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Trivia / Perry Mason

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  • Acting for Two: Burr in the Season 9 episode "The Case of the Dead Ringer." He plays both Mason and a British sailor named Grimes, who is hired to impersonate the lawyer.
  • Author Existence Failure: Raymond Burr passed away on September 12, 1993 after twenty-six revival TV movies were made. It was decided to continue the series without Mason himself, under the banner A Perry Mason Mystery, using a Convenient Replacement Character. Said banner only lasted four movies.
  • Cast the Expert: M 15: The Case of the Silenced Singer, cast Vanessa Williams as the victim and Nia Peeples (Fame; Walker, Texas Ranger) as a part-time singer connected to the hitman. Both sang several times, though oddly, while both had established music careers, they each had their biggest success after the episode aired.
    • M26:The Case of the Killer Kiss revolves around a tv soap opera. Five or six of the guest stars were also appearing in soap operas at the time; it was even part of the advertising.
  • The Character Died with Him:
    • Ray Collins, who played Lt. Tragg.
    • William Hopper and Paul Drake. A photograph of Hopper appears on the desk of his son, Paul Drake Jr., in Perry Mason Returns.
    • William Talman and Hamilton Burger.
    • Subverted with Raymond Burr himself. After his 1993 death, NBC aired several more episodes with Paul Sorvino or Hal Holbrook playing a defense attorney friend of an out-of-town Mason.
  • Character Outlives Actor: Raymond Burr died of cancer in 1993, but four more made-for-TV movies were produced after the fact, all featuring Suspiciously Similar Substitutes standing in for an out-of-town Perry (one of whom, "Wild Bill" McKenzie, even gets a phone call from him in the movie).
  • The CSI Effect:
    • Real-life defense attorneys started to notice a "Perry Mason Syndrome" with juries becoming hesitant to acquit a defendant without a confession from someone else on the stand (the standard is, of course, reasonable doubt). Some prosecutors similarly noticed a hesitance to convict without a confession on the stand.
    • This series is credited with the start of lawyers moving around the courtroom and approaching the witness stand and jury box. Prior to this series airing, lawyers simply stood up from their seats to address the jury and question witnesses but the producers came up with the idea of Perry getting in close with witnesses because it was easier to frame, shoot, and edit courtroom scenes that way rather than having to constantly switch between characters located a good distance apart from one another.
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    • Viewers may not catch on for some time that most of Perry's "trials" are actually pre-trial hearings. They're held to determine whether or not there should even be a trial. Part of the reason it was done this way was to avoid having to cast twelve more people to play a jury.
  • Dawson Casting: In "The Case of the Golden Oranges," the character Amos Keller fought in the Spanish-American War, meaning he would have to have been born circa 1880 at the latest. His actor, Arthur Hunnicutt, was born in 1910. (Hunnicutt was also only thirty years older than Natalie Trundy, playing Keller's granddaughter, Sandra.)
  • Edited for Syndication: Some episodes apparently do not exist in uncut form.
  • Fake American: Zig-zagged with Raymond Burr, who was born in Canada but moved to California when he was a child and served in the US Navy during World War II.
  • Outlived Its Creator
  • Playing Against Type:
    • Raymond Burr was mostly known for playing villains and heavies prior to inhabiting the Mason role. That said, it wasn't Burr's first time playing a defense attorney, having appeared as the defense counsel in 1956's Please Murder Me the year before the series aired. He also played the District Attorney in A Place in the Sun.
    • Two different episodes guest-starred Werner Klemperer and John Banner in much more serious and dignified roles (Klemperer as a spy and Banner as a Swiss banker) than what audiences at the time would be more familiar with them in, being Commandant Klink and Sergeant Schultz in Hogan's Heroes.
    • Yet another example sees all-American-boy Dick Clark as a cynical screenwriter and murderer in "The Case of the Final Fadeout," complete with drunk scene and heated courtroom confession.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • William Katt, who played Paul Drake, Jr. in the first few TV movies, is the real-life son of Barbara Hale (Della Street).
    • Bill Williams, Barbara Hale's real-life husband, guest-starred in four episodes of the original series.
  • Recursive Adaptation: First the novels, then the series based on the novels, then the Made for TV Movies based on the series... then novels based on the Made for TV Movies.
  • Recycled Script: Became somewhat common towards the end of the first TV series, invariably involving final-season episodes as remakes of first-season ones. Examples include "The Case of the Sausalito Sunrise" (a retooling of "The Case of the Moth-Eaten Mink") and "The Case of the Golden Girls" (a reboot of "The Case of the Vagabond Vixen").
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Narrowly averted in the case of William Talman, the actor behind Hamilton Burger, who was arrested for misdemeanor offenses and (though cleared of the charges) subsequently fired by CBS. A campaign led by his co-stars eventually got him rehired.
  • Role Reprise: Burr and Hale reprise their TV show roles as Perry and Della in the TV movies.
  • Screwed by the Network: By 1965, CBS was tired of seeing all the viewership of their Sunday 8 PM staple The Ed Sullivan Show evaporate at 9 PM when Sullivan was done and everybody would switch over to NBC for Bonanza. For the 1965-66 season they moved Perry Mason away from its cushy Thursday night slot into the Sunday 9 PM slot hoping it would be their "Bonanza killer". It didn't work: Perry Mason went from #38 to #69 in the ratings and CBS unceremoniously cancelled it at the end of the season. Raymond Burr learned of the cancellation in the trade papers three weeks after CBS had begged him to stay on for one more season.
  • Star-Making Role: Perry Mason for Raymond Burr.
  • Stunt Casting: Four guest stars filled in for Raymond Burr while he was recovering from an operation during Season 6. Bette Davis was the most noteworthy, but Michael Rennie, Hugh O Brian, and Walter Pidgeon would also have been well-known to viewers at the time.
  • Trope Namer:
    • The Perry Mason Method.
    • Invoked, almost in those very words, by punk musician/lecturer Jello Biafra in "Tales from the Trial", talking about his own obscenity trial in 1986. He even sings a few lines of "Park Avenue Beat".
      Finally the grand finale! [sings] You know, right kitty corner across the street from that courthouse where they have all the low-angle camera shots of on Perry Mason, singling, Yes! The Trial!!! Where Perry just tears the prosecutor to shreds, and all the witnesses reveal themselves to be backbiting snakes towards each other, and inevitably 20 minutes later one breaks down and confesses to the whole crime — Real trials don't work like that. Real trials take for ever.
  • Wiki Rule:
  • Word of God: After Raymond Burr's death, it was revealed that Perry Mason author Erle Stanley Gardner himself had advocated Burr's hiring; neither he nor the producers were happy with the actors who had auditioned for the titular role (but were leaning towards Fred MacMurray). Burr, who had primarily acted in a series of low budget films, was invited to shoot a screen test for the role of Hamilton Burger. Midway through the playback of Burr's test days later, Gardner (who had never heard of Burr) stood up, pointed at the screen and said "That's him! That's Perry Mason!" The rest is history.
  • Write What You Know: Erle Stanley Gardner was an attorney.
  • Written-In Infirmity:
    • For a while (around season six) there was a string of episodes that followed some associate of Perry's while the man himself was recuperating in a hospital room and was only seen in brief telephone calls. This was because actor Raymond Burr was recovering from surgery and couldn't handle the usual workload.
    • Burr played the role with one arm in a sling during four season eight episodes.
    • William Talman (Hamilton Burger) showed up first with a leg cast and crutches ("Case of the Romantic Rogue"), then with laryngitis, during season two.
  • You Look Familiar:
    • Occurs often in the original TV series.
      • Lurene Tuttle holds the record for playing Perry's client accused of murder — doing so on four occasions, each time as a different character.
      • Nine actors share the record for appearing as the actual murderer, each doing so three times as a different character: Malcolm Atterbury, Joan Banks, Richard Erdman, Alan Hewitt, Dabbs Greer, Robert H. Harris, Jeanette Nolan, Denver Pyle, and Mary La Roche.
      • George Neise appeared as the murder victim most frequently, on four occasions.
      • Eleven actors have played the defendant, the murderer, and the murder victim on the series: Robert Armstrong; John Conte; Robert H. Harris; Stacy Harris; Hugh Marlow; Mala Powers; Denver Pyle; Herbert Rudley; Vaughn Taylor; Bill Williams; and H. M. Wynant. Pyle appeared as a defendant and murder victim in the same episode, "The Case of the Final Fadeout."
      • Bill Williams (husband of co-star Barbara Hale and father of future co-star William Katt) appeared in four episodes in very different roles.
      • The record for a non-series regular on the show is apparently held by Don Anderson, who appeared in small roles in 128 episodes (mostly uncredited and often as a courtroom spectator).
      • George E. Stone was seen in 44 episodes as Court Clerk, while Michael Fox appeared as a Coroner's Physician, Autopsy Surgeon, or other doctor 24 times, normally shown giving expert testimony in court.
      • Five actors made repeat appearances as judges 20 or more times: S. John Launer (33 episodes), Kenneth MacDonald (32), Willis Bouchey (23), Morris Ankrum (22), and John Gallaudet (20).
      • Of guest stars with more substantial non-recurring roles, Vaughn Taylor, Dabbs Greer, and Les Tremayne appeared in eight episodes. Taylor and Greer did so each time as a different character. Tremayne appeared three times as the same Assistant D.A. and five times as other distinct characters.
    • Also occurred between the TV series and the TV movies: Richard Anderson, who played Lt. Steve Drumm in the original series' final season, later played Ken Braddock in Perry Mason Returns. In the TV series, Anderson appeared in two episodes, "The Case of the Accosted Accountant" and "The Case of the Paper Bullets," before his recurring role as Drumm.
    • Two veteran Three Stooges actors played recurring minor roles in the original TV series.

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