For your careful inspection: 13 behind-the-scenes photos from 'Perry Mason'
These peeks backstage prove the influential series did just about everything by the book.
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Image: The Everett Collection
When producers were preparing Perry Mason for its television debut in 1957, everything had to be just right. Not only had Perry Mason's creator, novelist Erle Stanley Gardner, long ago decided not to let his character be used in radio or TV, but even after he was cautiously persuaded by executice producer Gail Patrick to give a TV series another go, CBS didn't share the same vision of the show as Gardner and Patrick. The network wanted a program that would air live weekly. In the end, the stickler producers footed the bill for the pilot themselves and persuaded the network to do Perry Mason their way, making it the first hour-long show that aired weekly that was pre-recorded.
For a show with plots that so often came down to one revealing detail, it should come as no surprise that behind the scenes, the show operated in a very particular, detail-oriented way. From Gardner's call to avoid Mason's personal life in story arcs and focus on the law, to an extremely particular eye on casting each role, you could say that it was this committed, pure investment in the show's catchy concept that ultimately elevated Perry Mason to icon status.
Here, we've dug up some behind-the-scenes photos that detail the meticulous process of programming Perry Mason's distinctive air. Enjoy this rare peek backstage of this singular classic legal drama.
Here's a color snap of Raymond Burr with guest star Mike Mazurki for the 1964 episode "The Case of the Missing Button."
Raymond Burr and executive producer Gail Patrick share a candid moment on set.
Perry Mason novelist and screenwriter Erle Stanley Gardner sold CBS the rights to 272 of his stories. Here he is in 1964 with actresses who appeared in multiple episodes each, Joyce Jameson, Kathie Browne and Lisa Gaye.
Here's another colorful behind-the-scenes moment featuring our star defense attorney with his loyal secretary Della Street (played by the wonderful Barbara Hale).
This one's from Perry Mason's very first season, with William Hopper and Barbara Hale goofing off in between takes of the 1958 episode "The Case of the Lonely Heiress."
Here's a shot that shows actress Bette Davis' discipline on set in 1963 for "The Case of Constant Doyle," just one of many memorable guest stars who entered Perry Mason's courtroom.
Hale and Burr nearly mirror each other's expressions as they wait for direction in 1964.
This one dips back to the second season, catching the onscreen magic of Raymond Burr with actress Ruta Lee in "The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll" in 1959.
Here's a rare shot of the Perry Mason gang gussied up and approaching a different sort of bench: church pews for the wedding-themed fifth season episode "The Case of the Missing Melody."
In 1961, Raymond Burr took home an Emmy for best actor for his work on Perry Mason, joining Emmy-winning actress Barbara Stanwyck and two-time winner Fred Astaire (who seems a little starstruck by Burr here!).
Here's another shot of Burr on set, this time with guest star Harry Carey Jr. It's from the same year that the series star took home his Emmy award.
It seems Raymond Burr was nearly always ready to widen his eyes for a closeup like this one.