9 details you likely missed in the first Perry Mason episode

Changing hair color, oddly familiar horses and an Oscar record holder can be found.

Perry Mason premiered on September 21, 1957. Though it remains the pioneering pinnacle of legal dramas, the show was a risky proposition at the time. We'll get into that in a bit.

The characters would have certainly been familiar to mystery lovers, however. Erle Stanley Gardner published his first Perry Mason novel back in 1933. A series of Hollywood films quickly followed. The Case of the Restless Redhead was one of the more recent books at the time, published in 1954, which is perhaps why CBS opted to lead with it as the premiere tale in the television series.

The episode might stand out as different in some ways. Notably, Perry wears plaid for much of the episode. 

Here are some other little things you might not have noticed!

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1. This woman appeared in more Best Picture Oscar nominees than any other actor.

When Perry visits Magnum Studio midway through the mystery, pay close attention to the actors flooding out of the door. An elegant woman is the first to exit the building. She is Bess Flowers, dubbed "The Queen of the Hollywood Extras." Over her four-decade career, Flower appeared in 23 films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. That's a record. Frequently, she was uncredited. You can even find her in Rear Window, the Hitchcock classic with Raymond Burr!

2. Lee Miller pops up three times.

Lee Miller is best known to Perry Mason fans as Sgt. Brice. The police officer appears in more than 100 episode, beginning late in the first season. However, before he became Brice, Miller can be found in several roles in the series premiere! Right off the bat, spot him sitting next to the window in the opening credits. Later, he's the plainclothes cop holding in the Villa España pillowcase by the roadside late at night. Finally, he plays a courtroom spectator in the climatic scenes! He's sitting in the second row on the aisle behind the defense.

3. "Pencil Mustache Man" makes his first of many appearances.

Perry fanatics have nicknamed several of the extras who appear throughout the series in courtroom scenes. It's a pretty steady batch of extras filling the benches. Sitting in the back row by the door, behind Lee Miller, is an extra commonly referred to as "Pencil Mustache Man." He can be seen in more than 90 episodes of the show! Sometimes, he's even in restaurants, too. Alas, the man's real name is not known. Perhaps he's friends with Mr. Schwamp of Mayberry?

4. The "Restless Redhead" was the "Black-eyed Blonde" later that same season.

The casting director must have taken a shine to Whitney Blake, who plays Perry's client Evelyn Bagby in the premiere. Just 36 episodes later, late in season one, she returned to play another titular Perry client, the "Black-Eyed Blonde," Diana Reynolds. Yes, they changed her hair color. Fun fact: Blake went on to become the creator and writer of the hit Seventies sitcom One Day at a Time.

5. Perry drove a convertible.

Perry has no shortage of sweet rides. In the first episode, he drives a black 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. It was a brand-spanking-new model at the time, first produced by Ford in 1957. It is hard to tell, but the car had a retractable hardtop. Perry leaves the top up in this episode. It was only the second car in history to be mass-produced with a retractable hardtop. Perry was cutting edge. The model only sold for two years.

6. Perry's office decor came from a hit Hepburn movie earlier that year.

The furniture in Perry's office is quite distinctive. He appears to truly appreciate horses, both in sculpture and painting. Look for a two-headed horse bas-relief hanging on the wall of the interior office in the suite. Believe it or not, the same piece is hanging in a luxury office in the 1957 film Desk Set. The Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn computer comedy (yes, it is about computing in the 1950s) features an executive character named Mr. Azae who presides in a stunning office. Not only are Perry's horses on his wall, but the light fixture above Mr. Azae's desk also dangles over the table in Perry's office! Would it surprise you to learn that the same man, Lyle R. Wheeler, served as art director on both Desk Set and Perrry Mason?

7. This character was much bigger in the books.

Sgt. Holcomb (Dick Rich) is a cop with a key role in the premiere. Oddly, he never shows up again, as Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins) primarily fills that role (though both are in "The Restless Redhead"). Holcomb has a much bigger role in the Erle Stanley Gardner novels, appearing in numerous mysteries. Perhaps the show producers felt he was one character too many?

8. You can thank the Purex company for Perry Mason.

A bevy of cleaning products appears throughout the closing credits — SweetHeart soap, Blue Dutch Cleanser, Trend Liquid Detergent and Beads-o'-Bleach. All of them were products of the Purex corporation — some recently acquired. Purex had only purchased the SweetHeart brand in 1956. Yes, indeed, Purex was a key sponsor of Perry Mason. (Does that make it a soap opera?) And we are thankful for their patronage! As hard as it is to believe, Perry Mason struggled to find financial support. Why? It was the first hourlong television show in primetime with continuing character. Yes, ever. Everything on TV up to the point had been anthology series along the lines of The Alcoa Hour. Finally, Purex agreed to sponsor some of Perry Mason — oddly, only the odd-numbered episodes from 1 to 25.

9. Oops! They left Barbara Hale's mark in the shot.

When Tragg enters Perry's office, you can see a black "T" taped to the floor. This is an actor's mark for Barbara Hale, noting where Della should stand in the frame after preparing drinks. It is a mistake.

 
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MichaelGreene 1 month ago
In the pilot episode, Perry's ride was a 1953-54 vintage Plymouth Taxi. Presumably, he got the good rides after the series was picked up, though for the first few episodes, he(and William Talman) showed up outdoors wearing felt hats. By this time, the trend away from men's hats was underway, influenced by the then-Vice President, Richard Nixon, who rarely appeared in public wearing a hat. That trend would pick up when John F. Kennedy was President...he preferred to not wear hats in public, and except for when he had to cut short a political trip to Chicago during the lead-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he wore a hat while leaving a hotel he was staying at, ostensibly because of a head cold, Kennedy was never seen in public with a hat. It stood that the male cast of Perry Mason skipped the hats, with the obvious execptions of Lt. Tragg, and later, Lt. Anderson(played by Wesley Lau). When Richard Anderson replaced Lau, his character did NOT wear a hat during the last season. (When Ray Collins was basically out of the show, during his last illness, the Mason producers kept Collins' name in the credits, ostensibly not to discourage him...Collins also watched the show.
CraigGustafson 3 months ago
In the books, Holcomb was pretty much phased out after Tragg made his first appearance. Holcomb was a blustery idiot. Tragg was created to give Mason more of a challenge - he's the anti-Mason. Same build, same age, same brains, but... he had a mustache!
Salem 5 months ago
Perry Mason on ME tv is why I keep Comcast
Salem 5 months ago
Over the course of many episodes Perry gave long speeches, does anyone know, were there cue cards the actors read from or did they have to know all those lines?
Theowl47 6 months ago
Being home for Covid I think I have watched every Perry Mason there is!
skyliner 6 months ago
Ford produced their retractable hardtop for three years, not two as referenced in the trivia above (‘57, 58 & 59). I own a ‘59 and am an authority on these vehicles. Not sure why the trivia states they were produced by Ford for only two years. BTW, Perry did utilize many different vehicles- as did Paul Drake. Perry did drive a 57 Skyliner, an Eldorado Biarritz, one or two top of the line Cadillac’s and several Lincoln Continentals - even a Buick or two. Paul started with Corvettes- then several different Ford Thunderbirds. Perry also looked good in his own T-Bird from time to time. Moving into the 60’s, after the show gained a good following, Ford furnished the primary vehicles for the publicity and also the credits. Ford and GM fought over this right as the supplier of primary vehicles and it went back and forth several times through the end of the series. Paul also had a fancy car phone that required operator assistance - similar to the early ship to shore radios that could connect to a land line with operator assistance. Paul was THE MAN with the best flashy cars and top equipment. Don’t recall if Della ever had a vehicle- but she did drive Perry’s ride from time to time but I don’t recall that we ever SAW Della actually drive. ? ?
Dario skyliner 2 months ago
During the entire 9-year, 271-episode run of the series, Della Street(Barbara Hale) was never shown driving her own car.
daniel 12 months ago
Ya wanna know my favorite character on "Perry Mason"? It isn't Perry, Della, Paul, or a police officer. It's that "incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial" District Attorney, Hamilton Burger! I love it when he objects and hurls these insults at Perry! It's very funny to watch Burger get had, again, and again, and again...
ELEANOR daniel 4 months ago
I've been currently watching the episodes when William Talman was in the doghouse. All of the actors playing the Assistant DA chewed the scenery as they, one by one, tried to emulate William Talman. And in the end, nobody could do it better than William himself.
Katina 14 months ago
This is awesome! I love Perry Mason. He made me want to become an Attorney! I have to finish school tho! Lol.
Jorgal74 14 months ago
The Sundance channel is starting Perry Mason in June... and for all of us die hard fans, that's great news!
lucirush 14 months ago
Whitney Blake was also the wife and mother in "Hazel." Starring role after Shirley Booth in that series.
lorinews 14 months ago
Not to diminish MeTV but FETV (82 on Dish) has Perry on at 1 and 2 PM PST and 5 and 6 PM PST if you want even more Perry Mason- and who doesn't?
MadMadMadWorld lorinews 14 months ago
Not me! You can O.D. on P.M.! :)
Rubyredjewel lorinews 10 months ago
I'm on the east coast. Here on FETV (Fios ch 245) Perry Mason comes on at 4-6 and then again at 8-10.
LauraD 14 months ago
The best... loved Perry Mason
jacko3 14 months ago
.. without a doubt, one of the best television shows ever made...
MadMadMadWorld jacko3 14 months ago
The distinctive and memorable theme song is also one of the best! Interestingly, that same starting year (1957) spawned two more memorable shows and their theme songs: "Maverick" and "Leave It To Beaver." All three are among the finest shows of their genre (detective, western, and sitcom), and still shown in reruns not only on MeTV, but on other networks around the world.
Hari 14 months ago
There is a reboot of Perry Mason being made now. It takes place in the 1930's as when the original books took place.
lucirush Hari 14 months ago
It might be interesting to the younger generation. People my age recognize only Raymond Burr as the REAL Perry Mason!!
LauraD Hari 14 months ago
I am not too fond of remakes.. however if they are actually keeping it an the era of 1930's at least say good luck.
MadMadMadWorld lucirush 14 months ago
Just as George Reeves is recognized as the only Superman! The Adventures of Superman would be a great addition to MeTV, as an action-packed sci-fi adventure series. Wish that show, The Donna Reed Show, and other memorable '50s series would be added instead of the tired, same old '70s Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, and Mama's Family series. I love the '50s and '60s shows (and theme songs) much more than almost all of the '70s shows.
Jon MadMadMadWorld 9 months ago
I think SUPERMAN is currently being rerun, along w/ BATMAN and THE GREEN HORNET, on MeTV's sister channel H&I (Heroes & Icons).
MadMadMadWorld Jon 9 months ago
Which I don't get on my cable system, and I never heard of H&I before you mentioned it. So it does me no good!
CraigGustafson 14 months ago
Lieutenant Tragg replaced Sergeant Holcomb in the novels. Holcomb was a bullying lunkhead. Tragg was written to give Mason a worthier adversary. In his earliest appearances, he's the Perry Mason of the homicide squad.
Kimberly 14 months ago
Hi I love this program I watched it with my grandma back in the day,it's so nostalgic for me.
Asil 14 months ago
All that needs to be said is I love Perry Mason. Not so much for Ironsides.
Wiseguy Asil 14 months ago
Ironside - no s.
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