Perry Mason (TV series)
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.
|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|
Viacom Enterprises (1971–1995)
Paramount Domestic Television (1995–2006)
CBS Paramount Domestic Television (2006–07)
CBS Television Distribution (2007–present)
Color (one episode)
|Original release||September 21, 1957 –|
May 22, 1966
|Followed by||The New Perry Mason (1973–74)|
Perry Mason television films (1985–1995)
Perry Mason was Hollywood's first weekly one-hour series filmed for television, and remains one of the longest-running and most successful legal-themed television 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 confidential secretary Della Street. Perry Mason and Burr were honored as Favorite Series and Favorite Male Performer in the first two TV Guide Award readers' polls. In 1960, the series received the first Silver Gavel Award presented for television drama by the American Bar Association.
Perry Mason has aired in syndication in the United States and internationally ever since its cancellation, and the complete series has been released on Region 1 DVD. A 2014 study found that Netflix users rate Raymond Burr as their favorite actor, with Barbara Hale number seven on the list.
The New Perry Mason, a 1973 revival of the series with a different cast, was poorly received and ran for 15 episodes. In 1985, the first in a successful series of 30 Perry Mason television films aired on NBC, with Burr reprising the role of Mason in 26 of them before his death in 1993.
Perry Mason is a distinguished criminal-defense lawyer practicing in Los Angeles, California, most of whose clients have been falsely charged with murder. Each episode typically follows a formula. The first half of the show introduces a prospective murder victim and a series of persons involved with the victim, who through word or deed, reveal themselves as the likely perpetrator of the crime; in a parallel story, Mason's eventual client or someone associated with that client is introduced. Once the crime has been committed, Mason, his private investigator Paul Drake, and his secretary Della Street have some adversarial dealings with the homicide detective (Lt. Arthur Tragg in the early years), who arrests the wrong suspect, and perhaps Mason's legal nemesis, Los Angeles County District Attorney Hamilton Burger, who prosecutes an innocent suspect, until finally Mason's client is charged with murder based on the circumstantial evidence.
In the second half, Mason spars with Burger in the courtroom, either during the trial or the preliminary hearing, 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. As the courtroom proceedings advance, Mason often finds the case going against him, so outside the courtroom, either Mason himself or Paul and even Della pursue further leads. As the investigation or examination progresses, Mason and sometimes Burger uncover the morally ugly or even illegal conduct of some of the witnesses or participants, thus complicating the moral and legal intrigue of the case.
Eventually, some detail uncovered or remark made inside or outside the courtroom gives Mason the clue he needs to enter into the line of questioning that causes the surprise perpetrator, whether on the stand or not, to break down and confess to the crime and admit to the appalling truth of the motive. In the closing scene or epilogue, Paul and Della, and sometimes Burger and Tragg, will ask Mason what gave him the clue he needed; after Mason explains, he or someone else will make a humorous remark.
Cast and characters
- Perry Mason – played by Raymond Burr - defense attorney
- Della Street – played by Barbara Hale - Mason's confidential secretary
- Paul Drake – played by William Hopper - Mason's private investigator
- Hamilton Burger – played by William Talman - district attorney
- Lieutenant Arthur Tragg – played by Ray Collins - a police homicide detective and lead police official on the series, who appeared from the beginning of the series until midway through the 1963-64 season after gradually appearing less frequently from early in the 1961-62 season
- Lieutenant Anderson – played by Wesley Lau - another police homicide detective and lead police official on the series, known as Andy to his friends, he started appearing in the fall of 1961 when Ray Collins began to reduce his participation in the show due to illness, and gradually became more prominent
- Lieutenant Steve Drumm – played by Richard Anderson - another police homicide detective and lead police official on the series, who appeared in the final season
- Recurring smaller roles
- Dr. Hoxie – autopsy surgeon (medical examiner) played by Michael Fox, seen in seasons 1 through 7, Fox also played other small roles in season 9
- Sgt. Brice – a police officer, played by Lee Miller, who often accompanies Tragg, Anderson or Drumm. Seen throughout the series run. Miller also played other bit roles in seasons 1 and 2.
- Terrance Clay – owner of the upscale "Clay's Grill" where Perry, Paul, Della (and sometimes Burger and/or Drumm) frequently gather in the final (ninth) season, usually during the story's epilogue. Played by Dan Tobin.
- Gertrude "Gertie" Lade – Mason's frequently mentioned but rarely seen receptionist, played by Connie Cezon. Seen mostly in seasons 1 and 2, with one appearance in season 4, and then four consecutive episodes in season 7.
- Court clerk – frequently seen, but rarely heard from, during courtroom procedures. Seen in seasons 2 through 6, and played by George E. Stone.
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. (The radio series would, without the Mason character, be adapted for television as the long-running crime soap opera The Edge of Night.) His literary agent was advertising executive Thomas Cornwell Jackson, who had, 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, 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 and own a 60% interest in the films.
Perry Mason was Hollywood's first hour-long weekly series filmed for television. Gail Patrick Jackson was its executive producer. "We were the first bona fide law show and we spent two years preparing Perry for the television bar," Patrick said.
Gail Patrick Jackson was immersed in auditions throughout 1956.:17 The role of Perry Mason proved to be the hardest to cast. Richard Carlson, Mike Connors, Richard Egan, William Holden, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., were considered.:18 In early April, Fred MacMurray and CBS were reportedly in the midst of negotiations, and columnist Hedda Hopper wrote that Cornwell Jackson had postponed a two-month vacation in Hawaii, hoping to get the series ready by September or October. In mid-June, Hopper reported that the Jacksons had left on their annual trip, after stating that Perry Mason would not be ready for TV that fall.
"We couldn't afford a big star," Patrick later said. Among the hundreds of actors she saw audition in April 1956 was Raymond Burr,:61 who initially read for the role of district attorney Hamilton Burger. Patrick had been impressed with Burr's courtroom performance in the 1951 film, A Place in the Sun, and told him he was perfect for the title role in Perry Mason, but at least 60 pounds overweight. Over the next month, Burr went on a crash diet. When he returned, he tested as Perry Mason, and was chosen from a field of 50 finalists.:61 By July 1956, word was out that Burr had the role, and an announcement was made at the beginning of August.
William Hopper also auditioned as Mason, but was cast as private detective Paul Drake. Patrick recalled, "When Bill Hopper came in to read for Paul Drake he blurted out, 'You hate my mother.' And that was Hedda Hopper. Well, I disliked what she stood for, but 'hate' is something else—and anyway he was perfect as Drake, and we got him."
Barbara Hale was still prominent in feature films, but had a young family and wished to avoid going away on long periods of location shooting. Patrick said that Hale telephoned about the role of Della Street.
Patrick had an actor in mind for the Los Angeles district attorney. "I'd seen a brilliant little movie, The Hitch-Hiker, and had to have Bill Talman as Burger—and he never disappointed us," Patrick said. Later asked about how he felt about Burger losing to Mason week after week, Talman said, "Burger doesn't lose. How can a district attorney lose when he fails to convict an innocent person? Unlike a fist or gun fight, in court you can have a winner without having a loser. As a matter of fact, Burger in a good many instances has joined Mason in action against unethical attorneys, lying witnesses, or any one else obstructing justice. Like any real-life district attorney, justice is Burger's main interest."
"Ray Collins came on board as Lt. Arthur Tragg," Patrick said. "He was such a wonderful actor—beautiful voice, trained in radio's Mercury productions. We overlooked the fact that on an actual police force, he would probably be long retired."
Each episode's casting interviews were conducted by Gail Patrick Jackson, producer Ben Brady, and the director. Episodes typically employed 10 featured players in addition to the principal cast and extras. 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 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."
Patrick made it a point to hire her Hollywood acting contemporaries whenever possible. Some were semiretired and financially well-off, but still enjoyed performing. Character actor George E. Stone was impoverished, and for years he appeared on Perry Mason regularly in minor roles until his health made it impossible for him to work any longer. Patrick went to considerable lengths to find a part for an actress who had become paralyzed on one side; she played with her good side toward the camera.
Perry Mason also drew on the distinguished West Coast radio pool. Working steadily in radio since the 1940s, Raymond Burr was a leading player on the West Coast and in 1956 was the star of CBS Radio's Fort Laramie.:258–259 Noted for his loyalty and consciousness of history, Burr went out of his way to employ his colleagues. Some 180 radio celebrities appeared on Perry Mason during the first season alone.
The production staff of Perry Mason worked at being technically correct and responsive to an audience that included lawyers and judges. Producer Ben Brady practiced law in New York before entering show business; story editor Gene Wang graduated from law school in Florida; and executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson studied law for two years before becoming an actress.
Many episodes are based on novels and short stories by lawyer-turned-writer Erle Stanley Gardner. Only two of the 69 Perry Mason novels Gardner published before January 1963 were not adapted for the series. All but three episodes in the first season were adapted from Gardner's stories.:8821 In season two, 14 of the 39 episodes came from Gardner originals. With the backlist exhausted, later seasons presented between one and five episodes drawn from Gardner stories, with occasional remakes of earlier adaptations.:64 By the summer of 1958, Patrick was already supervising the work of 31 writers who were developing original scripts based on Gardner's characters.:19
"Funny thing about writers," Patrick told TV Guide. "A lot of them think they'll improve on Erle. Most of them find out they can't even duplicate him.":19
Writers submitted a draft script, which was reviewed for continuity, narrative content, and legal error by Patrick and Wang. A revised draft was then forwarded to Gardner, who would respond with a detailed brief indicating particular changes required to conform with the law. Gardner closely supervised the scripts thoroughout the run of the series, and continued to write new Perry Mason novels.
By 1961, the strictures of the Perry Mason formula led Writer's Digest to declare, "This show has the reputation among writers as being the hardest one in Hollywood to work for.":23
A test film, "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink", ultimately aired December 14, 1957,:23 as the 13th episode of the first season. The pilot was filmed October 3–9, 1956,:10023 after Raymond Burr completed a movie in Havana and made a two-week tour of military hospitals in the West Indies.
"'The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink' is written and directed very much like a noir B-feature of the period, from its stylishly dramatic opening to its violent climax," wrote film scholar Thomas Leitch.:25 He noted that the pilot film "provides a fascinating laboratory for the formula, since it combines trademark elements that would become long-running features of the series with others that would be swiftly abandoned.":25 The episode was directed by Ted Post, whose camera movement, use of deep space, and film noir stylings were softened or absent in subsequent episodes. Laurence Marks and Ben Starr adapted Erle Stanley Gardner's 1952 novel, retaining all its plot features and characters.:23–25
In her TV column in early November 1956, journalist Eve Starr reported, "Word is seeping down from CBS brass that its hour-long Perry Mason pilot film is a whooping success, so much so that the show will be held back until a good time period can be found for it next season."
On November 30, 1956, Gardner wrote Gail Patrick Jackson: "I can't get over the feeling that I had sitting there watching that pilot film. … As I saw the manner in which your ideas, your tact and persistence had gradually changed the approach and resulted in a highly polished, finished product I was tremendously proud of you and of my association with you. I think that you saw possibilities in Raymond Burr which no one else saw. I think that you developed those possibilities and I think you have inspired not only the cast but the producers and directors. I think we are on the trail of a highly successful presentation.":8619
The series began filming in April 1957. Each episode was budgeted at $100,000. Filming took place on Stage 8 at the 20th Century-Fox studios near Western Avenue and Sunset Boulevard (where the show's production offices were located) and at CBS Studio Center, with at least one location in each episode. Burr had lost 100 pounds, but continued to lose weight when filming began: "I just don't have time to eat," he said.
"Every six days Burr stars in what almost amounts to a full-length feature movie," wrote syndicated columnist Erskine Johnson. "He's in 98 percent of all the scenes."
"I had no life outside of Perry Mason," Burr recalled. "And that went on 24 hours a day, six days a week. I never went home at night. I lived on the lot. I got up at 3 o'clock every single morning to learn my lines for that day, and sometimes I hadn't finished until 9 o'clock. I had a kitchen, bedroom, office space, sitting room — all of that — on every lot I ever worked on."
Directors included Laslo Benedek, Jesse Hibbs, Arthur Marks, Christian Nyby, and William D. Russell. Some, including Lewis Allen and Richard Donner, had or would have notable directing credits in feature films. Many episodes incorporated the essential elements of film noir.
"The crew is giving it the best of Hollywood's techniques," Burr told columnist Erskine Johnson. The crew included veterans including art director Lewis Creber, make-up artist Mel Berns, cinematographer Frank Redman, editor Richard Cahoon and sound mixer Harry M. Leonard.
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.
Perry Mason is set in Los Angeles; interior scenes were filmed on the 20th Century-Fox Western Avenue studio lot, and most exteriors were filmed at Fox Studios in Westwood, California, or the Fox Movie Ranch in Malibu Canyon. Later episodes in the series were filmed at CBS LaBrea Studios in Hollywood.
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. Numerous establishing shots are used, including the iconic Los Angeles City Hall, the Hall of Justice building and the Los Angeles County Court House which is now the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. All of these buildings are still standing.
Mason's offices are in the Brent Building, Suite 904, phone MAdison 5-1190. Although the Brent Building is fictional, the series used the entrance and exterior of the former Superior Oil Company Building, a modern structure in downtown Los Angeles 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 heard at the opening and end credits became the composer's best-known work.
Much of the incidental music was drawn from the CBS-TV Music Library. This included music by Bernard Herrmann, who went uncredited since the cues were stock music that was edited into the score. Herrmann's music has been identified in the following episodes: "The Case of the Restless Redhead",:72–73 "The Case of the Sleepwalker's Niece", "The Case of the Nervous Accomplice", The Case of the Drowning Duck",:73 "The Case of the Silent Partner",:73–74:116, 127 "The Case of the Half-Wakened Wife", "The Case of the Calendar Girl",:75:70 "The Case of the Spurious Sister":72–73 and "The Case of the Mythical Monkeys".:56, 58 Production records show Herrmann's music being used in 100 episodes, through "The Case of the Tandem Target" (Season 7, Episode 29).:52055
Perry Mason aired Saturday nights for its first five seasons, outdrawing competition including the first two seasons of NBC's Bonanza. Bonanza jumped to number two in the Nielsen ratings when it moved to Sunday nights in 1961.:924–925 In 1962, CBS moved Perry Mason to Thursday nights, where it easily won the ratings for its time slot.
"CBS just got plain cocky," said executive producer Gail Patrick Jackson. "It irritated the suits to no end that Sundays at 8 was Ed Sullivan with his huge rating, and then everybody switched to NBC's Bonanza. Bill Paley would rant about this every time we met." Patrick continued:
Then, for the September '65 season he floored me by telling the affiliates we'd be going Sundays at 9 with a mandate to demolish Bonanza. Just like that. He finally let me shoot in color but we never had a chance. We improved ratings for CBS but Bonanza was the leader and Paley simply cancelled us completely in 1966. After nine seasons and 271 episodes we were dust."
The network gave no particular reason for the cancellation. "CBS figures we are worn out," Patrick told The New York Times in November 1965. "But this season the show is getting more mail than ever before and so is Raymond."
Burr had wanted to leave Perry Mason after five years, but was always persuaded to extend his contract. Network executives implored him to stay for a tenth season, to be filmed in color. "They shot one show in color and I said 'no'," Burr recalled, "and they gave me such a big thing, talked about my loyalty and all that, and they guaranteed the quality of the show and said, 'Let's go off with a big bang.' This was all of the people at CBS." Burr agreed to do the tenth season. Three weeks after the meeting, he picked up the trade papers and read that the series had been cancelled.
The last episode of the series, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out", was filmed April 12–19, 1966.:32188 Set in a TV film studio where two murders occur, the last show offered the entire production crew an opportunity to appear on camera. Most of the behind-the-scenes personnel in the episode had been with the show the entire nine years. Patrick made a cameo appearance herself, and persuaded Erle Stanley Gardner to make his acting debut as the judge who presides over the second trial.
An unsuccessful attempt to recreate the series was made in 1973. Starring Monte Markham and Sharon Acker, The New Perry Mason only lasted half a season. "My name was on it," said Gail Patrick, "but I wanted nothing to do with it. Corney was on his own." In 1979, Patrick said that CBS was "angling to make some TV movies from the original novels. With Ray and Barbara. We'll see."
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 cast members, Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale, for the first film, Perry Mason Returns, in which Perry Mason resigns his position as an appellate court judge to defend Della 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. Katt appeared in the first nine movies. In later TV movies, Mason used the services of Ken Malansky, played by William R. Moses, an attorney who worked with Mason as a private investigator.
A total of 30 movies were made between 1985 and 1995, with Burr starring in 26. After Burr's death in 1993, four television films (1993–95) were produced under the title A Perry Mason Mystery, with Paul Sorvino starring in the first film and Hal Holbrook starring in the remaining three. Both Hale and Moses continued in their roles for all four films, and Mason's absence was explained by having him out of town.
In August 2016, HBO announced a potential new series written by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Robert Downey Jr. In August 2017 a change in the writing staff for the project was announced, with Rolin Jones and Ron Fitzgerald taking over for Pizzolatto. The series is expected to debut in 2020 with Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||39||September 21, 1957||June 28, 1958|
|2||30||September 20, 1958||June 27, 1959|
|3||26||October 3, 1959||June 11, 1960|
|4||28||September 17, 1960||June 10, 1961|
|5||30||September 2, 1961||May 26, 1962|
|6||28||September 27, 1962||May 16, 1963|
|7||30||September 26, 1963||May 21, 1964|
|8||30||September 24, 1964||May 13, 1965|
|9||30||September 12, 1965||May 22, 1966|
Mason also loses a civil case at the beginning of "The Case of the Dead Ringer",:24421 partly due to being framed for witness tampering. His staff and he 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 mentioned in the 1958 episode, "The Case of the Desperate Daughter". Mason and Della Street are first seen preparing a last-minute appeal for a "Mr. Hudson", who has an impending date with the gas chamber.
- 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)
At the time of its cancellation, Perry Mason was or had been airing in 58 countries. The show was subtitled in Chinese (for Hong Kong viewers), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, Greek, Malay, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish, and dubbed in Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.
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 was not 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 first aired evening repeats of Perry Mason in 1966. In 1970, the station began the long tradition of showing reruns of Perry Mason weekdays during its noon time slot. This unprecedented run ended 42 years later, on September 3, 2012, when KPTV ceased broadcasting the show. It continued to be shown on KPDX, sister station of KPTV, in the 8 AM time slot through September 12, 2014. The show now runs in primetime every night of the week on FETV. The series was distributed by CBS Films, then Viacom Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television and CBS Paramount Domestic Television, and now by CBS Television Distribution.
Video on demand
A 2014 article in The Atlantic that examined how Netflix categorized nearly 77,000 different personalized genres found that Perry Mason star Raymond Burr was rated as the favorite actor by Netflix users. Barbara Hale was rated seventh. Christian Nyby II, the director of many of the television movies and whose father directed many episodes of the TV series, led the list of directors. Todd Yellin, vice president of product innovation for Netflix and the person who designed the system, was at a loss to explain what journalist Alexis Madrigal called "this weird Perry Mason thing".
"Perry Mason was television's most successful and longest-running lawyer series," wrote TV historian Tim Brooks.:590 "It remains, I think, the best detective series ever made for television," wrote film historian Jon Tuska.:99 "The definitive portrayal, of course, was by former screen heavy Raymond Burr on the CBS series (1957–1966) in scripts faithfully based on Gardner's novels", wrote mystery writer Max Allan Collins.:70
- 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.
TV Guide Awards
- 1960: Perry Mason was honored as Favorite Series in TV Guide magazine's inaugural TV Guide Award readers poll.
- 1960: Raymond Burr received the first annual TV Guide Award for Favorite Male Performer, for Perry Mason.
- 1961: Perry Mason received the second annual TV Guide Award for Favorite Series.
- 1961: Raymond Burr received the second annual TV Guide Award for Favorite Male Performer, for Perry Mason.
Silver Gavel Award
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", Sotomayor said. In her 2013 memoir the Supreme Court justice wrote of the show's influence on her while she was growing up in a Bronx housing project. She granted that the defense attorney was the show's hero, "but my sympathies were not entirely monopolized by Perry Mason. I was fond of Burger, the prosecutor, too. I liked that he was a good loser, that he was more committed to finding the truth than to winning his case. If the defendant was truly innocent, he once explained, and the case was dismissed, then he had done his job because justice had been served." She was particularly fascinated by the judge.
"There was a whole new vocabulary here," Sotomayor wrote. "And though I wasn't sure what every detail meant, I followed the gist of it. It was like the puzzles I enjoyed, a complex game with its own rules, and one that intersected with grand themes of right and wrong. I was intrigued and determined to figure it out."
A Perry Mason parody titled "The Night That Perry Masonmint Lost a Case" appeared in the July 1959 issue of Mad magazine.
Raymond Burr made a guest appearance in an episode of The Jack Benny Program, titled "Jack On Trial for Murder" (November 5, 1961). He appears in character as Perry Mason in Benny's dream sequence about being tried for killing a rooster. Other Perry Mason cast include Grandon Rhodes as the process server, Frank Wilcox as the judge and George E. Stone as court clerk.:32343
The character of Perry Mason was spoofed in an episode of the animated series, The Flintstones, titled "Little Bamm-Bamm" (October 3, 1963). When the Rubbles try to adopt Bamm-Bamm they end up in court facing attorney "Perry Masonry, who's never lost a case".
The Blues Brothers recorded a cover version of Fred Steiner's Perry Mason TV series theme for the 1980 album, Made in America. It was later used in the 1998 film, Blues Brothers 2000, and released on the soundtrack album.
Perry Mason was satirized in a 1990 episode of the Australian sketch comedy series, Fast Forward.
Ozzy Osbourne's 1995 album, Ozzmosis, opens with a track titled "Perry Mason". Released as a single, the song was the first to integrate the music of Perry Mason into what one reviewer described as a "bruising rocker … complete with an ominous excerpt from the classic TV show theme".
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, while a 2014 Nielsen study found that modern one-hour shows are shortened to accommodate 14 to 15 minutes of commercials.
In April 2008, a special 50th anniversary DVD set was released with selected episodes from the then-unreleased Seasons 3–9. Barbara Hale, sometimes joined by director and producer Arthur Marks, provides an on-camera introduction to each episode. Bonus material includes the 1956 film tests of Burr and Hopper, just discovered in the CBS vaults; interviews with Hale, Marks, and CBS executive Anne Roberts Nelson; a short documentary about Erle Stanley Gardner; a cast appearance on Stump the Stars; a 1958 Person to Person segment in which Burr (at his home in Malibu) is interviewed by Charles Collingwood; two CBS News Nightwatch interviews of Burr by Charlie Rose; the anti-smoking public service announcement William Talman made on behalf of the American Cancer Society shortly before his death from lung cancer; and the first of the made-for-TV movies, Perry Mason Returns. Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV called the 50th anniversary set "a must-have … especially for its extra features".
Region 1 DVD releases
Region 2 DVD releases
In Region 2, Paramount Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons in complete sets on DVD in the UK.
Region 4 DVD releases
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.
Via Vision Entertainment re-released the series in Australia in 2019.
|DVD name||Format||Ep #||Discs/Tapes||Region 4 (Australia)||Special Features||Distributors|
|Perry Mason Collection One (Seasons 1–3)||DVD||N/A||25||February 20, 2019||N/A||Via Vision Entertainment|
|Perry Mason Collection Two (Seasons 4–6)||DVD||N/A||23||April 3, 2019||None||Via Vision Entertainment|
|Perry Mason Collection Three (Seasons 7–9)||DVD||90||25||June 19, 2019||includes a bonus disc with new and vintage extras||Via Vision Entertainment|
- This spared the production company the expense of hiring 12 extras to play jurors. It also compressed the time element, since a preliminary examination usually takes place within weeks of an arraignment, while a full-blown murder trial might take a year to get to court.
- "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.
- Burr's talent test as Perry Mason is dated May 24, 1956.
- Hopper's audition as Perry Mason, along with Burr's auditions for Burger and Mason, were included as special features on disc four of the 2008 "50th Anniversary Edition" Perry Mason DVD set.
- George E. Stone appeared most often as court clerk. "Stone, a veteran actor, was sick and half blind during his tenure on the Mason show. Yet he stayed," wrote Perry Mason chroniclers Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. "'This company has heart,' is how one cast member explained Stone's presence."
- The last Gardner novel adapted for the series was The Case of the Mischievous Doll (1963).
- Film historian Thomas Leitch lists three Gardner novels not adapted — The Case of the Counterfeit Eye (1936), The Case of the Golddigger's Purse (1945) and The Case of the Glamorous Ghost (1955) — but the last was, in fact, adapted for the fifth season.:106
- The three season-one scripts that were not adaptations were nevertheless based on Gardner novels, but were so substantially changed in the rewrite process that they were retitled: "The Case of the Deadly Double" ("The Case of the Borrowed Brunette"), "The Case of the Desperate Daughter" ("The Case of the Glamorous Ghost"), and "The Case of the Prodigal Parent" ("The Case of the Dubious Bridegroom").:8821
- Burr was in Cuba filming Affair in Havana (working title The Fever Tree) from August through September 10, 1956.
- After "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink", the first episode shot was "The Case of the Fan Dancer's Horse", filmed April 15–22, 1957. The next was "The Case of the Crimson Kiss" (April 24–May 1, 1957).:6585, 8703, 10211
- Lewis Creber's credits as art director include Charlie Chan at the Opera and others in the series, Think Fast, Mr. Moto and others in the series, and Sun Valley Serenade.
- Frank Redman's credits include Murder on the Blackboard, The Saint in New York and others in the series, and four films in The Falcon series.
- The Madison telephone exchange covered Hollywood, Huntington Park and Los Angeles.
- The first time this Brent Building location is seen is in "The Case of the Sulky Girl" (Season 1, Episode 5); earlier episodes used a set.:9342
- Herrmann wrote this music for Orson Welles's CBS radio play, The Hitch-Hiker (1941).
- Gail Patrick and Cornwell Jackson divorced in 1969, and Erle Stanley Gardner died in 1970.
- Nina Totenberg's NPR story on Sonia Sotomayor uses an excerpt from "The Case of the Prodigal Parent" (episode 1-36).:35107
- At the conclusion of "The Case of the Purple Woman" (episode 2-9), Burger congratulates Mason on another courtroom victory. When Della observes that he seems almost pleased with the outcome, Burger says, "I am." Mason then says, "Della, there was an article in the Law Journal recently. Let me quote you the last paragraph: 'A well tried criminal case is a credit to all involved. There is no winning or no losing in the true administration of justice.' The article was signed, 'Hamilton Burger'.":35155
- 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 with the exception of one episode from the Season 7,Volume 1,disc 1, "The Case Of The Nebulous Nephew, the closing credits were substituted with the closing credits from S8,V2,D2,"The Case of The Sad Sicilian."
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The Perry Mason television series came along at the right time in the right format with a style that evoked noir. The series benefited by that style and it was most certainly a factor in its success.
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I see, especially the early episodes, as having a strong link to film moir.
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I have agreed under certain conditions to do a 10th season of the series.
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Back in 1960, Perry Mason earns the first Silver Gavel in this category—star Raymond Burr accepts the award from ABA President John Randall for lawyer-turned-writer Erle Stanley Gardner’s Paisano Productions.
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The Flintstones. 'Little Bamm-Bamm.' More amusing than average for this cartoon series is this episode. Barney and Betty Rubble are delighted when they find an abandoned baby on their doorstep. But the welfare department denies their petition for adoption, favoring a wealthy applicant instead. The Rubbles take their case to court, an obvious spoof of the 'Perry Mason' series, as the opposing attorney is 'Perry Masonry, who's never lost a case.'
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- "Perry Mason - The 4th Season, Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
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- "Perry Mason - The 5th Season, Volume 2". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
- "Perry Mason - The 6th Season, Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
- "Perry Mason - The 6th Season, Volume 2". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
- "Perry Mason - The 7th Season, Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
- "Perry Mason - The 7th Season, Volume 2". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
- "Perry Mason - The 8th Season, Volume 1". TV Shows on DVD. TV Guide Online. Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
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