Monday, April 18, 2016

Birthday Tribute: Barbara Hale

I would certainly be remiss not to post and wish the wonderful Barbara Hale a happy 94th birthday! It is so awesome and special that she is still with us. I hope she has a lovely day with her family and friends!

Where would Perry Mason be without Della Street? It is incomprehensible to picture such a thing. Perry himself acknowledged that his office completely falls apart when Della takes a vacation. Della is faithful secretary, confidante, and always the loyal friend to Perry. (And a lot of fans think or wish she would also be his significant other.)

Of course, not just any woman could play such a character. It has to be someone who perfectly complements the man playing Perry. I remember seeing a screentest with someone else playing Della and reciting dialogue from one of the books. To me she seemed too much of a femme fatale, tough and cool, and I don't know at all if the series would have worked with her or someone like her in the part.

Barbara Hale made the character so perfectly her own. Della is certainly no pushover, but she's not brassy or rude. She is, as noted by a guest character in The Borrowed Baby, a lady. Barbara so expertly balanced Della's intelligence and sharp wit with kindness and consideration. Sometimes Della may be a little too kind, showing sympathy to some characters who probably don't deserve it. But that's part of what makes her who she is.

Barbara mused on how Della wasn't like her, at least in the way of practical joking. Barbara enjoyed such things. While Della is not a practical joker, however, she is definitely a teaser. Teasing Paul seems to be one of her favorite pastimes. I am not a teaser and am usually not fond of Perry or Della ganging up on Paul, but I do recognize that for them, it's just one of the ways they show affection. Della cares about Paul very deeply, even visibly breaking down and crying when Paul is seriously ill in The Carefree Coronary.

Della is never afraid to speak her mind, either with teasing or seriousness depending on what it is. Sometimes she will hold her tongue if she feels it's not her place to speak, such as with one of Perry's clients, or if she's trying to be polite. She doesn't usually get visibly angry, but one memorable occasion where she does is in The Dead Ringer. Both she and Paul become furious when Perry's client seems to believe that Perry tried to bribe a witness. They just won't have it.

Della loves children and also animals and interacts very well with them. She seems to long to have children of her own, especially in The Borrowed Baby, and I still say it's too sad to think she never gets to. That's just one of many reasons why the movies will never be canon to me.

While Perry always wants to see justice done, sometimes he longs for a vacation or doesn't want to take on a case for other reasons. Della serves as his conscience during these times, encouraging him to just see the person in need of help and hear their story. Naturally, he always ends up helping.

Barbara is one of the vital puzzle pieces of the Perry Mason formula. Perhaps an episode or two can get by without her when she wants a little more family time, but it always swiftly gets lonely when she remains absent. Her strong and soothing presence is very much needed and wanted amid all the defendant and suspect havoc and courtroom pyrotechnics. She brings a softness to the series, the woman's touch, and as a woman with a career who knows what she wants in life, she is a worthy role-model for women and girls everywhere.

Barbara and Raymond are the most constant of the Perry family, especially considering the long string of movies, and when Raymond sadly passed away Barbara remained in the last four movies as the one last link with the original Perry characters. She is still one of our last links to the Perry cast, and certainly the last link of the original Core Five. Here's to still more years!

4 comments:

  1. Whoever cast Barbara Hale as Della was a danged genius. Quite possibly the best supporting cast member in TV history. Happy Birthday, Barbara, may God grant you many more years & very good health. Thanks for all the enjoyment you gave to so so many fans. You are appreciated !!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A genius indeed! Barbara is one in a million.

      Delete
    2. so so sad to learn that Barbara Hale passed yesterday 1/26/2017. At 95 she had a long & wonderful life. I'm 67 & can think of no better supporting actress in the history of television than Ms Hale as Della Street. She was a superb actress. I enjoyed her work my whole life.

      My condolences & prayers to her Family who I'm sure loved her madly

      RIP Ms Hale, RIP

      Gary Gwynn aka hypie

      Delete
    3. Very sad indeed. It's wonderful we had her with us for so long, but still a blow to lose her. I should be getting a tribute post up for her over the weekend, hopefully today.

      Delete