The cast of 1957's 'The Deadly Mantis' reunited a year later on Perry Mason
Alix Talton was a "Della Street" on the big screen and femme fatale on TV.
Image: Universal Pictures
What do Perry Mason and a 200-foot-long insect have in common? More than you might imagine.
In the warm months of 1957, American audiences were treated to two mammoth debuts. The Deadly Mantis crept into theaters, billed as a double feature with the spy flick The Girl in the Kremlin. The monster movie followed the creepy-crawly footsteps of earlier drive-in fare like Them! and Tarantula.
A few months later, ace defense attorney Perry Mason cruised his way into primetime with his sharp suits and fancy cars. Meanwhile, rock 'n' roll was taking over the airwaves with the debut album of Little Richard and the premiere of American Bandstand. This was the pop culture scene of 1957.
If you were an actor working in the 1950s, it was inevitable that you would end up in a sci-fi film, a Western and a noir detective case. Most resumes in Hollywood checked all of those boxes. No wonder there was some fascinating, unexpected crossover between genres.
The Deadly Mantis starred Craig Stevens, best known as the hip television P.I. Peter Gunn. Billed just under him was William Hopper as Dr. Ned Jackson and Alix Talton as Marge Blaine. Hopper soon would become famous as investigator Paul Drake on Perry Mason, of course. But the ties to Perry do not end there.
With her short, stylish brunette hair, Alix Talton resembled Della Street (Barbara Hale). In fact, this similarity was not lost on viewers. The 2005 book Women Scientists in Fifties Science Fiction Films described Talton's Marge Blaine character as "the Della Street" to Dr. Ned Jackson. The two can be seen together in the image up top.
That partnership made the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Long-Legged Models" all the more interesting. (No — the "long-legged models" in the title were not referring to giant praying mantis puppets.) Released late in season one, "Long-Legged Models" reunited Hopper and Talton.
Only, this time, Talton was decidedly not playing a Della Street type — she was the femme fatale in this noir tale.
Talton would appear in a few more small roles in the early 1960s before largely disappearing. Her obituary in 1992 described her as the archetypal "other woman" of 1950s film.
You can see both The Deadly Mantis and "The Case of the Long-Legged Models" in the near future on MeTV! See the first on Svengoolie on Saturday, May 16, and keep an eye out for the Perry Mason episode on June 30 at 9AM | 8C.