George Takei's early appearance on Perry Mason eerily predicted his Star Trek character's name
Listen closely for ''Sulu'' in ''The Case of the Blushing Pearls.''
George Takei and Raymond Burr had a subtle cinematic link. Before they were television stars, the actors both worked with Godzilla. Hollywood inserted Burr into Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, the 1956 re-edited, re-dubbed version of the original Godzilla (1954) for the American market. Takei provided the vocal overdubs for characters in the sequel, Godzilla Raids Again (1955).
But it was more than a massive kaiju monster that ties these TV icons together. They acted together, as well. Takei and Burr crossed paths on Perry Mason, naturally, in a standout episode titled "The Case of the Blushing Pearls."
That mystery aired in 1959, during the third season of Perry Mason. The investigation led Perry into the Japanese community of Los Angeles — and offered the opportunity for several actors of Asian descent to work together in primetime. That included Nobu McCarthy, who appeared on the small screen throughout the Sixties and Seventies, in everything from Batman to Happy Days. This episode also happened to include the first significant speaking part for a Black actor on Perry Mason, as Bill Walker portrayed a building watchman.
One more quick bit of trivia before we get back to Takei. "Blushing Pearls" features some wonderful, quick glimpses of vintage Los Angeles. Take a look:
The "Kinema," as the marquee says in katakana, was originally known as the Fuji Kan Theatre and renamed the Nichibei Kinema in 1955. Located at 324 E. 1st St. in Little Tokyo, the movie house would show Japanese films until it closed in the 1960s. This is a rare glimpse of it, next to Lem's Chop Suey. Today, the Japanese Village Plaza shopping area sits on the land.
So, back to Takei. He gets to share a couple of scenes with Burr, including this bit in the middle of the episode.
But pay close attention to an early scene with Takei, when Perry and Della head to Ito Kamuri's import business to inquire about pearls. As Takei works at his desk in the background, Mr. Kamuri (Rollin Moriyama) talks cultured pearls with Perry.
"These with the faint yellow cast are from the Sulu Seas," Kamuri explains.
Did you catch the reference? Indeed, Takei's beloved Star Trek character, Hikaru Sulu, was named after the Sulu Sea! The body of water sits off the southern shores of the Philippines. Why did Gene Roddenberry choose that particular sea as the namesake for the Enterprise's Japanese helmsman? Takei explained in 2015:
"[Roddenberry] had a map of Asia pinned on the wall and he was staring at it, trying to get some inspiration for the Asian character," Takei said. "He thought, 'Ah, the waters of the sea touch all shores, embracing all of Asia. And that's how my character came to have the name Sulu."
Of course, it's also possible Roddenberry was a big fan of Perry Mason and had the name in the back of his mind. Maybe?