Friday, 12 July 2019

Perry at the bar

As if in answer to my unspoken wish, the CBS Justice channel is reshowing the original Perry Mason series. This is what rescued Canadian Raymond Burr from playing heavies in films noirs, most notably in Hitchcock's Rear Window, launching him on a distinguished TV career which also took in Ironside. My recollection is of seeing Perry Mason over here on ABC-TV, one of the original commercial franchisees, in the late 1950s, though the show was later picked up by BBC.

CBS seems to have started the re-runs at series 6, when the producers (including Gardner himself) had long since run out of the Erle Stanley Gardner stories with which they started. The quality of the scripts is mixed and acting and production values are clearly compromised by a tight shooting schedule. On the other hand, the images and sound from the original 35mm film are amazingly sharp and clear. One wonders whether the film quality of series 1 to 5 is as good.

By this time also Ray Collins, a veteran from Orson Welles' Mercury Theater company who played police lieutenant Tragg, must have been ailing (he was to die in 1965) because he appears only briefly in one or two episodes but in the spirit of generosity which characterised productions with which Burr was involved, he continued to be credited throughout. The police leg-work was carried out by a new character, Lt. Andy Anderson, played by Wesley Lau. 

I am looking forward to the rest of the re-runs, if only to spot actors in bit parts who would later make their name in more starry rĂ´les.

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