Before Burr immortalized Perry Mason on TV, three other actors played the role for theatrical films. Warren William was the first and arguably, the most successful with a four-film run. The second and third actors each received one film. Nobody was good enough.
When the series premiered 20 years later, Gardner ensured he retained complete creative control over characters and plot lines — he didn’t want producers and executives to mess up his masterpiece again.
The Longest Syndication Run in the History of All Time
The show made television history with a format that practically became a new canon – the legal drama. What’s more, the original show has one of the longest syndication runs in TV history. The show ran for 48 years on the Oregon Live station.
In September 2014, Portland’s KPTV-TV finally pulled the plug on the show after almost half a century. Fans can still catch the series on other platforms, however. A few online streaming platforms still carry the original show. And if all else fails, there’s always DVD!
Six Films, Five Novels
Five of the original Perry Mason novels were adapted into theatrical films. Warren William starred in the first four, which featured "Velvet Claws", "Curious Bride", "Howling Dog", and "Lucky Legs." The next was "Stuttering Bishop" starring Donald Woods.
"The Case of the Black Cat", the sixth film starring Ricardo Cortez was the only one without a connection to the Perry Mason novels. Unsurprisingly, it was Gardner’s least favorite among the six.
Casting Perry Mason
Gardner’s experiences with the big screen were horrendous, occasionally veering on the bizarre. When the opportunity for a Perry Mason TV show arose, a frustrated Gardner was determined to get it right. At least 50 actors auditioned for the coveted role of Perry Mason.
Gardner wasn’t impressed. This, until a man named Raymond Burr began reading for the part. Gardner instantly took to Burr’s delivery and persona. Despite everyone else’s objections, he refused to consider anyone else but Burr for the part.
Mason by the Numbers
Just for fun, let's break down the phenomenon of Perry Mason into numbers. Say a fan wanted to watch every episode of the Perry Mason show without any breaks from beginning to end. This would take approximately ten days straight!
If you thought that was fun, here’s another doozy. Raymond Burr holds one of the longest records for playing the same character in a TV show. Burr played Perry Mason for 36 years! The numbers truly offer a mind-blowing perspective into the show's incredible impact.