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#115: The Case of the
Original Airdate: 03/18/61
From The Perry Mason TV Show Book (Revised)
This offbeat episode should be a delight for hard-core Perry-watchers. The fact that Paul finds himself arrested for the crime of “not wearing a beard” is just one of the oddities in the show. There is almost a faint hint of The Twilight Zone in the mood and setting of the story, a small town somewhere in California where, at least for a few days, all males must wear beards.
The plot itself is routinely complicated. The town’s former bank president returns from prison after being convicted of embezzling $33,750—money that was never found. Town gossip associates him with a pretty local girl, who left town to escape the court of public opinion. The girl hires Paul Drake to help her clear her name. Drake follows her to the town and finds her in worse trouble--charged with murder. Paul calls Mason to help set her free.
The flavor of the 1950s is everywhere in this episode. A restaurant menu features ground sirloin steak for 95¢; fish and chips for $1.00, and fried jumbo shrimp for a whopping $1.25.
Also, blooper fans will spot a strange black band that appears at the top of their television screens during the opening shots of the episode. As the scenes look like on-location shots and involve characters entering and leaving stores, possibly the blackout was put there at the last minute by the producers not wanting to give actual store owners a plug on TV. The show stars Adam West, who went on to play Batman.
Starring Raymond Burr
in The Case of THE BAREFACED WITNESS
Based Upon Characters Created By Erle Stanley Gardner
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Directed by Laslo Benedek
Written by Robert C. Dennis
Arthur Marks | Producer
Gail Patrick Jackson | Executive Producer
Produced by The CBS Television Network in association with Paisano Productions
Jackson Gillis | Story Consultant
Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Paul Fix as Prosecutor Hale
Josephine Hutchinson as Miss Sarah
Malcolm Atterbury as Alfred Needham
Roy Roberts as W. L. Picard
Adam West as Dan Southern
Enid Janes as Iris McKay
Russ Conway as Fred Swan
Eloise Hardt as Marta Wiltern
Lewis Martin as Judge
Tom Fadden as Beller
Charles Briggs as Policeman
Russ Bender as Chief Hagerty
Rosemary Day as Secretary
Production Supervisor … Dewey Starkey
Director of Photography … Frank Redman, A.S.C.
Art Direction … Lewis Creber
Assistant Director … Robert G. Stone
Film Editor … Otto Meyer, A.C.E.
Casting … Harvey Clermont
Makeup … Irving Pringle
Hair Stylist … Annabell
Wardrobe Supervision … Ed McDermott, Evelyn Carruth
Set Decoration … Charles Q. Vassar
Sound Effects Editor … Gene Eliot, M.P.S.E.
Music Editor … Gene Feldman
Properties … Ray Thompson
Production Sound Mixer … Herman Lewis
Script Supervision … M.E.M. Gibsone
Sound … Glen Glenn Sound Co.
Titles and Opticals … Pacific Title
Perry Mason \ A Film Presentation
A CBS Television Network Production
Location: In the scene where Paul is on his way to W. L. Picard’s office, two California state highway signs can be seen, one for route 23 and the other for route 118. These roads actually converge in the city of Moorpark, not in the “Pinon City” of the show. See here. Submitted by Steve Fox, 10/7/2004.
+ On the "here" page there is a query about arrows under the highway signs. There isn't anywhere to answer it there, so I figured I'd post it here. The arrow under 23 means "go straight to follow Highway 23." The arrows under 118 mean "go straight or turn left to follow Highway 118, depending on which direction you are heading.". OLEF641, 12/16/16.
That Mysterious Black Bar that appears in the scene with the roadsigns is there to cover up a sign. More here. From a post to the Perry_Mason Yahoo! group by Rich Erickson, 12/16/2006.
+ I scanned this episode on the Perry Mason 50th Anniversary DVD for the scene of the Mysterious Black Bar and find that there is no black bar. It looks like the scene has been stretched vertically to eliminate the bar. Tricky! Posted by daveb, 4/8/2008.
I don't think they stretched the frame vertically. It looks more like they just expanded it to 4:3 which also cropped out the left side. The top of the frame is right below where the bottom of the bar would've been. Submitted by Arisia, 03/15/18
The building that Paul enters at the intersection with the mysterious black bar appears is located at 601 Moorpark Ave. The building sits on the NE corner, so the camera was set up just north of the building in the middle of the road apparently. It has changed little save for the awnings over the windows and doors. It is also the location where Aunt Sarah enters the police station in another scene. Posted by Kenmore, 12/02/2016
The restaurant that Paul enters to meet Perry appears to be a building that sits at 105 E High Street, just one block east of the building that Paul entered with the "mysterious black bar" over the top. Today, it's a liquor store and the facade has changed somewhat, but it otherwise looks pretty close. Submitted by Kenmore, 12/02/2016
+To the left of the reastaurant door is a poster in a frame advertising the movie "Dos Tenorios de Barrio." This is a comedy, released in ... 1949! Here is an alternative version of the poster:
Submitted by catyron, 12/28/2017.
Goof: I noticed a blooper in the opening scene. When Adam West looks at the registration for the truck, it says it is a “Ford Pickup.” In the next shot, when the truck pulls up it can clearly be seen that it is a GMC truck. Submitted by J Fleming, 12/31/2009.
Fred Swan's Auto Registration form, spied by J Fleming on Car (1), reads:
As per normal, we're only supposed to notice the owner's name: this vehicle isn't a Ford, the plates aren't NFL 252 and Fred's yet another resident of 1040 Las Palmas. What's interesting, though, is that the "Date Issued" entry is about the right time for this prop to have been prepared for this episode. Added by Gary Woloski, 1/11/12.
In another entry of TCOT All-Purpose Address, the above truck registration indicates that Fred Swan is yet another resident of 1040 N. Las Palmas in LA (also used in episodes #78, #89 and #100). As daveb mentioned, Hollywood Center Studio is the long-time tenant of that address, and at their website the Mason series appears in the “Featured List” of TV productions filmed there. Submitted by FredK, 1/3/2010. There’s more about this on the Location Trivia page.
Eloise Hardt makes her only Perry appearance here as Marta Wiltern. When I initially watched the episode, I thought she was Barbara Bain, the resembleance is remarkable. In 1968 Eloise Hardt’s only child, Marina Habe, a 17-year-old college student, was kidnapped and murdered. The murder was never solved, but a lot of people believe it had something to do with the Manson crowd. Submitted by PaulDrake 33, 29 January 2010.
"Philadelphia native Malcolm Atterbury was born into a wealthy family - his father was President of the Pennsylvania Railroad," IMDb observes and lists 5 Perry appearances among his roles. Mike Bedard 2.17.15.
Neither D.A. Burger (William Talman) nor Lt. Tragg (Ray Collins) appears in this episode. Collins, however, appears in the credits while Talman does not. Submitted by gracep, 11/8/2010.
Character Names: Although left out of the credits, Miss Sarah’s last name is McKay, and Prosecutor Hale’s first name is Jonathan. The prosecutor refers to a officer named Gene Barr, but it may or may not be the same Policeman in the credits. Submitted by gracep, 11/8/2010; updated 7/7/2011.
Sightings: The food at Mr. Needham’s restaurant in Pinon City must be awfully good, because it lured Distinguished Gentleman #1 from L.A. to the little town. We see him sipping tea and talking enthusiastically to his companion as Iris McKay (Enid James) storms in. One of the few times he is so emotive! Submitted by gracep, 11/8/2010.
+ Read about all our favorite frequent faces and help us spot more! Submitted by gracep, 11/9/2010.
Less than five years after this episode was first shown, Adam West sported a cape in the memorable title role of TV's Batman series, which first aired on January 13, 1966, and ran for three seasons. Submitted by Fifty-Niner on July 12, 2011.
CARS. (1) 1948 - 1953 GMC PickUp Truck with camper pod, Lic No RKM 126, med color, Fred Swan. Note GMC badges on nose and sides of hood. Appears to have new-fer-'52 pushbutton door handles, otherwise could be any '48-'53 GMC FC-Series light truck (split windshield is pre-'54).
Background Cars: (a) After Iris excuses herself from Miss Sara and "W.L." she runs past a 1960 Chevrolet Corvair 4-Door Sedan, med color (wiki article here). The car beyond the Corvair looks like a 1954 Dodge (note the unique taillights). Even photos of this car are rare!
Added by Gary Woloski, 10/31/12.
+ Miss Sarah even correctly gives the age of her "machine" as 22 years in the closing scene. Submitted by HamBurger, 9/9/2018
Long arm...er, sideburn of the Law Although Paul is too good natured - or is it too unobservant? - to point it out, neither of the gendarmes who arrest him for beardlessness sports one either (though they do both have mustaches); in fact, of all the characters in the show only Fred Swan sports one...ironically. Submitted by Notcom, 120415.
+ Alfred Needham has one, though at the trial he's clean shaven. Submitted by Kilo 8/26/2017.
This is the first of four PM appearances for Roy Roberts. He was a familiar face on stage, screen and television for forty years...MikeM.9/8/2016
This is the first of two PM appearances for Rosemary Day, whose earliest television role may have been as a clerk in an episode of I Led 3 Lives in 1955...MikeM. 12/15/2016
Interesting Headline: The folded newspaper that Dan Southern is holding at the beginning (1:06 on the DVD) has an interesting headline: "Waldorf Presents New Portrait of Jesus of Nazareth". Submitted by Kilo 8/26/2017.
The two bearded men who open the show walking toward the camera are also seen at the train station when Paul arrives. And wearing the same clothes. Submitted by Kilo 8/26/2017.
At the train station Paul is talking to Marta Wiltern. Later when Paul is driving down the road in his rental car there's Marta on the sidewalk watching him drive by. Submitted by Kilo 8/26/2017.
This is the third of five PM appearances for Paul Fix. He was prosecutor twice and district attorney three times...MikeM. 9/14/2017
Enid Janes was the wife of Jules Levy, a producer of "The Rifleman" TV series...BobB. 9/18/2017
I noticed several people pronouncing the name of the city as [PIN-yon] — as if it were spelled “Piñon.” But there is no tilde (~) above the ‘N’ on any of the signs. Don’t know if it’s really a goof or if a it’s a California thing to keep a quasi-Spanish pronunciation but drop the diacritical marks. Any comments? Submitted by New York GraceP, 11/5/2010.
+ I think this not a goof. It’s just the way it was. I grew up in SoCal in the 1950s, and I don’t remember seeing many tildes yet we pronounced things the Spanish way. One I recall was the city of La Canada. Now joined with Flintridge, their website can’t seem to decide about the tilde. Submitted by daveb, 3/10/2011.
+ Before word-processors, tildes in Spanish words were routinely left as plain 'n' as there is no "enye" (?sp?) on the English language typewriter. Californians generally learn when to add the 'y' sound by hearing the applicable words pronounced by others. As 'Pinon' comes from Spanish, the proper pronounciation is 'Pin-yon'. Native and life-long Californian OLEF641, 12/15/16.
The scene described where Drake is arrested for not wearing a beard is NOT in the syndication print, so the whole thing does not make any sense when Paul references it later. Submitted by gracep, 11/5/2010.
Note the sign about 7:20 into the episode on the DVD. Behind Adam West and Iris at the Pinon City train depot the sign reads “Unbearded Men Will Be Pinched.” Submitted by Eric Cooper, 3/10/2011.
+ The same sign is behind W. L. Picard’s secretary’s desk. Added by gracenote, 7/7/2011.
+ "Pioneer Days" Beards are a Real Thing! In the 1950 film-noir Where Danger Lives, Dr Jeff Cameron (Robert Mitchum) is pinched in Postville AZ (fictional) during the town's Wild West "Whiskers Week". He is charged for "wearing no beard, no costume driving through Postville without due respect to or observance of the customs of said city" and fined "25 bucks for the Postville Cottage Hospital" (DVD 53:28).
This is not to say that TCOT Barefaced Witness borrowed from the movie. Rather, the movie and this episode were both echoing a real event which originated as "Senior Day" in Chico, CA in 1915. Mandatory Whiskers & Western clothes were added to the original event in 1925. Offenders could be thrown into Big Chico Creek. Read a comprehensive history with photos here. Added by Gary Woloski, 3/25/15.
This "frontier days" show aired in March 1961, and was preceded by another about a year earlier (TCOT Bashful Burro). I wonder if this was a popular thing to celebrate in California; many towns likely were passing the century mark then. Or maybe PM's writers just needed a plot hook for the out-of-town location (and in this case to find a suspect). At about the same time, the eastern Pennsylvania town where my family lived marked its sesquicentennial (150 year anniversary) and my grandfather grew a beard for the occasion. JohnK, 8 October 2015
Barbara Hale noted in TCOTBW intro that Perry sometimes left LA to try a case in more RURAL areas: "a pattern established in the novels of ESG" (50th Anniversary DVD set). Producer Arthur Marks commented that the VENUE changed from The City to other locales about every 6th episode. Mike Bedard 2.17.15.