Sunday, December 29, 2013

Finally, a post!

I hope everyone has been having a wonderful December!
Oddly enough, I did have a topic for what should have been the next post. I was going to discuss The Poison Pen-Pal, one of the few out-of-town episodes I really like. But then I got caught up writing a Christmas story and working on another project. The only other time I might have had a chance to write the post, I was writing another Christmas story (and that time, one that was a gift). Neither Christmas story has anything to do with Perry, but hopefully soon I’ll have a chance to work on some of the Perry ideas I’ve had.
I watched The Crying Cherub on my local station Friday night. And I realized something that had never previously occurred to me: Since the deputies were given dialogue meant for Hamilton (and since Hamilton even had scenes for this episode that were taken out), Deputy Hanson’s interest in art must have really been meant to be Hamilton’s!
Before, I had just thought, Yay, another deputy that isn’t just a cookie cutter. But this new angle makes it much more significant.
Hamilton does show some indication in the series that he likes art to a certain extent; he has pictures hanging in his office that are very interesting and seem tailored to his personality and his feelings of fighting for justice. I never quite imagined art to actually be a hobby of his, however.
Regarding season 5’s The Poison Pen-Pal, it’s one of Douglas Henderson’s Perry episodes and is a very enjoyable and unique venture.
I’m glad that both pen-pals are innocent little girls and neither one means to do any harm. The script could have been written with one of the girls deliberately trying to find out information for an ill purpose, or with one of the girls not really being a child at all and instead a devious adult.
It’s interesting that the murder victim is found still alive. That only rarely happens in the series. Offhand, the only other character I can think of who fits that bill is Carina Wileen in The Fatal Fetish. And this lady in The Poison Pen-Pal dies of the original injuries, instead of receiving something new and fatal only in the hospital, as Carina does.
I always enjoy Douglas Henderson’s characters. Here, it seems like he might be being set-up to be the defendant, a role that actually goes to his former secretary. Douglas’s character is an overworked businessman, unable to spend the time with his daughter that he wants because of company business and problems getting in the way.
I love the interaction between Douglas’s character Peter and his daughter Sandra. Peter could have very humanly flipped out when Sandra said she had been telling her friend Jill about the company merger. Instead, he tries very hard to stay calm around Sandra. Later, he tells the detective he hires to investigate to be sure not to alarm Sandra when he questions her.
I always find it a little annoying when his former secretary Karen Ross accuses Paul of breaking into her house, and continues to insist that he must have even while Paul and Perry are both trying to explain that he didn’t. Part of it is that I don’t like seeing characters get unfairly accused (although that sort of thing abounds in this series and normally I roll with it). Also, though, wow, it’s hard for them to get her to see reason. Paul says they’ve been over it three times, without her budging. She finally shuts up when Della joins the conversation and gives Paul an alibi, but overall she definitely comes off as more annoying in the scene rather than not being easily swayed in a good way.
Murder victim Wilma, Peter’s aunt, is totally a brazen person. Peter certainly didn’t give her any guardianship rights before he left for Chicago, but she goes barging into his house, hits Sandra, and locks her in her room! I don’t blame him for becoming furious as soon as he learns of it.
The Lee character is quite obnoxious, making sarcastic cracks as soon as Wilma is dead. He does seem to regret that the candelabrum he gave her as a peace offering is what ended up becoming the murder weapon. The first time I saw the episode recently, I think I suspected him for a while.
The woman who actually was responsible, the wife of the general manager, is a bitter, cruel person. There’s some indication of her feelings very early on in the episode. I did find it a surprise when she was the murderer, but on repeat viewings there’s definitely hints all along the way.
The epilogue is really cute. Peter and Karen wanting to get married is quite predictable, after their interaction in the episode. But Sandra going on a boat ride with Perry, Paul, and Della is an unexpected twist. I bet that was a fun trip!
MeTV plans to air The Lady in the Lake on Friday. That’s certainly a compelling title. Although if the “lady” ends up being the murder victim, that’s a disturbing place to find the body!
And the first six Perry movies release on DVD New Year’s Eve! The price is still steep, though.
Have a very Perry New Year! Hopefully the posting schedule will start getting back to normal.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Notable Guest-Stars: Bruce Gordon

I decided to go to my idea of spotlighting Bruce Gordon, guest-star in three Perry episodes.

Born in 1916, Bruce Gordon started on the stage and for several years in the 1940s, played one of the policemen in Arsenic and Old Lace. When he went to the movies, he was in Love Happy. I think I need to watch that film again. There’s quite a few Perry alumni in it, including Raymond Burr himself!

He was with television almost from the beginning, with credits as early as 1951. As with many character actors, he appeared on several of the numerous anthology series. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on many more than are listed on

Of course, he is most well-known for playing Frank Nitti on The Untouchables. Originally the character wasn’t supposed to appear semi-regularly, but Bruce did such a good job that the character became popular with fans and appeared with increasing frequency as the series went on. Long after the end of the series, Bruce operated two different eateries called Frank Nitti’s Place and greeted patrons dressed as his interpretation of the character. I bet those were interesting places to visit!

One of my favorites of his guest-starring roles is in the One Step Beyond episode The Vision, a very powerful and moving adaptation of a mysterious event that happened during World War I. He plays a defense attorney assigned to four French soldiers charged with cowardice, a charge they most vehemently deny. (One of the soldiers is played by H.M. Wynant!) It’s one of the only times I’ve seen Bruce play a protagonist, and he takes to it very well, delivering a deeply poignant performance.

On Perry, Bruce’s first role is in season 3’s Paul Drake’s Dilemma. He plays a member of a well-to-do family who is cheating on his wife with a girl he knew long before he met his wife. He married into the family pretty much only for the money and was put in charge of business matters because he’s more competent at handling them than the father’s sons. One night while driving home upset, he accidentally hits and kills a man in the road. To his credit, he feels terrible about running from the scene, but then he agrees to the cover-up when the father insists on it. He hires Paul to deliver money to the widow, money supposedly obtained from a deal up in Canada. When Paul puts the truth together, he and the son-in-law have it out in the mistress’s hotel room and Paul ends up accused of killing him.

Again Bruce plays the murder victim in season 4’s The Loquacious Liar. Although H.M. is in the cast too, this time they do not share screentime. Bruce’s character is again cheating on his wife. And he and his step-son hate each other. But he isn’t responsible for hiring someone to scare his step-son into thinking there’s an assassination attempt on his life. He is furious and puzzled and believes that his step-son is making it up. After they have a fight, he ends up dead on the floor.

He isn’t seen again until season 8’s The Blonde Bonanza, and unfortunately, I rarely see that episode and do not recall his character off-hand. Skimming through the detailed summary of the episode at Storrer’s site, it looks like Bruce plays a relative good guy, the estranged father of the defendant. Perry finds him out and wants him to reveal his identity, but he feels he cannot. Eventually it comes out, however, and in the end he tries to make good. The daughter, although having been understandably upset with him, decides to try to patch things up.

Bruce appeared on many classic television shows, including Ironside, Mannix, Adam-12, and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, and dozens of others. I don’t recall his specific characters, but I always enjoy his performances, whether he’s playing good guys or bad.

A real veteran character actor, he lived right on into 2011 and passed away just shy of his 95th birthday. With this good man went another important part of our classic movie and television legacy. But his amazing performances live on, to continue to be enjoyed and remembered for decades to come.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Bullied Bowler

Two posts in less than 24 hours! Well, after the long stretch of silence, perhaps it’s fitting.

I’ve had the urge to re-watch The Bullied Bowler for a while now. Tonight/this morning I decided I’d do it. I was delighted to find some odd parallels with Mannix, especially considering this episode came three years before the start of the series!

Our lawyer Mr. Kelly, a friend of Paul’s, has the first name of Joe. Thinking of Joe Mannix, it felt very familiar to hear calls of “Joe” throughout the episode.

I was terribly amused by Joe Kelly not knowing how to work a car phone and having to ask Paul how to do it. If the shows had run simultaneously, that would have been a perfect in-joke, since Joe Mannix has a car phone that he uses with ease.

Of course, the characters have some very similar facial expressions, a personal touch Mike Connors bestowed on all of his characters. And Joe Kelly has the same type of compassion and concern for the innocent and guiltless as does Joe Mannix. But Joe Kelly can be grateful he doesn’t attract as much trouble as Joe Mannix in the way of being beat up (although that rotten Jack did pretty much threaten it at one point)!

I adored seeing Paul and Joe Kelly interacting a lot, as well as Della and Joe. It’s the closest I’ll ever come to really seeing them interact with Mannix, outside of the stories I’m hoping to write with them.

Milton Selzer turns out a beautiful and bittersweet and heartbreaking performance as Dr. Max Taylor, a man tormented by his immense guilt over the death of the defendant’s wife, whom he had been trying to save as she gave birth. The girl’s mother twists him around her finger, hoping to make him do things that he really doesn’t want to do, including to shut down the defendant’s bowling alley as a health hazard before he’s finished his investigation into whether it’s really the cause of so much mysterious new illness and bacteria in the town. He persists in investigating anyway, telling his secretary that maybe this time he’s really doing the right thing, and ends up getting too close to the truth. He ends up being one of the series’ few seriously undeserving victims, being murdered for what he’s finding out.

What he’s discovering is that the bowling alley is getting its water through a line that runs too near the sewage of an oil refinery outside of town. It seems that’s been seeping into the bowling alley’s water supply. (Ugh!)

The girl’s mother, called The Duchess by most people in town, has no idea of what’s really going on with the oil refinery she owns. She’s determined to shut down the bowling alley, not just because she really believes it’s a health hazard but more because she’s bitter against the brothers who run it. She blames the one, her daughter’s husband, for the girl’s death. That unfortunately happened because of things Dr. Taylor told her that led her to believe her daughter was sick while traveling with her husband. Judging from what came out in court, however, Dr. Taylor wasn’t trying to cast blame on the husband; he just felt so horrible feeling responsible for the death himself that he tried to tell himself and others that she had already been ill in an attempt to absolve himself of at least some of the heavy burden he carried.

It still seems preposterous to me when The Duchess tries to shut down the bowling alley claiming it’s a den of hoodlums and immorality. It looks like a nice, family-friendly place when we see it. A pool hall would be more understandable as a recipient of The Duchess’s accusations, but a bowling alley?

I love that once The Duchess realizes she’s been gravely mistaken about the husband, she wants to repent of her attitude and try to make up for the heartache she caused him. She comes to him and his brother, wanting to help them keep the bowling alley running and also to see her adorable young grandson (as she did twice before in secret).

One of The Duchess’s friends, the mayor Orson Stillman, seemed very familiar to me in his facial expressions and later, in his voice. After studying him long and hard for a bit, I realized in about his second scene that he must be the same actor who played Joseph Kraft in The Bogus Books. He looked quite different without that wild white hair and those thick glasses, but he was still so distinctive that he was most recognizable. And looking at the man’s credits, I see I was right. The gentleman, Maurice Manson, appeared in three other Perry episodes, too.

This is one of the rare episodes featuring a guest lawyer in which Perry is not seen or heard at all. He’s off in Europe, and the following episode shows us the tail-end of his adventures over there. But Paul and Della keep Perry involved in the story anyway; he’s mentioned several times, including where Della recounts a telephone conversation she had with him.

When a character is absent, I love when it’s handled in this way, with the other characters thinking about and remembering them. And even without Perry, it’s a very good venture. It’s great for all Mike Connors/Mannix fans. Perhaps it’s not so compelling for those who don’t care for either, but there should be something that solely Perry fans can take away from it.

Paul and Della have some excellent amounts of screen-time, for one thing. That’s always a treat. And seeing the brilliant Milton Selzer is a very good thing. Whenever he appears in a cast, I immediately know that there will be a high-quality and immensely enjoyable performance. He was excellent in The Decadent Dean and he is excellent here as well. I just wish his poor character hadn't been so cruelly killed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And the posting gap ends at last.

I am so sorry for the terrible gap in posts. When I warned they might not come as frequently, I didn’t intend for there to be this much space before the next one!

We have been experiencing the utter frustration that digital television can bring. Our converter box conked out, rendering everything involving live television unusable. And when we finally got a digital television, thinking that would solve the problem, we still couldn’t record because the television didn’t have the converting technology that our VCR needed.

Thank goodness for Rite Aid and a sale they’re having this week. We got hold of a glorious converter box and now everything is set to go once again.

But with what all of that aggravation added onto the more typical havoc of the season, I didn’t have much time to sit and think about good post topics. Hence, this nasty week and a half gap.

A couple of nights ago I considered more notable guest-star posts, specifically a Bruce Gordon one since I ran across one of his Perry episodes again. And then of course yesterday was Ray Collins’ birthday and I had wanted to write a post for that. The only problem was, I haven’t seen anything new with him and I wasn’t sure what kind of angle I could use that I haven’t already used.

I also missed getting up a memorial post for Dan Tobin around November 26th. I was going to look at his guest-starring appearances on The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but hadn’t got to it yet, so I wasn’t sure what to write for him, either. It’s both amazing and sad, the utter lack of information available on him.

And just now I started thinking about the times Perry had Paul go undercover as a television repairman. I think it happened at least twice. And though I don’t think Paul actually “repaired” the sets either time, it made me wonder if he really could successfully repair a set, if needed. Maybe sometime I’ll write a silly short story about him dealing with the frustrations of technology and being forced to try to repair a television set or something else because someone keeps hanging around in the room and he can’t start looking for whatever Perry wants him to find.

I wonder how many different “jobs” Paul has had while undercover on cases. Paul often doesn’t seem to like doing that; I remember he didn’t like posing as a television repairman whenever Perry wanted it, fearing he would lose his license. And at the moment, the only other undercover job I remember him having is as a construction worker in The Carefree Coronary. I think that time it may have been his own idea? I’m not sure they specified one way or the other.

MeTV news regarding Perry actors and events: they will be showing both parts of The Fugitive series finale on Friday evening. Richard features in both parts. We caught part 1 on the 1st and he unfortunately had very little screentime in that. Hopefully part 2 will show him more.

Richard will also appear on Ironside Monday the 16th, and on Gunsmoke both Monday and Tuesday! I am not terribly fond of the Gunsmoke episodes, however, which are parts 1 and 2 of The Guns of Cibola Blance. Amanda Blake actually quit the series over those episodes, or so I have heard. She was not at all happy with the abuse Kitty was to take in those episodes, even being raped if I remember right. So she quit and they got a different girl to go through the horrors. Richard played a bad guy, but he does survive. Or at least that's what I got out of it when I tried to watch those episodes when they aired before. I was so confused and unimpressed that I started skipping around after a while and only stopped at all the Richard scenes I could find.

Also, a final note, The Killer Kiss, one of the Perry movies, will air on the 20th. Hopefully I will finally get around to watching The Glass Coffin before then.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Further musings on the lack of Christmas episodes

Happy December! I hope all American readers had a good Thanksgiving, and that all readers everywhere are having a good weekend.

I remember that last December I had quite a struggle finding time to write posts. That may end up the case again this year. This time I may simply not do it on those occasions instead of writing very short posts.

I also remember musing one time on the lack of Christmas episodes for the series. Now I can’t find the post, but I have been thinking about the topic again lately.

I recall saying that there were other dramas, even other detective/crime shows, that had Christmas episodes. But what I’m wondering now is if Erle Stanley Gardner or someone else on the Perry staff just didn’t want to ever do a Christmas-themed episode, perhaps because they were afraid of it being too depressing.

The other crime shows that did Christmas episodes back in the day seem to have treaded into that category sometimes. True, Dragnet had that sweet Christmas episode about the missing Jesus statue that they remade for Dragnet 1967, but they also had a much darker, grimmer, and heartbreaking episode that spoke out on the dangers of giving children guns as Christmas presents. Their New Year’s episode is also quite sad, with everyone going to a holiday party and then discovering that the husband co-host of the party has been killed. The poor wife just breaks down sobbing.

Then I saw the Christmas episode of The Untouchables Friday night. I was always a bit leery of seeing it, figuring that with a guy wearing a Santa suit being gunned down, it would be very dark and sad. It definitely was, and there was no attempt to try to make things even a bit happier at the end, as even the dark Dragnet Christmas episode did. It was stark, heartbreaking realism. Which was appropriate for the show in general and even for their Christmas episode, but it certainly made for a discouraging hour.

The biggest downer, I think, is how Eliot Ness keeps learning more and more horrible things about the murdered man, who was his friend. He eventually gets so disgusted and disillusioned that he wants off the case, but then a new lead comes up to help him catch the man’s underworld boss and he pounces on it.

When he finally confronts the boss, who ordered the hit on the friend even though the friend was completely loyal to him and wouldn’t have told about the crime he witnessed the boss committing, the final nail is pounded in the coffin. While outrageously and cruelly laughing, the crime boss insists that the friendship was never real on the friend’s part; he was using Eliot all along. We don’t actually know if that’s true, but it snaps Eliot’s patience after the long and grueling and heart-wrenching night. He smacks the creep around before arresting him. And that’s the end, as the narrator informs us that the boss was found innocent of the murder when he went to trial.

Of course, had there been a Perry Christmas episode, it would have been lighter and probably quite festive, even if Christmas was more of a background thing like with Halloween in most of The Dodging Domino. But since there wasn’t a single Perry episode without a real murder, someone would have been killed. Perhaps murder just wasn’t something Gardner or someone else on the staff wanted for a Christmas episode.

I think that the classic drama series that has the best Christmas episodes ever is probably The Twilight Zone. Seriously, for a show that was often dark and twisted, it could also show some of the most hopeful, beautiful things ever, and do it without being cheesy. I’ve loved all the Christmas episodes I’ve seen from that series.

I might try my hand at a Christmas Perry fanfiction venture this year, probably without a murder. But that will be dependent on if a good plot idea comes to me.

One thing I’ve been thinking of long and hard for almost as long as I’ve been enjoying Mannix is that Della should be Best Friends Forever with Joe Mannix’s secretary Peggy Fair. I can just imagine them bonding over the long hours they have to work and the dangerous situations their bosses end up in. (And how resourceful both Della and Peggy have to be many times.) And Della would be so good with Peggy’s young son Toby! It would be adorable.

I totally want to see them meet sometime. So that is most likely a fanfiction project I’ll be jumping on as soon as I feel I can write well for Peggy. Perhaps following a short story where they meet, I’ll try writing a full-blown crossover between the shows that would have a lot of Della and Peggy being awesome under pressure on a very dangerous case that would involve both Perry and Joe. Meanwhile, Paul and Joe would interact a lot, as would the two shows’ police officers. It would be such fun.