“Perry Mason” ran for nine glorious seasons. Producers filmed the show entirely in black and white, with the exception of one episode. “The Case of the Twice-Told Twist” was Episode 21 of Season 9 — and the sole episode filmed in color.
The experiments with color were meant to be that – experiments. The show’s creators wanted to dabble in it before the release of Season 10. Sadly, this wasn’t meant to be. CBS canceled the show after season 9, leaving us with fond monochrome memories of the most celebrated attorney on TV.
The Origin Story of Perry Mason
Before penning a detective fiction masterpiece, Erle Stanley Gardner was a lawyer — a bored, disillusioned one. Despite a passion for the law, his job left him uninspired. Gardner quit and began writing fiction for pulp magazines, bringing several characters to life in some of his early works.
Among his recurring characters was a lawyer named Ken Corning. Corning was as sharp as he was good-looking — a crusading attorney, an accomplished detective too. Sounds like someone we know? Ken Corning’s character provided the archetypal image of the now-legendary Perry Mason.
Perry Mason Vs. Bonanza
Saturday night primetime television was never the same after Perry Mason. By the end of the second season, the show had stellar ratings and 25 million viewers. The CBS legal drama – a pioneer in television history – continued to gain traction. As the third season rolled around, the show had ranked number 10 on the Nielsen rating spot.
NBC couldn’t stand by and watch their rivals dominate ratings. The network’s answer to Perry Mason was “Bonanza” – a regularly-scheduled series that became hugely popular. What’s more, all the episodes were in color – a first for the industry then.
The Music That Made Mason
“Park Avenue Beat” or the show's theme song, was perhaps as iconic as the man. Everyone’s heard it. Most people can instantly recognize the smooth, jazzy brass notes of the opening theme. The very sophisticated groove was composed for the series by the talented Fred Steiner.
The music perfectly captures the lawyer’s personality. The score was so apt that any viewer could vibe with the show just by hearing the tune. When you think of this from a marketing standpoint, this is an ingenious move.
The Weight of Success
Mason made lawyering look effortless, always tipping the scales in his client’s favor. While a pro in the courtroom, actor Raymond Burr contended with different, more troubling scales in real life. The Hollywood heavyweight needed to shed some extra pounds. We know actors routinely shed or gain pounds for a role, but Burr needed to lose a significant amount.
At 6 ft 2 inches, the broad-shouldered Burr towered over everyone. Although he worked very hard to lose weight, the man was still big, but hey, big people have big hearts!