Perry Mason (TV series)
|Created by||Based on characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner|
|Developed by||Paisano Productions|
|Theme music composer||Fred Steiner|
|Opening theme||"Park Avenue Beat"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||9|
|No. of episodes||271 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Gail Patrick Jackson|
|Running time||52 minutes|
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
Color (one episode)
|Original run||September 21, 1957– May 22, 1966|
|Followed by||Perry Mason television films (1985–95)|
Perry Mason is an American legal drama series originally broadcast on CBS television from September 21, 1957, to May 22, 1966. The title character, portrayed by Raymond Burr, is a fictional Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer who originally appeared in detective fiction by Erle Stanley Gardner. Many episodes are based on stories written by Gardner.
Hollywood's first weekly one-hour series filmed for television, Perry Mason is one of TV's longest-running and most successful legal series. During its first season it received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination as Best Dramatic Series, and it became one of the five most popular shows on television. Raymond Burr received two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor, and Barbara Hale received an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Mason's secretary Della Street.
The complete series has been released on Region 1 DVD.
A 1973 revival of the series with a different cast was poorly received. In 1985 the first in a successful series of 30 Perry Mason television films aired on NBC as a sequel to Perry Mason, with Burr reprising the role of Mason in 26 of them.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Production
- 4 Episodes
- 5 Broadcast
- 6 Reception
- 7 Media information
- 8 Series revival
- 9 Television films
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Perry Mason is a distinguished criminal defense lawyer practicing in Los Angeles, California. Perry Mason records his cases, most of which include a murder trial. Each episode typically follows a formula. The first half of the show introduces a prospective murder victim as being deserving of homicide, often with Mason's client publicly threatening the victim. The body is found, often through circumstance by Mason and private investigator Paul Drake, or with his secretary Della Street. Clues point to Mason's client, who is charged with murder. In the second-half courtroom setting, Mason spars most often with his legal adversary Hamilton Burger, Los Angeles district attorney, and police homicide detective Lt. Tragg. Mason establishes his client's innocence by dramatically demonstrating the guilt of another character.[a] The murderer often breaks down and confesses to the crime in the courtroom. In the closing scene, the characters gather together to discuss how the case was solved.
In many episodes, the identity of the guilty party is uncovered without an actual trial being held. Instead, this occurs at the preliminary hearing stage, in which the district attorney is required to produce just enough evidence to convince the judge that the defendant should be bound over for trial.[b] During this stage, other malefactors — such as blackmailers, frauds and forgers — are frequently forced into confessions by Mason's relentless and clever questioning, and the killer is exposed.
Cast and characters
- Perry Mason – defense attorney (played by Raymond Burr)
- Della Street – Mason's confidential secretary (played by Barbara Hale)
- Paul Drake – private investigator (played by William Hopper)
- Hamilton Burger – District Attorney (played by William Talman)
- Lieutenant Arthur Tragg – Police homicide detective (played by Ray Collins)
- Lieutenant Andy Anderson – A police homicide detective, who appeared from 1963–65 as Ray Collins missed many episodes because of emphysema (played by Wesley Lau)
- Lieutenant Steve Drumm – Another police homicide detective who appeared in the final season after the death of Ray Collins (played by Richard Anderson)
- Dr. Hoxie – Autopsy surgeon (medical examiner) (played by Michael Fox)
- Sgt. Brice – (played by Lee Miller)
- Gertrude "Gertie" Glade – Mason's frequently mentioned but seldom-seen receptionist (played by Connie Cezon)
After a series of Warner Bros. films and a radio series he despised, author Erle Stanley Gardner refused to license his popular character Perry Mason for any more adaptations. His literary agent was advertising executive Cornwell Jackson, who in 1947 married actress Gail Patrick. She had studied law before she went to Hollywood "for a lark" and appeared in more than 60 feature films including My Man Godfrey (1936), Stage Door (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940). She stopped acting in 1948, started a family, and began to talk to Gardner about adapting the Perry Mason stories for a television series.
"We kept talking about what kind of a series he'd want and how much creative control he needed," Gail Patrick told journalist James Bawden in 1979. "I just think he came to trust me and I'd kept up my contacts in show business."
Gardner regarded Perry Mason's personal life as irrelevant and wanted the series to concentrate on crime and Mason's fight for the underdog. "You must remember," Patrick said, "Erle was in love with the law and its finer points."
Patrick and her husband and Gardner formed a production company, Paisano Productions, of which she was president. When she first tried to sell Perry Mason to CBS, the network wanted it to be a live hour-long weekly program. "That would have been impossible — it would have killed the actor playing Perry," Patrick said. "And I Love Lucy had taught the value of filmed reruns." Paisano Productions absorbed the costs for a filmed pilot.
In February 1956 CBS announced its new series, Perry Mason, anticipating it would begin that fall. The network obtained the rights to 272 stories by Gardner, including Perry Mason and 11 other principal characters. The rights were purchased from Paisano Productions, which would film the series in association with CBS.
William Hopper auditioned for the role of Perry Mason, and Raymond Burr auditioned for the role of Mason's rival, district attorney Hamilton Burger. Due to Burr's history of playing thugs and villains, he was not initially considered for the lead role, but he was eventually granted the chance to audition for Mason as well. It was Gardner himself who insisted that Burr be cast as Mason. Hopper was later cast as Mason's friend and private detective, Paul Drake.[c]
Among those appearing as judges were Morris Ankrum, Willis Bouchey, Lillian Bronson, Richard Gaines, John Gallaudet, S. John Launer, Kenneth MacDonald, Grandon Rhodes, Fay Roope, Frank Wilcox, and Bill Zuckert. Erle Stanley Gardner played a judge in the last episode, "The Case of the Final Fadeout".
Numerous actors famous for past and future roles in film and television made guest appearances on the show. "Many were people I’d worked with in movies," said executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson. "They were grateful and delivered on time — and powerfully. … Gloria Henry, Vaughn Taylor, Hillary Brooke, John Archer, Morris Ankrum, Don Beddoe, Fay Wray, Olive Blakeney, Paul Fix, Addison Richards. We also had newcomers like Darryl Hickman, Barbara Eden. The trick was to only use them once a year. People like Fay Wray came back several times, but as other characters."
Perry Mason began filming in April 1957, with 39 episodes completed by the following May. Each episode was budgeted at $100,000. CBS scheduled the show to start 30 minutes before Saturday night's most popular program, The Perry Como Show.
All but one of the episodes in the series were filmed in black and white. The episode "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist", an episode heavily influenced by Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist, was the sole exception.
The series set a precedent for future mystery series in being the first detective show to feature either a tape or chalk outline to mark the spot where the murder victim's body had been found. This first appeared in the episode, ""The Case of the Perjured Parrot".[d]
Perry Mason was set in Los Angeles, California, and often included real-life street names. In the early years of the series, filming would be done on location in and around Culver City and a few downtown locales. In one episode, Drake gets out of a car on Wilshire Boulevard and goes into an apartment building; in the distant background, the lights and cameras from the set filming an episode of Peter Gunn are visible. There are numerous sweep shots of the iconic Los Angeles City Hall, the Hall of Justice building (presently being renovated) and the Los Angeles County Court House. All these buildings are still standing.
Mason's office was Suite 904 in the Brent Building. Although the Brent Building was fictional, the series used the entrance and the building exterior of the former Superior Oil Company Building, a modern structure completed in 1956. The building was registered in 2003 as a historical landmark and is now The Standard Downtown LA hotel.
Scattered throughout the run were episodes that would take place beyond Burger's jurisdiction as Los Angeles County District Attorney. In 1960, when William Talman, who played Hamilton Burger, was suspended for allegedly violating the morals clause in his contract, several assistant prosecutors were seen in court. Talman had attended a party at which he was charged with having engaged in indecent activities. He was later acquitted, and largely through the efforts of Burr, Talman was reinstated to the show.
The show's theme music is one of the most recognizable in television. Composer Fred Steiner set out to write a theme that would project the two primary aspects of Mason's character — sophistication and toughness. "The piece he came up with, titled 'Park Avenue Beat', pulsed with the power of the big city and the swagger of a beefy hero played to perfection by actor Raymond Burr," wrote The Los Angeles Times. Described by Steiner as "a piece of symphonic R&B", the Perry Mason theme became the composer's best-known work.
|This section requires expansion. (April 2014)|
When asked by a fan why Perry Mason won every case, Burr told her, "But madam, you see only the cases I try on Saturday.":590
Mason is known to have lost, in some form or manner, three cases — "The Case of the Terrified Typist", "The Case of the Witless Witness" and "The Case of the Deadly Verdict".
Mason also loses a civil case at the beginning of "The Case of the Dead Ringer," partly due to being framed for witness tampering. He and his staff then spend the rest of the episode trying to prove his innocence. They eventually do, and—although this is not stated explicitly—the verdict of the civil case is presumably either overturned or declared a mistrial. In a July 15, 2009, interview on National Public Radio's program All Things Considered, Barbara Hale claimed that all of Mason's lost cases were declared mistrials off the air. Mason did lose, at least by inference, a capital case off screen, in "The Case of the Desperate Daughter," where he and Della Street are first seen preparing a last minute appeal for a "Mr. Hudson", who has an impending date with the gas chamber. Nothing more is heard of this client. In "The Case of the Ruinous Road" it seems that Hamilton Burger will actually win a murder case against Perry Mason, who doesn't put up much of a defense for his client.
- Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET September 21, 1957—May 26, 1962 (Seasons 1–5)
- Thursday at 8 p.m. ET September 27, 1962 – May 16, 1963 (Season 6)
- Thursday at 9 p.m. ET September 26, 1963 – May 21, 1964 (Season 7)
- Thursday at 8 p.m. ET September 24, 1964 – May 13, 1965 (Season 8)
- Sunday at 9 p.m. ET September 12, 1965 – May 22, 1966 (Season 9)
Perry Mason has been a staple in syndication, running for many years on local television stations (including WGN-TV in the 1990s when it was a Chicago-based superstation), TBS and on the Hallmark Channel. Originally, only 195 of the 271 episodes were available to stations. These episodes included all of the first six seasons (except the four Season 6 episodes in which Raymond Burr makes only brief appearances), four episodes of Season 7, and 14 episodes of the ninth and final season (including the final episode). It wasn't until the mid-1980s when TBS obtained the rights to the remaining episodes that all 271 Perry Mason episodes were seen in syndication.
Episodes broadcast in syndicated re-runs are usually heavily edited, to allow for more time for commercials.
As of August 2014, the TV series is shown weekdays on both Me-TV and the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel, as well as on local stations in various local markets. Portland, Oregon station KPTV aired reruns of Perry Mason weekdays during its noon time slot since 1966. This unprecedented run ended on September 4, 2012, when KPTV ceased airing the show. It continued to be aired on KPDX, sister station of KPTV, in the 8 AM time slot through September 12, 2014. The series was distributed CBS Films, then Viacom Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television and CBS Paramount Domestic Television, and now by CBS Television Distribution.
CBS posted full 60-minute episodes on its website from the first and second seasons for viewing.
|1 — October 1957–April 1958||not in top 25||:924|
|2 — October 1958–April 1959||19||27.5||:924|
|3 — October 1959–April 1960||10||28.3||:924|
|4 — October 1960–April 1961||16||24.9||:925|
|5 — October 1961–April 1962||5||27.3||:925|
|6 — October 1962–April 1963||23||22.4||:925|
|7 — October 1963–April 1964||26||22.1|||
|8 — October 1964–April 1965||not in top 25||:926|
|9 — October 1965–April 1966||not in top 25||:926|
- 1958: Perry Mason was nominated as Best Dramatic Series with Continuing Characters at the 10th Primetime Emmy Awards
- 1959: Raymond Burr received the Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series at the 11th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1959: Barbara Hale received the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series at the 11th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1959: William Hopper was nominated as Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series at the 11th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1960: Raymond Burr received a nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead or Support) at the 12th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1961: Raymond Burr received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Series (Lead) at the 13th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1961: Barbara Hale was nominated for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series at the 13th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1961: Perry Mason was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Film Editing for Television at the 13th Primetime Emmy Awards.
- 1966: Perry Mason received an Emmy nomination for Individual Achievements in Electronic Production - Audio Engineering at the 18th Primetime Emmy Awards.
In her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2009, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor prefaced her remarks on the role of the prosecutor by saying that she was inspired by watching Perry Mason as a child:
I was influenced so greatly by a television show in igniting the passion that I had as being a prosecutor, and it was Perry Mason … In one of the episodes, at the end of the episode, Perry Mason, with the character who played the prosecutor in the case, were meeting up after the case and Perry said to the prosecutor, "It must cause you some pain having expended all that effort in your case to have the charges dismissed." And the prosecutor looked up and said, "No. My job as a prosecutor is do justice and justice is served when a guilty man is convicted and when an innocent man is not." And I thought to myself that's quite amazing to be able to serve that role …
United States and Canada
CBS Home Entertainment has released all nine seasons of Perry Mason on Region 1 DVD. Each season was released in two-volume half-season sets because each season of Perry Mason contains considerably more material than a modern TV series. The first season of Perry Mason featured 39 episodes, Season 3 had 26 episodes, and all other seasons had either 28 or 30 episodes; this compares with 22 for a typical modern series. In addition, Perry Mason episodes are 50–53 minutes long, where an episode of a modern one-hour show typically runs 43 minutes.
The DVDs contain the original full-length version of each episode.[e] Episodes broadcast in syndicated re-runs are usually heavily edited, to allow for more time for commercials.
In April 2008, a special 50th anniversary DVD set was released with selected episodes from the then-unreleased Seasons 3–9. Bonus material included archived screen tests, interviews with the stars over the years, and the first of the made-for-TV movies, Perry Mason Returns.
Region 1 DVD releases
|Perry Mason: Season 1, Volume 1||19 episodes||1000 minutes||July 11, 2006|
|Perry Mason: Season 1, Volume 2||20 episodes||1040 minutes||November 21, 2006|
|Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 1||15 episodes||773 minutes||June 19, 2007|
|Perry Mason: Season 2, Volume 2||15 episodes||774 minutes||November 13, 2007|
|Perry Mason: 50th Anniversary Edition||12 episodes||714 minutes||April 8, 2008|
|Perry Mason: Season 3, Volume 1||12 episodes||624 minutes||August 19, 2008|
|Perry Mason: Season 3, Volume 2||14 episodes||728 minutes||December 2, 2008|
|Perry Mason: Season 4, Volume 1||16 episodes||831 minutes||June 9, 2009|
|Perry Mason: Season 4, Volume 2||12 episodes||623 minutes||December 8, 2009|
|Perry Mason: Season 5, Volume 1||15 episodes||764 minutes||April 20, 2010|
|Perry Mason: Season 5, Volume 2||15 episodes||773 minutes||November 16, 2010|
|Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 1||14 episodes||710 minutes||October 4, 2011|
|Perry Mason: Season 6, Volume 2||14 episodes||709 minutes||November 22, 2011|
|Perry Mason: Season 7, Volume 1||15 episodes||759 minutes||August 21, 2012|
|Perry Mason: Season 7, Volume 2||15 episodes||758 minutes||October 23, 2012|
|Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 1||15 episodes||773 minutes||November 27, 2012|
|Perry Mason: Season 8, Volume 2||15 episodes||772 minutes||January 15, 2013|
|Perry Mason: Final Season, Season 9, Volume 1||15 episodes||776 minutes||June 11, 2013|
|Perry Mason: Final Season, Season 9, Volume 2||15 episodes||778 minutes||August 13, 2013|
In Region 4, Paramount Home Entertainment has released the first two seasons on DVD in Australia/New Zealand. These releases are similar to the Region 1 releases whereby each season has been released in two-volume sets.
Television producer Dean Hargrove resurrected the Mason character in a series of television films for NBC beginning in 1985. Hargrove was able to bring back the two then-surviving major stars, Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale (reprising their roles as Mason and Della Street, respectively) for the first telefilm, Perry Mason Returns, in which Mason resigns his position as an appellate court judge to defend Street on a murder charge. William Katt, Hale's real-life son, was cast as private investigator Paul Drake, Jr., the son of private investigator Paul Drake played by William Hopper in the original television series. Katt appeared in the first nine movies, after which he left and was replaced by William R. Moses as Ken Malansky, a law student who works with Mason investigating his cases. In Moses' first appearance as Malansky, Perry defended him on a murder charge. Fred Steiner's theme music was re-recorded by famed mystery music composer Dick DeBenedictis; Steiner himself arranged the theme at DeBenedictis's request.
A total of 30 movies were made between 1985 and 1995, with Burr starring in 26. After Burr died in 1993, Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook starred in the final four episodes from 1993 to 1995. These post-Burr films were entitled A Perry Mason Mystery with Sorvino starring in the first film and Holbrook starring in the remaining three. Their characters, Anthony Caruso, and Bill "Wild Bill" McKenzie, respectively, are both lawyers and introduced as close friends of Mason. Both Barbara Hale and William R. Moses reprised their roles for all four films (although in the final film in 1995, Hale only contributed a small cameo with Holland Taylor substituting for her.) Instead of killing off Mason for these films, his absence in these films was explained by having him out of town (for example, in the first film, The Case of the Wicked Wives, Perry's absence is explained by having him away doing business in Washington D.C while Sorvino's character uses his office for a few weeks.)
- "It is never enough for Mason to establish a reasonable doubt of his client's guilt; he must clear the client absolutely by pinning the guilt on someone else, almost always by extracting a confession," wrote film scholar Thomas Leitch.
- This spared the production company the expense of hiring 12 extras to play jurors. It also compressed the time element, since a preliminary exam usually takes place within weeks of an arraignment, while a full blown murder trial might take a year to get to court.
- Hopper's audition as Perry Mason, along with Burr's auditions for Burger and Mason, were included as special features on the 2008 "50th Anniversary Edition" Perry Mason DVD set.
- Gardner used this device in his 1941 novel, Double or Quits, written under his pen name of A. A. Fair: "The coroner … brought out a piece of chalk and said, 'All right, now mark there on the floor right where the body was lying. Make a little diagram. Mark the position of his head, of his feet, and of his arms.'"
- There was one exception, an error that was later rectified. The second season episode, "The Case of the Fancy Figures", was missing about a minute of dialog in the initial Region 1 DVD release. Subsequent issues have included the full unedited version.
- Leitch, Thomas (2005). Perry Mason. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-8143-3121-1.
- Kelleher, Brian; Merrill, Diana (1987). "Plenty of Judges but No Jury". The Perry Mason TV Show Book. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312006693. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
- Bawden, James (April 29, 2014). "Dream Factory Time: Gail Patrick". Classic Images. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
- Gould, Jack (May 23, 1966). "TV: Perry Mason's End Really a Rich Beginning". The New York Times.
- Adams, Val (February 7, 1956). "TV Series Slated for Perry Mason". The New York Times.
- Johnson, Erskine (August 16, 1957). "Perry Mason Ready to Challenge Como". The Brownsville Herald (Newspaper Enterprise Association).
- Galbraith IV, Stuart (April 10, 2008). "Perry Mason — 50th Anniversary Edition". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
- Perry Mason TV Series: Famous People
- "Perry Mason, Season 9". The Classic TV Archive. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
- Fair, A. A. (1941). Double or Quits. New York: W. Morrow. OCLC 3743209.
- "The Case of the Fanciful Frail". Perry Mason. Season 9, Episode 24. Original airdate: March 27, 1966.
- Kelleher; Merrill (1987). "Innocent as Charged". The Perry Mason TV Show Book.
- Bank, Ed (May 6, 2001). "Top TV songs are woven into the fabric of our lives". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1988). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present (4th ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-35610-1.
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- "'Della Street' On Perry Mason's Sole Loss". All Things Considered. NPR. July 16, 2009.
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- Turnquist, Kristi (August 27, 2012). "Breaking 'Perry Mason' news: Reruns moving from KPTV to KPDX". The Oregonian.
- Turnquist, Kristi (September 16, 2014). "Case closed: After 48 years, 'Perry Mason' reruns end on Portland TV station". The Oregonian.
- "Perry Mason". CBS.
- "Nielsen TV Ratings, Top Television Shows of 1961–1962". TV by the Numbers. Tribune Media Services. May 3, 2008. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
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- "Awards Search". Emmys. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
- "Confirmiation Hearing on the Nomination of Hon. Sonia Sotomayor, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States". U.S. Government Printing Office. July 13–16, 2009. Retrieved 2015-04-07.
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- "Perry Mason - The 6th Season, Volume 2". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
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- "Perry Mason - The 8th Season, Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "Perry Mason - The 8th Season, Volume 2". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
- "Perry Mason - The 9th and Final Season, Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Retrieved 2015-04-13.
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- "The New Perry Mason". IMDb. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
- Bond, Jeff (1999). The Music of Star Trek. Los Angeles: Lone Eagle Publishing Company. ISBN 1-58065-012-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Perry Mason (TV series).|
- Perry Mason at CBS.com
- Perry Mason at the Internet Movie Database
- Perry Mason at TV.com
- Perry Mason TV Series Wiki
- Perry Mason TV Showbook
- Perry Mason's Page