Perry Mason's character drastically changes after the iconic show's earliest episodes
He goes from a smoking, stylish ladies man to the world's most virtuous lawyer.
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Perry Mason is the world's winningest lawyer. He very rarely came across a case where he couldn't sniff out the truth and deliver justice. Yet this straight shooter whose humility is perhaps the single reason why he remained so endlessly watchable for viewers is hiding a truth of his own that only biggest fans likely recall.
In the earliest episodes of Perry Mason, the criminal defense attorney wasn't quite as neat, virtuous and direct as the character that TV history now remembers so well. it just goes to show, that's what sitting through 271 episodes where you're completely riveted can do to a memory. But we'd like to take a second now to remember Perry Mason as we first met him at the very beginning of the show, when he wasn't yet immune to bad habits and selfish behaviors.
However, it's not just the way Mason acts that's different, it's also how he dresses. During the first episode "The Case of the Restless Redhead," we see Perry Mason first not in his characteristic slick black suit, but in this much more distinct plaid jacket. Even more out of character, he pairs the louder suit with a tendency to light up from a pack of cigarettes he seems to keep on hand.
But perhaps the biggest sidestep from the character Perry Mason would become arrives at the premiere episode's conclusion. Part of what makes Perry Mason so endlessly cool is that he's not a sap who loses his head at the sight of a pretty face, but don't tell that to the flirty version of Perry Mason that's much closer to the type of lawyer or private detective character you'd see in most noir films. "The Case of the Restless Redhead" ends with Mason winking at the titular redhead Evelyn Bagby, who cries out, "Oh, Mr. Mason, I'm so grateful" when Mason wins the case for her. In response he says, leaning in like a ladies' man, "Careful with those big blue eyes," handing her a handkerchief to wipe her tears. While this is certainly smooth, it's not exactly the cool-headed attorney we all know and love so well.
Attentive fans can trace these inconsistencies in Perry Mason's character over the course of the first three episodes. The smoking and flirting both come to a screeching stop after the second episode, and his suits veer away from bolder patterned jackets to his sharp signature style by the third. So while it didn't take long for Perry Mason to get his own act together, it's amusing all the same to look back on what the character could've been, if viewers hadn't held the hit defense attorney to a higher standard than most noir fare.