The Perry Mason TV Show Book
The History of the Show

Emmys and Actors

But criticism aside, most of the shows were highly entertaining and relatively intelligent. And in Burr, Hale, Hopper, Talman, and Collins, the series could always boast great acting, as the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences--the Emmy Awards people--would testify. For the 1958-59 season, Raymond Burr won the Emmy for best actor in a dramatic series and Barbara Hale won for best supporting actress. Burr won it again in 1961.

The show also established a proving ground for actors and actresses who would later go on to their own successes. "The Case of the Treacherous Toupe" featured a young Robert Redford. "The Case of the Counterfeit Crank" featured a younger Burt Reynolds. Film actors such as Ryan O'Neal, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, and James Coburn showed up on episodes usually as either defendants or killers. Performers who would later make their mark on TV--Barbara Eden, Werner Klemperer, Francis Bavier, Leonard Nimoy, Gary Collins, Gavin MacLeod, Jerry Van Dyke, Daniel Travanti, Barbara Bain, Paul Picerni, Jim Davis, Angie Dickinson, Dick Clark, Adam West, and many, many others-made early appearances on the Mason show.

When minor surgery for Raymond Burr forced him to miss several episodes in 1963, Gail Jackson brought in some high-level people--Bette Davis, Walter Pidgeon, Michael Rennie--to fill in as lawyer friends of Perry's who were handling his caseload while he was "away in Europe." (When asked if any of the guest lawyers would actually lose a case, Jackson replied: "Our aim in 'Perry Mason' has always been that justice prevails. If justice would prevail by having [the guest lawyer] losing a case, we would not object." It didn't happen, though.)

The Mason experience left two impressions on Bette Davis. One, she felt she didn't need to see a script before she accepted the job ("It's a formula show and I know the formula"); and two, the fast pace of the show's filming left her breathless ("There aren't even any rehearsals!").


The Perry Mason TV Show Book Copyright 1987 by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. All rights reserved. Presented here by permission of the copyright holder. Commercial use prohibited. Web page Copyright 1998 D. M. Brockman. Last edited 04 Nov 2004.