For close to a century, he has been one of the most famous, compelling characters in American culture. He has appeared in every storytelling medium that exists, and that iconic music from the long-running TV series is instantly recognizable to multiple generations of fans. That character’s name…Perry Mason!
With a character like this, you may think you know all there is to know, but you’d be wrong. So just sit right back and prepare to be blown away by these 21 Random, Amazing and Bizarre Facts about Perry Mason.
1. Perry Mason Was A Literary Star Way Before The Long-Running TV Show
Most people know Perry Mason through the long-running television series and the subsequent made-for-TV follow-ups, but the character was actually a literary star long before he ever appeared on the small screen. In fact, 51 of the 82 Perry Mason novels listed in Thrilling Detective’s bibliography were published prior to 1957 — the year the series premiered.
2. The ‘Real’ Perry Mason Didn’t Need Law School
Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason’s creator, wasn’t your typical lawyer. He started on the same path, but was suspended from the Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana after just one month of attendance due to a “distracting interest in boxing,” according to the New York Times. That led to him dropping out, moving back to California, studying for the bar on his own, and passing it in 1911. And while he enjoyed litigation and developing trial strategy, he was ultimately bored by legal practice itself. (Either way we sure would have loved to have him on our side as an accident attorney here in Los Angeles!) When his writing took off, he was only too happy to leave it behind.
Image source: Wikipedia
3. Gardner Was Born On The East Coast Of The U.S. And Died On The West
Gardner was born in Massachusetts in 1889, but lived much of his life in California, graduating from Palo Alto High School in 1909 at age 20 and calling Temecula, California, home for the last 33 years of his life. He died in 1970 four months shy of his 81st birthday.
4. Gardner Made Only One On-Screen Appearance In A ‘Perry Mason’ Film Or TV Show
Fittingly enough for his only acting credit, Gardner chose the final episode of the TV series. In the episode entitled, “The Case of the Final Fade-Out,” Gardner plays the judge while none other than Dick Clark (American Bandstand, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve) is the murderer.
5. ‘Perry Mason’ Was Not The Original Name
Gardner achieved his first publication in 1923 and went on to create a number of pulp characters, but the one that showed the most promise — and who would play the biggest part in the writer’s burgeoning career — was a crusading attorney and sleuth named Ken Corning. It was Ken, who served as the basis for what Perry Mason would become, according to biographer Dorothy B. Hughes.
Image source: Amazon
6. The ‘Perry Mason’ Name Was Not An Original Creation
According to the City of Temecula website — Gardner made his home in Temecula, California, from 1937 to 1970 — the name “Perry Mason” was not an original creation. Gardner actually lifted it from an old magazine he subscribed to as a boy — Youth’s Companion — which was published by Perry Mason and Company.
7. The First Perry Mason Novel Has Been Adapted Twice … Once For Movies, Once For TV
Perry Mason made his literary debut in The Case of the Velvet Claws, which was published in 1933. Three years later, the novel was adapted for the big screen. It later appeared as an episode in the long-running TV series (season six, episode 22).
Image source: Wikipedia
8. With Perry Mason, Raymond Burr Had One Of The Longest Syndication Records For Playing The Same Character The Most Times In A Live Action Film Or TV Show
When you say the words “Perry Mason,” an image of Raymond Burr probably comes to mind. The actor took on the role for the landmark television series and stayed with it for nine seasons and 271 hour-long episodes. The show ended in 1966 and Burr took a break from the character for 20 years but would later return to it in a series of memorable feature-length made-for-TV films. According to IMDB, there were 30 films in all. Burr starred in 26 of them.
After his death in 1993, Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook starred in the last four. They were “filling in” for Perry, who was “out of town.” Even though Burr couldn’t make it a full 30-for-30, you would be hard-pressed to find any actor-character longevity that comes close to matching the Burr-Mason connection in a live-action television show or film. Total amount of years from start to finish playing the character: 36 years.
9. To Watch The Entire ‘Perry Mason’ TV Show From Beginning To End Once Without Any Breaks, It Would Take Approximately 10 Days Of Your Life
Each episode of the 1957 to 1966 Perry Mason television show ran 52 minutes. Multiply that times 271 episodes, and you get 14,092 minutes, or just over 234 hours. It would take an additional two days (approximately 47.5 hours) to watch the 30 additional tele-films.
10. If Not For Radio, We May Have Never Had The Classic Television Program
Radio was a breeding ground for many of the well-remembered TV shows of the 1950s and ’60s. Perry Mason was no exception. The radio show first appeared in October 1943 and had a healthy 3,200-episode run. Mason was voiced by numerous voice actors.
Image source: OTRCat
11. Burr Had Only One Fan When He Read For The Part … But It Was The Only Fan He Needed
After an infuriating experience with the Perry Mason movies, including one incident where he actually removed the character from a movie that the studio had turned into a western, Gardner was determined to do the TV show right. He was sitting in at the auditions when a man named Raymond Burr read for the lead role (after trying out unsuccessfully for prosecutor Hamilton Burger). Gardner instantly took to Burr’s look and delivery and considered no one else for the part in spite of his producers’ objections.
12. Raymond Burr Was Best Known As Perry Mason, But He Wasn’t The Only Actor To Play The Part
In fact, Burr was both preceded and followed by other actors in the role, at least in relation to his successful TV series. (No one has took the role since Burr’s death.) The first person to play Perry Mason on film was Warren William, who starred in 1934’s theatrical feature The Case of the Howling Dog. He appeared three more times in the role before handing it off to Ricardo Cortez for 1936’s The Case of the Black Cat.
Donald Woods was the last actor before Burr to play Perry Mason in The Case of the Stuttering Bishop (1937), but there would be another short-lived Perry in the 1970s when Monte Markham took over for Burr in The New Perry Mason. Unlike its predecessor, this TV series ditched the iconic music and only made it to episode 15 before its cancellation.
13. If You Want The Truest Interpretation Of The Character, The Burr Series Was It
That’s because Erle Stanley Gardner had full creative control of the character unlike with the six theatrical films.
14. Gardner’s Least Favorite Version Of Perry Mason Was…
Before Burr brought Perry Mason to TV audiences, three actors took on the role. The first, Warren William, had a successful four-film run. However, the second and third stars received one film apiece. According to IMDB, this was because Gardner objected “vehemently” to the casting of Ricardo Cortez, and the experience motivated him to have more control over his characters moving forward.
While Woods was a better choice in Gardner’s eyes, he apparently wasn’t good enough. Gardner waited 20 years before he would give studios another crack at it, and when the original Perry Mason series premiered, it was on the author’s terms.
Image source: Pinterest
15. Of The Six Theatrical Perry Mason Films, Five Were Adapted From The Original Novels
Warren William’s four features — Howling Dog, Curious Bride, Lucky Legs, and Velvet Claws — were all among the first novels published. Stuttering Bishop starring Donald Woods was also an adaptation. The Case of the Black Cat (starring Ricardo Cortez) was the only one not adapted from the books. Coincidentally, it was Gardner’s least favorite of the films.
16. The Original ‘Perry Mason’ TV Show Had One Of The Longest Syndication Runs In Television History
The original Perry Mason television series boasts one of the longest syndication runs of all time (if not THE longest). In fact, it wasn’t until September 2014 that one of its final affiliates, KPTV-TV in Portland, pulled the plug on it. That was following a tenure of close to half a century (48 years) on the station, Oregon Live notes. However, it is still possible to catch the series on the Hallmark Movie Channel. It’s also available on DVD through Amazon and other retailers.
17. The 1957 ‘Perry Mason’ Series Helped Launch The Careers Of Several Big-Name Stars
Just a short list of the people that Perry Mason helped put on the map, according to the Temecula website, include Barbara Eden, Burt Reynolds, Adam West, Dick Clark, Robert Redford, Angie Dickinson, Leonard Nimoy, James Coburn, Ryan O’Neal and Cloris Leachman.
Image source: DVD Beaver
18. If Not For One Argument, Perry Mason Could Have Been One Of The Most Successful Soap Operas Of All Time
Prior to the launch of the influential TV series, Gardner was on the verge of moving forward with Perry Mason as a soap opera called The Edge of Night. CBS wanted Perry Mason to have a love interest on the show, and Gardner objected. The two sides couldn’t come to terms, according to Radio Crime Fighters, so The Edge of Night was retooled and ended up running from 1956 to 1984 (7,240 episodes). Gardner eventually buried the hatchet with CBS and launched his own successful series a year after The Edge of Night’s debut.
19. Contrary To Popular Belief, Perry Mason Did Not Win Every Case
According to The Perry Mason TV Show Book, the unbeatable defense attorney actually did lose three cases (that we know about) during his career. In “The Case of the Witless Witness,” Mason loses a non-murder case, a “matter of civil law,” the site notes. In “The Case of the Terrified Typist,” Mason’s client is found guilty of murder, but he eventually manages to clear her name anyway. Last but not least in “The Case of the Deadly Verdict,” Perry’s client is found guilty of murder and is sentenced to death in the gas chamber. (But once again, Perry saves the day before that can go down.)
20. Perry Mason’s Creator Is Also A Crossword Puzzle Celebrity
The Shortz List of Crossword Celebrities notes that, as of January 2012, Erle Stanley Gardner has the highest ratio (5.31) of mentions in the The New York Times crossword puzzle to mentions in the rest of the newspaper among all other people since 1993. It’s believed this is due to his first name’s “unusual pattern of common letters,” and the fact that few other famous people have the name Erle.
21. Your Next Perry Mason Could Be…
If you thought Hollywood could leave a successful and prolific property like this alone, then you’re sadly mistaken. Since 2011, a theatrical Perry Mason reboot has been in development. The new Perry Mason would presumably be Robert Downey, Jr., who’s also producing. In a reddit AMA, he had this to say about the project.
“The Perry Mason project we’re developing is kind of a pre-‘Chinatown’ gumshoe thriller with some courtroom stakes, and action sequences.”
Image source: CiaoMovie.it
Although we here at The Reeves Law Group wish we could be as awesome as Perry Mason, unfortunately, most of our cases aren’t nearly as exciting.
Regardless, which of these facts about Perry Mason did you already know, and which ones caught you off-guard? Also, what were some we may have forgotten? Sound off in our comments section!
Great piece. Took me on a enjoyable walk down memory lane.
I have been a Perry Mason fan since I was a very young girl. I was inspired by Mason and wanted to make law my life’s work. However, it was not to be. I became a Special Education Teacher instead, but I still watch all the reruns. I enjoy the show every week night at 11:30 on ME T.V. In my opinion I think the old Perry Mason episodes are better than many on the new shows.
No other actor has the authority that Raymond Burr projected. He’s the one & only!
I was reading that the the series consists of more than 250 episodes that ran between 1957 and 1966. I personally didn’t watch much of the original series as a kid but did see ALL of the made-for-tv movies that started airing in 1985 with “Perry Mason Returns.”
It was a real shame when Raymond Burr died of cancer in 1993 and they recast for the final movies. RIP Ray. You were the best!
Awesome read! I have to admit I did not know any of those facts. ‘To Watch The Entire ‘Perry Mason’ TV Show From Beginning To End Once Without Any Breaks, It Would Take Approximately 10 Days Of Your Life’ – that is insane! Thanks for the interesting article.
Perry Mason didn’t have a love interest probably because he was gay…and may have been a bit uncomfortable portraying these types of scenes..but Burr was a great actor nontheless!!
Wow! These are some interesting facts – most of them I didn’t know! The soap opera fact is funny and interesting. Guess I have to watch the entire series, set aside ten days of my life;)
Wow, I had no idea Perry Mason was not the original name! I knew some things because my father was a serious fan of the show, so I’ve actually seen it performed both by Burr and Markham. Really hoping to see how Downey’s going to pull it off… probably great.
That was absolutely worth the read! The facts were really interesting and I didn’t know many of the ones enlisted.
Perry Mason, what a man! I loved his show. The facts about him were really informative as I really didn’t know a lot of them. High hopes for Downey though.
Pretty sure that # 8 is wrong. The leads on Gunsmoke all logged 500-600 episodes and the the Cartwrights on Bonanza were 400+ each. So Raymond Burr as Perry Mason might not even crack the Top 10. Otherwise cool stuff.
Hi Greg, you aren’t wrong. #8 should be clarified. Raymond Burr holds the record for most SYNDICATED appearances of a character on TV, ever. And this is due to the fact that Perry Mason still airs live on the Hallmark Channel and was in regular syndication throughout the 90’s on TBS and WGN.
I’ll make it a point to clarify that later today. Thanks for the catch!
You might want to double check Gunsmoke for syndicated appearances, too. The color episodes have been in syndication as long as Perry mason. Right now, TVLand is broadcasting 4 or 5 episodes every weekday. Starz Western channel has one to three episodes every day of Marshal Dillon. (The half hour version of Gunsmoke was renamed Marshal Dillon for syndication) MeTv has a daily episode of the one hour, black and white version that bridged the gap between 1/2 hour and color versions.
I have no idea where you would look up that information. Good luck!
WHO DOESN’T LOVE PERRY MASON. I GREW UP WITH HIM. I SAT NAILED TO MY LITTLE SPACE ON THE FLOOR WATCHING HIM WEAVE HIS MAGIC.
I ALWAYS WANTED PERRY AND DELLA TO GET INVOLVED.THE WAY THE SCRIPTS WERE WRITTEN THEY LEFT YOU GUESSING.DO THEY OR DON’T THEY???
I MET RAYMOND BURR WHEN HE STAYED AT THE HOTEL I WORKED.
HE WAS A GENTLMAN AND A VERY GENTLE MAN.
You are lucky to have met him. I wish I could have!
LET’S HOPE ROBERT DOWNEY JR. DOES RAYMOND BURR PROUD.
The movie “The Case of the Black Cat” was actually the same story as “The Case of The Caretakers Cat” made as an episode of Perry Mason.
I still watch the show regularly and have loved ever since i was a kid the late 60’s. My favorite character next to Perry Mason is the brilliant Ray Collins as Lt. Arthur Tragg.
Oh yeah, Tragg was GREAT. Loved that fedora he wore!
I cringe at the thought of anyone else playing Perry Mason. Raymond Burr had the authority, intelligence & charisma necessary. No one else can ever replace him.
I watch Perry, Della, Paul and Tragg every night while I fall asleep. It’s like being with family – I love them all!
There was one episode in which Perry Mason was rushing to the aid of someone in a field. He was riding a 1962 black Honda “Dream” in his suit. Years ago, I bought one and could not get the scene and theme music out of my head. Perry came roaring downhill as the music began and he rescued the situation. Which episode was it?
Do not recall any episodes where Perry rode a Motorcycle
Always have been a huge Perry Mason fan I remember seeing it in the original Raymond Burr portrayal. The series always had class, elegance, style and more importantly–it had a sensibility about it to keep it about the crime and criminal procedure. I don’t know if any of those were correct, but it was certainly the most entertaining TV series I remember.
I just started watching the series, on FETV, and am hooked. There aren’t enough superlatives for this show.
Perry’s record on tv continues as he is seen daily on MEtv and FEtv and yes even Decades tv shows the show often.
Actually, you can still see the “Perry Mason” TV series episodes on ME TV carried in many markets. (as of 12/2017)
ME has it on twice a day. 9 AM and 11:30 PM EST. Love the show.
He is my all-time favorite lawyer. I try to watch him on MeTV in the mornings and at night.
In a dual role, Raymond Burr played the part of the actual murderer during the aptly-named episode, “The Case of the Dead Ringer.” His character was a dour sea captain who sounded just like a drunken pirate.
The best lawyer!
I purchased the entire series on DVD and watch them often. The series regulars had class and chemistry. Burr died just before I was born, but he like a family member. I know that sounds corny, but the man had a presence that few actors have. He had 2 hit shows, that not just coincidence.
i am a huge fan of PERRY MASON books and have read most of them.Have not watched any TV shows, though. I have penned an article, ” The case of the missing letters”, making use of only the titles of Perry Mason books. It is on the site Perry Mason fan club.
I started watching Perry Mason as a little girl and still watch the show on MeTV on the weekdays. My Mom and Dad purchased the series of Perry Mason for for their travel entertainment. Awesome show. Thank you MeTV for the reruns.
Nicely written! You might mention that before playing Perry Mason, Raymond Burr played villiains in movies, the most famous one being in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” Also, YouTube has a Perry Mason screen test with not only Burr but also William Hopper giving their versions. Burr was great in the role, but so also was the central cast that gave life to the characters: Della Street, Paul Drake, Hamilton Burger and Lt. Tragg.
Lastly, it’s just amazing, given today’s reality, that Paul Drake, who runs a fully-staffed detective agency, just jumps for free whenever and for whatever Perry needs. I guess “that’s what friends are for.” Anyway, the show was a great one!
Are the Perry Mason characters in the public domain? Thanks.
I am now enjoying Perry Mason series since I was an infant at its debut and remember none of the complete shows from then. However, my husband and I watch at least one almost each evening we are free.
Thanks Perry, for standing for truth we rarely see any more.
Does anyone know the make/brand of wrist watch Perry wears on the show?
The show seemed to have about 50 actors & actresses they used over and over again, playing different roles. Never saw this happen in any other series, either before or afterward.
I think other series such as the older “Hopalong Cassidy” did the same.
I have also been a huge fan of Perry Mason for many years. The author was certainly right when he insisted on Raymond Burr as Perry. I have also seen screen tests of William Hooper as Perry. He was good but not as effective as Raymond. The cast was perfect too.
AS A CHILD IN SCHOOL, I HAD “MS. SPINK” FOR BASIC LAW. I’LL NEVER FORGET HER TELLING OUR CLASS TO WATCH “THE PERRY MASON SHOW” SHE SAID IT WAS THE MOST ACCURATE COURT ROOM PROCEEDURE WE WOULD EVER SEE ON TV. WE SHOYLD LEARN FORM IT. I ENJOY SEEING WILLIAM HOPPER IN 1930’S MOVIES IN BIT PARTS. COOL STUFF!!!!!!
A Perry Mason whose not a trail attorney is no Perry Mason for me. I’m out before I’m in. Thanks a lot Hollywood
The web post says my comments already appeared. I don’t see it anywhere. SpaceA Perry Mason whose not a trail attorney is no Perry Mason for me. I’m out before I’m in. Thanks a lot Hollywood
The web post says my comments already appeared. I don’t see it anywhere. A Perry Mason whose not a trail attorney is no Perry Mason for me. I’m out before I’m in. Thanks a lot Hollywood.
I have never posted on this site before.
In the episode of the “Misguided Model”, did Perry Mason make the ethically correct decision to disclose that his client, Duke, had admitted to him that he killed the victim (even though it turned out Duke was not the killer)?
“Perry Mason” is back in syndication! It’s on FETV in the afternoons (ET). One Sunday, June15, 2020, from 2-8 pm ET, FETV is running all the episodes with guest actors who later became famous. They’re calling it “Perry Mason: Before They Were Stars.”
When Perry Mason ran during the 1960s, it fascinated me, because my father was a federal investigator, working undercover investigating mob activity. The grilling that I saw from police investigators on Perry Mason wasn’t much different than what I got when my father suspected the normal wayward activities of my teen years. At 12, I could easily handle grilling that would shake a hardened criminal. I thought that was normal, until my father switched tactics, giving up on me, and focusing his interrogations on my friends, who should have been wiser because they were 2-3 years older than me. My jaw just dropped, when they turned ash white under his glare, then admitted everything. I always thought the ending confessions on Perry Mason were too unrealistic, until I saw my friends buckle under an experience interrogator.
I have seen every episode of Raymond Burr’s “Perry Mason “ enough times to give a synopsis of them just looking at the title lol, but continue to watch the morning and evening airings of the show every day. Good solid entertainment!
If you can, and if you agree, please change “took” to “taken” in the following section of your feature on Perry Mason:
In fact, Burr was both preceded and followed by other actors in the role, at least in relation to his successful TV series. (No one has took the role since Burr’s death.)