Thursday, October 6, 2011

Your Witness: Mason On The Comeback Trail

If you're any kind of 1950s to '60s TV fan -- and I know you are -- you can probably conjure up the Fred Steiner composed "Perry Mason" theme song in your head. Once you do, it's hard to stop thinking about it -- sorry about that.

As a Perry Mason fan it's good news to learn that Robert Downey Jr. is developing a script that could bring him to the big screen as the famed fictional attorney who never lost a case.

According to Variety, rather than setting the movie in the present, as did the TV show, the Downey script will be more faithful to the books written by Erle Stanley Gardner, and will take place in the "rough and tumble" 1930s L.A.

Mason, the irrepressible defense attorney who could never resist a hopeless case, was a relentless force in getting to the bottom of every investigation he handled. He inevitably saw the truth that law enforcement and the state overlooked.

Gardner, born in Malden, Mass., was a virtual book-writing machine who cranked out 82 Perry Mason novels and dozens of short stories. His extremely popular Mason series sold more than 425 million copies. He mentored both Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and sold more books than the two combined.

In addition to the "Perry Mason" TV show, starring Raymond Burr (pictured above), which ran from 1957 to 1966, the novels also inspired a 1930s radio program and a series of teleplays starring Burr that ran in the 1980s and '90s.

Aside from Downey in the title role, the feature film will include the familiar characters from the TV series, Mason's secretary Della Street, detective Paul Drake, and Mason's nemesis, prosecutor Hamilton Burger -- poor SOB never won a case.

It all sounds like perfect material for what could be a great piece of work by Downey: 1930s L.A. crime; murder; courtroom drama; a police investigation gone wrong, and brilliant deductions arrived at by a sophisticated legal mind. It's the stuff we can always use more of. The state rests.

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  1. Paul, I appreciate the Perry Mason books but never could get into the TV show. I agree this latest development involving Downey sounds very, very promising.

  2. Thanks for your comment, David. I think if any actor can breathe life into the old franchise, it'll be R.D. Jr.