the airwaves..." That's so true. Even those who didn't read the books or watch the show knew who Perry Mason was, he was not to be avoided.

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  17. I have NEVER seen the Perry Mason TV series and, from reading your post, I can see that I'm missing out on something. Thanks for providing such a great overview for people like me who aren't familiar with this early television series.

    I also thought Erle Stanley Gardner's comment was interesting, about studying the mechanics of plotting and using it in his writing.

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    1. I think "Perry" is something you would enjoy. Some people coming to the show from the current television perspective are disappointed not to have a continuing story arc and a focus on the personal lives of Perry and pals, but a true whodunnit fan who enjoys the time machine aspect of classic movies and TV will definitely have a good time.

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  18. What a fantastic read, so much research and detail. I voraciously ate up all these episodes back when we had those couple cool retro TV channels up here. If anything is TV comfort food this is it, very addictive. I agree with you on Blue Gardenia and those other noirs you mentioned, Burr was one of a handful of movie character baddies who turned out to be warm and lovable as series stars. And you gotta love how often the criminals cracked on the stand and hysterically confessed all!

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  19. Comfort food indeed. It's like a big casserole of macaroni & cheese, specifically the Raymond Burr recipe once published in TV Guide.

    Every once in a while they'd take us out of the courtroom for the big reveal, but I love it when Perry/Burr gets that look on his face and the camera closes in on the man/woman on the stand or one of the other suspects sitting in the spectator box. The key piece of evidence, the unexpected question and - bam! - game over. Nowhere to turn, nothing to do but tell all. Poor Burger. He always looked so surprised. Nothing ever seemed to phase Tragg.

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  20. CW, this was spectacular. I love "Perry Mason" and I love this post. I think I need to print it out and keep with my Perry episodes. I have never seen The Case of the Final Fade-Out episode, and I've got to track that down. Thanks so much for your fangirl enthusiasm for this great show.

    And one of the best theme songs ever.

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    1. JTL, on this day my inner fangirl kicked my inner editor out of town. I'm such a "Perry" nut that I still find myself thinking "I forgot to mention..." and "Maybe I should have...". If someone doesn't stop me, I may come up with a part 2 before the year is over.

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  21. Wonderful post on one of my favorite TV shows ever. I've read most of the original novels and was amused that Paul Drake smokes as much in the books as he did on the TV show. I always enjoyed reading how much the cast liked each other off camera. It's evident in the show and that makes it more enjoyable to me.

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    1. Thanks, Kevin.

      Liking the people you work with isn't necessary to putting out a good product, but in the case of "Perry Mason" it adds so much to my enjoyment of already perfect entertainment.

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  22. Caftan Woman, I've been a fan of PERRY MASON in all its guises -- especially the TV series -- since I discovered how much I liked the TV series. I admit it, I always wished Perry and Della would get together! :-) I always enjoyed the likable cast of the show, in addition to the great stars who came up from small parts to eventually becoming stars in their own right, like Robert Redford, among others! I really enjoyed your loving tribute to the show -- you picked a wonderful post for the Sleuthathon, C.W.! :-D

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    1. Why am I not surprised to find out that we're both big "Perry Mason" fans?

      Dorian, as regards Della and Perry, we fans know they are meant to be together in an alternate universe where the whodunnit isn't the focus. After all, in real life, Erle married his Jean, Della's inspiration.

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  23. Well, Caftan Woman, it took me a long time to get to your post (I went through the whole blogathon in order), but I'm very happy I got here. This was a wonderful overview of Perry Mason. I didn't know that Gail Patrick was producer. I learned that and many other things from your post. By the way, did you know that Raymond Burr had a winery in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County? Visit the tasting room and they will let you hold his Emmy. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting, Joe.

      That's a lovely bonus, being able to hold Raymond Burr's emmy trophy. Every once in a while I tell myself I really should try that wine, and one of these days maybe I will.

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IT TAKES A THIEF BLOGATHON: You and Me (1938)

Debbie Vega of Moon in Gemini is our hostess for the It Takes a Thief blogathon running from November 17 - 19. "The caper,...