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Perry Mason is an American TV series produced by Paisano Productions that ran from 1957 to 1966. Perry Mason was played by actor Raymond Burr. The title character is a fictional Los Angeles, Californiamarker, defense attorney who originally appeared in detective fiction by Erle Stanley Gardner. At one time, the show is "television's most successful and longest-running lawyer series." Another series starring Monte Markham as Mason ran from 1973–1974, and Burr returned as Mason in 30 made-for-TV movies that aired from 1985 to 1995.


Each episode's plot is essentially the same: the first half of the show usually depicts the prospective murder victim as being deserving of homicide, often with Perry's client publicly threatening to kill the victim; the body is found (often by Perry and his investigator, Paul Drake, who through circumstance happen to stumble upon the body) surrounded by clues pointing to Perry's client. Perry's client is charged with murder, but (in the second-half courtroom setting) Perry establishes his client's innocence by dramatically demonstrating the guilt of another character. The murderer nearly always breaks down and confesses to the crime in the courtroom, if not on the witness stand then in the arms of the bailiff, who blocks the murderer's effort to escape into the hallway.

In most episodes, the identity of the guilty party was discovered without an actual trial being held. Instead, this occurred at the preliminary hearing stage, wherein the DA was only required to produce enough evidence to convince the judge that the defendant should be bound over for trial. During this stage, other malefactors (blackmailers, frauds, forgers, etc.) were frequently forced into confessions by Perry's relentless badgering, and the real killer was exposed. At this point, it is common for the camera to zoom in on the faces of the potentially guilty (visibly uncomfortable in their seats) as Perry slowly but surely moves to the climactic identification of the real murderer, who confesses, often to the accompaniment of a kettledrum-laden orchestral score, followed by a fadeout to black, symbolizing the defeat and oblivion meted out by Perry Mason. In the closing scene (the Epilogue), the characters often gather together, to discuss how the case was solved. Occasionally, Perry invites District Attorney Hamilton Burger and police Lt. Arthur Tragg to join them.

In a few episodes, Burger and Tragg are shown assisting Perry and Paul as they team up to catch the killer. In one episode, after Perry's client was convicted, Burger provided assistance to Perry which ultimately led to having the verdict reversed just as Perry's innocent client was being prepared for the gas chamber.

Barbara Hale (known for being in a number of RKO Pictures B grade war films where she was menaced by leering Japanese captors) played Perry's confidential secretary, Della Street, known as "Beautiful" by Detective Paul Drake, played by William Hopper. Just when things were at their bleakest for Perry's client, Paul would often rush into the courtroom with an envelope, the contents of which an appreciative Perry ("Good work, Paul!") would use to turn the tables on the prosecution and carry the day in the nick of time.

Each season, a few episodes would have a story that would take place in a remote town in California and Perry, Della and Paul would wind up in a small town courthouse defending an accused murderer arrested by the local sheriff and being charged by a local prosecutor rather than the D.A. of Los Angeles County.

William Talman played Mason's perennial adversary, District Attorney Hamilton Burger, whose eyes bulged in anger and frustration each week as Mason defeated him yet again. Burger was noted for objecting to Mason's "courtroom theatrics and grandstanding" with the adjectives "incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial". Ray Collins played the part of the crusty, dedicated police lieutenant, Arthur Tragg, who often frustrated Mason. Collins' appearances diminished toward the end of the 1963–64 season (he was 67 when the series began and died in 1965), and he was succeeded by Wesley Lau as Lt. Andy Anderson, and later Richard Anderson as Lt. Steve Drumm. In "The Case of the Sardonic Sergeant" which aired October 11, 1958, neither Talman nor Collins appeared.

Among the actors appearing as judges were John Gallaudet, S. John Launer (the father of Dale Launer, who wrote My Cousin Vinny), Bill Zuckert and Kenneth MacDonald, well-known for his appearances as a villain in Three Stooges shorts. Connie Cezon, who had a recurring role as Gertrude "Gertie" Lade, Perry's receptionist, had also appeared in a number of Three Stooges short films. After the series ended, several of the actors who played different character roles during the series found roles working for Jack Webb in the 1967–70 Dragnet series. Author Erle Stanley Gardner played the judge in the last episode of the original series.

The series also 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." However, Gardner used this idea in a much earlier book, Double Or Quits (1941) written under his pen name of A. A. Fair.

The theme music, "Park Avenue Beat," by Fred Steiner, is one of television's most recognizable themes. When asked why Perry Mason won every case, Burr said, "But madam, you see only the cases I try on Saturday."

All but one of the episodes in the series were filmed in black and white. The episode "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist" was filmed in color. In the episode, Perry's car, a then-current model Lincoln Continental, was stripped down to the frame in a parking lot next to Angel's Flightmarker by a ring of car stippers who had cajoled a teenager into going along.

In the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Courtmarker nominee, during questioning by Senator Al Franken, Sotomayor said that watching the series had made her want to grow up to be a prosecutor. Franken noted that the prosecutor lost all the cases on the series but one. Subsequent research by CNN stated there were three lost cases; verified:
May the record reflect that Perry Mason did lose three cases of almost 300 --- a record any lawyer would envy, especially since he got one of his losses reversed on appeal.
His losses were: The Case of the Witless Witness, The Case of the Deadly Verdict, and The Case of the Terrified Typist.

However, 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.



The series 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 of an episode of Peter Gunn are visible. There are numerous sweep shots of the iconic Los Angeles City Hallmarker, the Hall of Justice building (now being converted to condos) and the Los Angeles County Court House. All these buildings are still standing.

Mason's office was "Brent Building Suite 904." Although his office is apparently located downtown, his office phone number is MAdison 5-1190 (625-1190). The MAdison or 62 exchange covers Hollywoodmarker and Huntington Parkmarker.



The original series was a staple in syndication, running for many years on local television stations, TBS and most recently on the Hallmark Channel. It is still shown in local markets and is distributed by CBS Television Distribution, originally CBS Films, Viacom Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television and CBS Paramount Domestic Television.

CBS posted full 60-minute episodes on its website from the first and second seasons for viewing.

In Portland, Oregonmarker, Perry Mason is enshrined as part of that city's television culture — KPTVmarker has carried syndicated repeats of the show in its schedule since 1966, and at 12 Noon since 1970 (except for a brief period in 1974–1975, when it was on at 12:30 PM).

DVD releases

CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) has released the first 3 seasons of Perry Mason on DVD in Region 1. Each season has been released in 2-volume sets due to the fact that each season of Perry Mason contains nearly twice the material of a modern TV series. Perry Mason episodes are 53 minutes long (as opposed to 43 minutes which is more typical of modern 1-hour TV show releases), and there are 39 episodes (compared to 22 for a typical modern series).

The DVDs contain the original full-length version of each episode, while re-runs broadcast in syndication have been edited down to allow for more time for commercials.

Season 4, volume 1 was released on June 9, 2009. Season 4, volume 2 will be released on December 8, 2009.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
Season 1, Volume 1 19 July 11, 2006
Season 1, Volume 2 20 November 21, 2006
Season 2, Volume 1 15 June 19, 2007
Season 2, Volume 2 15 November 13, 2007
50th Anniversary Collection 12 April 8, 2008
Season 3, Volume 1 12 August 19, 2008
Season 3, Volume 2 14 December 2, 2008
Season 4, Volume 1 14 June 9, 2009
Season 4, Volume 2 12 December 8, 2009

Series revival

An unsuccessful attempt to re-create the series was made in 1973. Starring Monte Markham and Brett Somers, The New Adventures of Perry Mason only lasted half a season.

Made-for-TV movies

Television producer Dean Hargrove resurrected the Mason character in a series of television movies 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, now an appellate court judge, resigns his position to successfully defend his secretary, Della, on murder charges. William Katt, Hale's real-life son, was cast as the son of Paul Drake (William Hopper, the former private investigator in the original television series, who had died years earlier). The original theme music was re-recorded by famed mystery music composer Dick DeBenedictis, who would also compose the theme to Dean Hargrove's Matlock a year later.

A total of 30 movies were made between 1985 and 1995, and Raymond Burr starred in 26 of them. After Burr died in 1993, Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook starred in the final four episodes titled "A Perry Mason Mystery."

  1. Perry Mason Returns (1985) (TV)
  2. Perry Mason: The Case of the Notorious Nun (1986) (TV)
  3. Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star (1986) (TV)
  4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam (1987) (TV)
  5. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lost Love (1987) (TV)
  6. Perry Mason: The Case of the Scandalous Scoundrel (1987) (TV)
  7. Perry Mason: The Case of the Sinister Spirit (1987) (TV)
  8. Perry Mason: The Case of the Avenging Ace (1988) (TV)
  9. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake (1988) (TV)
  10. Perry Mason: The Case of the Lethal Lesson (1989) (TV)
  11. Perry Mason: The Case of the Musical Murder (1989) (TV)
  12. Perry Mason: The Case of the All-Star Assassin (1989) (TV)
  13. Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer (1990) (TV)
  14. Perry Mason: The Case of the Defiant Daughter (1990) (TV)
  15. Perry Mason: The Case of the Desperate Deception (1990) (TV)
  16. Perry Mason: The Case of the Poisoned Pen (1990) (TV)
  17. Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Fashion (1991) (TV)
  18. Perry Mason: The Case of the Glass Coffin (1991) (TV)
  19. Perry Mason: The Case of the Maligned Mobster (1991) (TV)
  20. Perry Mason: The Case of the Ruthless Reporter (1991) (TV)
  21. Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Framing (1992) (TV)
  22. Perry Mason: The Case of the Heartbroken Bride (1992) (TV)
  23. Perry Mason: The Case of the Reckless Romeo (1992) (TV)
  24. Perry Mason: The Case of the Skin-Deep Scandal (1993) (TV)
  25. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host (1993) (TV)
  26. Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss (1993) (TV)

Perry Mason Mysteries (1993)

  1. A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Wicked Wives (1993) (TV) (starring Paul Sorvino)
  2. A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Lethal Lifestyle (1994) (TV) (starring Hal Holbrook)
  3. A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Grimacing Governor (1994) (TV) (starring Hal Holbrook)
  4. A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Jealous Jokester (1995) (TV) (starring Hal Holbrook)


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