Show Type: Legal Drama
First Telecast: September 21, 1957
Last Telecast: January 27, 1974
Created By: Erle Stanley Gardner
Perry Mason..... Raymond Burr
Della Street..... Barbara Hale
Paul Drake..... William Hopper
Hamilton Burger..... William Talman
Gertrude "Gertie" Lade..... Connie Cezon
Lieutenant Arthur Tragg (1957-1965)..... Ray Collins
David Gideon (1961-1962)..... Karl Held
Lieutenant Anderson (1961-1965)..... Wesley Lau
Lieutenant Steve Drumm (1965-1966)..... Richard Anderson
Sergeant Brice (191-1965)..... Lee Miller
Terrence Clay (1965-1966)..... Dan Tobin
Perry Mason..... Monte Markham
Della Street..... Sharon Acker
Paul Drake..... Albert Stratton
Lieutenant Arthur Tragg..... Dane Clark
Hamilton Burger..... Harry Guardino
Gertrude "Gertie" Lade..... Brett Somers
Perry Mason was television's most successful and longest running lawyer series. For nine seasons during the 1950's and 1960's, TV's most famous defense attorney solved murder mysteries in the courtroom.
The Perry Mason character has an interesting background. The fictional alter ego of lawyer-novelist Erle Stanley Gardner, he first became famous in a series of best-selling novels, then in a CBS radio series which ran from 1943 to 1955. The radio series was part soap-opera and part detective story. When the time came to move to TV, Gardner opted to shift the emphasis to pure sleuthing. The original format went on TV, in 1956, as The Edge of Night - complete with the Perry Mason radio production staff and most of the cast, who were given new names. This continued in daytime until December 1984. The name Perry Mason was used for the Raymond Burr series, which had a whole new cast and which dropped the soap-opera elements.
With the aid of his personal investigator Paul Drake and his devoted secretary Della Street, Perry always managed to piece together the puzzle just in time to beat his adversary, District Attorney Hamilton Burger. The format was predictable, which may have accounted for much of its appeal. Every case ended in a courtroom trial, and every trial ended in the guilty party taking the witness stand, only to break under pressure from Mason's battering cross-examination - example: "But if you were at home on the night of the murder, Mr. Jones, then how could you have known that...?" To which the culprit could only cry out, "I didn't mean to kill her!" Judges never seemed to object to Perry's tactics and, in fact, looked on with as much fascination as the TV audience. Often the deciding clue would be rushed into the courtroom via Paul Drake at the last possible moment. At the end of every episode, Perry, Della and Paul would get together to recap and explain what had led to the solution - and this often answered confused viewers questions as well.
Perry never lost a case and this seemed to make D.A. Burger even more determined to to convict at least one of Mason's clients. Actually, Perry did lose one trial, in 1963, when his client refused to reveal the evidence that would save her. Mason found the real culprit anyway, and eventually exonerated his client.
Perry Mason was revived in 1973 with an all-new cast (by then, Raymond Burr was playing wheelchair-bound, Ironside). A new regular was his receptionist, Gertie (a character who had been seen on very rare occasion in the original Perry Mason series). However, The New Perry Mason could not recapture the magic of the old and soon left the air.
Twelve years later, in December 1985, NBC aired a reunion movie, Perry Mason Returns, starring Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale. Its success led to a series - 2 to 3 a year - of new feature-length Perry Mason cases until Raymond Burr died in late 1993.
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