You can find three actors who played Perry Mason in 'Perry Mason'
Raymond Burr was not the only Perry portrayer on the show!
Raymond Burr is most associated with Perry Mason, thanks to playing the ace attorney on television for 36 years, across nine seasons and 26 TV movies. But is he is hardly the only the actor to fill the role.
Erle Stanley Gardner introduced the character with his 1933 novel The Case of the Velvet Claws. Hollywood quickly came calling to adapt the pulp hero. The Case of the Howling Dog premiered in theaters a year later, with Warren William as Perry Mason. Dubbed "The King of Pre-Code" due to his ubiquity onscreen in the early sound era of the 1930s, William served as Perry in four films. Ricardo Cortez and Donald Woods would both briefly step in as the lead later that decade.
During wartime, Perry shifted mediums, becoming a staple of the radio. The Perry Mason radio program premiered in 1943 and would run for a dozen years. CBS Radio sandwiched the 15-minute episodes between soap operas. Gardner had sold the radio rights to Procter & Gamble, who slotted the show during the daytime. The author himself scripted some of the early stories. "As a soaper, I stunk," he admitted.
A string of actors voiced Perry Mason in the first few years, beginning with Bartlett Robinson. Santos Ortega and Donald Briggs followed before John Larkin settled into the role from 1947–55.
And here is where things get interesting. Both Barlett Robinson and John Larkin became frequent guest-stars on the Perry Mason television series!
Robinson appeared in six mysteries, from "The Case of the Fraudulent Foto" in season two to "The Case of the Golfer's Gambit" in the final season. With his balding pate and mustache, he is an easy figure to spot. He was the murder victim in the first (pictured at the top of this post). Here he is chatting into a car phone in "The Case of the Frightened Fisherman."
Larkin, meanwhile, popped up in four episodes, "The Case of the Counterfeit Crank," "Greek Goddess," "Reluctant Model" and "Betrayed Bride." He was both an accused client ("Greek Goddess") and killer ("Counterfeit Crank"), seen here.
For those who have never heard the Perry Mason radio program, these episodes offer a wonderful chance to imagine others in the lead role. Not only do you hear their voices, you see their mannerisms. Look at the images here and image them as Perry Mason!
For Larkin, it is not so big a mental leap. He was the star of The Edge of Night, the daytime television soap loosely on Perry Mason. His character on that show, a cop who becomes an attorney, was a thinly veiled facsimile of Perry.
As for the other Perry portrayers, none of them were on Perry Mason. Donald Woods did turn up on an episode of Raymond Burr's Ironside, "The Gambling Game," giving viewers a chance to see two erstwhile Perrys together.
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What could it hurt?
They're actually fairly good shows.
The production staff came almost intact from the original series:
Executive producer Cornwell Jackson (Erle Stanley Gardner's longtime agent).
Producers Art Seid and Ernie Frankel.
Headwriter Orville Hampton.
Frequent director Art Marks.
Quite a number of others, both before and behind the cameras.
CBS's midyear cancellation was a panic move, pure and simple.
If The New Perry Mason had been accorded a full season, they might have found their own groove.
Or not … but a half-season isn't really enough, never has been, never will be.