Erle Stanley Gardner took on a big task when he started working on the show. Balancing creative liberty with legal know-how is far from easy, even for someone as savvy as Gardner.
The show’s script needed to be authentic to legal practices, which is why the production crew comprised of people who were either practicing or studying law. Gardner’s legal-eagle-eye overruled scripts containing incompetent or immaterial things. He managed to make a riveting show despite all of these technical hardships.
20,000 Copies Per Day
Gardner's first Perry Mason novel, “The Case of the Velvet Claws”, sold 28 million copies in the first fifteen years! Today this might not sound like such a big deal, but back in the mid-1950s, seeing novels flying off the shelves at 20,000 copies per day was pretty spectacular.
Perry Mason, the show, wouldn’t exist without the novels. This is a fact worth remembering — even at the risk of sounding like literary snobs.
Actors on the Wrong Side of the Law
William Talman played Hamilton Burger, a District Attorney with the Los Angeles County. But Talman’s lifestyle otherwise was dramatically different from his on-screen persona. He was a regular on the Hollywood party circuit, and one night, things got wild enough for him to warrant a suspension from the show.
The police arrested Talman and charged him with “indecent behavior.” Real-life became a reflection of art as Talman maintained his innocence and no wrongdoing. He was allowed to return to the show after the acquittal of all charges.
One Actor Left the Show Midway
After the 1960 run of the show, Ray Collins’ (Lt. Tragg) appearances became scattered. Collins was extremely ill during this time. His illness prevented him from memorizing lines or showing up regularly on set. When it became clear he couldn’t carry on, Collins had to leave the show midway during season 7.
The show’s creators decided to keep Collins’ name on the credits. The decision hoped to partly keep his morale going and ensure he continued receiving medical and health benefits from the actors’ union. Collins sadly passed away in 1965.
"Perry Mason" was undoubtedly a phenomenon in the country. It was the first one-hour Hollywood series that aired every week on TV and the American audience just loved tuning in.
But, contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t just a hit in the US. Most people don’t know that the show has aired in at least 58 countries! The show’s ‘whodunit’ premise was so appealing and universal that it worked in every single country!