Perry Mason was a star long before the TV show of the same name had us hopelessly hooked. America’s favorite lawyer and crime sleuth was born in the Perry Mason novels. Erle Stanley Gardner wrote a whopping 82 novels and 51 Perry Mason books were already in publication before 1957 when the show first aired.
To call the books a literary phenomenon would not be an overstatement! Gardner, who was a former attorney, wrote intricate, frenetically-paced plots that captivated audiences. In the 60s, publishers reported sales of two thousand books an hour in the United States.
Gardner’s Sole On-Screen Appearance
What do Stan Lee, Alfred Hitchcock, and Quentin Tarantino have in common? Legendary directors — all of them made several hundred cameos in their own movies. Perry Mason’s creator chose to stay away from the screen – save for one episode in the series' 9-season run.
Gardner appears in the final episode of the series “The Case of the Final Fade-Out.” He plays the judge, while the incredible Dick Clark (of "Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve" fame) takes on the role of the murderer. 'Twas a fittingly poetic appearance before the show ended.
He Didn’t Need Law School?!
Creator Erle Stanley Gardner used to be an unorthodox lawyer. He enrolled to study at Indiana’s Valparaiso University School of Law. After one month, the school suspended him for insufficient attendance. Gardner dropped out but studied independently and passed the California bar in 1911. He loved litigation, but the legal practice in general — not so much.
When the novels and his writing career took off, he quit being a lawyer without a second thought. He took his love for litigation and infused his creations with legal brilliance.
Cool, Cool, Cars
The show's greatness lies in its universal appeal. Characters and storylines dazzled audiences, as did the fleet of super-cool cars in the series. The series is heaven for vintage-car enthusiasts! It's hard to miss the sweet rides. Mason drives not just one but several classy, mid-century vehicles.
Did they reflect all the money he was making from case winnings? The show was never explicit about it, but it’s possible. The simple truth is that these vehicles were part of several sponsorships the show had with GM and Ford. It's always about advertising!
Awards, Awards, Awards
Very few shows gain appreciation from all, getting mass admiration as well as thoughtful industry appreciation, but "Perry Mason" did! The show consistently ranked among the top 5 most popular in America.
The series received a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award in its first season, while awards rained down on the actors as well. Raymond Burr won an Emmy for Best Actor – not once, but twice. Barbara Hale also took home an Emmy for her performance as the invincible Girl Friday, Della Street.