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<< Greek Goddess | Episodes | Potted Planter >>

#179: The Case of the
Skeleton's Closet
Original Airdate: 05/02/63

Summary Edit

From The Perry Mason TV Show Book (Revised)
Richard Harris is the author of Dishonored: The True Story of Community, an exposé of Cliffside Heights. The citizens are so incensed about the book that a group of them hire Perry to sue Harris for libel. Perry procures an out-of-court settlement, but Harris has some hold over his publisher, Albert McCann, who reneges on the deal.

When Harris is killed, Perry finds himself back in court with another murder trial. The defendant is Cliffside Heights resident Margaret Layton. She was once married to Harris and desperately wants to keep her children from learning who their father is. The police think that’s a sufficient motive for murder.

Credits Edit

Random actor from episode. Click for page of all available.

Opening

Starring Raymond Burr
in The Case of THE SKELETON’S CLOSET
Based upon characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner
Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins

Trailing

Directed by Arthur Marks
Written by Sam Neuman
Art Seid | Producer
Gail Patrick Jackson | Executive Producer
Jackson Gillis | Associate Producer
Samuel Newman | Story Consultant

Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
Wiliam Talman as Hamilton Burger
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Wesley Lau as Lt. Anderson

Cast

Keith Andes as Dave Weaver
Peggy McCay as Margaret Layton
Frank Aletter as Harry Collins
Michael Pate as Richard Harris
David Lewis as Albert McCann
Dabbs Greer as Jack Tabor
Pat Finley as Grace Kingman
John Heath as George Layton
Walter Mathews as Second Reporter
Diane Mountford as Janet Layton
Linda Marshall as Norma Weaver
Toby Michaels as Secretary
Sally Smith as Nancy Layton
Pitt Herbert as Dr. Desmond
John Truax as Guard
Jarone Bakewell as First Reporter

Crew

“Perry Mason”
Director of Photography … Robert G. Hager
Art Direction … Lewis Creber
Assistant Director … Gordon A. Webb
Film Editor … John D. Faure
Casting … Harvey Clermont
Makeup … Irving Pringle
Hair Stylist … Annabell
Wardrobe Supervision … Ed McDermott, Evelyn Carruth
Set Decoration … Sandy Grace
Properties … Ray Thompson
Production Sound Mixer … Herman Lewis
Script Supervision … Cosmo Genovese
Theme Composed by … Fred Steiner

Perry Mason
Produced by the CBS Television Network in association with Paisano Productions

Trivia Edit

Uncredited Actors: This episode features an uncredited black judge, perhaps a daring thing in 1963. The judge does not appear to be Ivan Dixon. Comparison pictures here. Posted by dave, 11/11/2009.
+ And he is completely silent (at least in the syndicated version shown on Me-TV). Is this the only Perry Mason episode where the judge says nothing? And is it the only episode where neither the prosecutor nor Mason voice any objections during the trial? Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 11/18/2013.

Pat Finley makes her initial foray into acting here (1963) as Grace Kingman. This would be her only appearance on Perry, and her last screen credit until 1970. Ms. Finley is probably best known for her role as Bob Newhart’s sister, Ellen Hartley, in The Bob Newhart Show, 1974-1976. She also appeared as a judge in three Perry Mason movies in the 90s. Submitted by PaulDrake 33, 16 December 2009.

In the epilogue of this episode, there is a row of law books on the credenza behind Perry's desk. These books are at least a partial set of Corpus Juris Secundum that are held on each end by what look to be brass potpourri containers. The volume on the right end of the row of books is upside down. This can be seen after 49 minutes into the DVD of the episode. Here is a representative picture. Submitted by Charles Richmond, 27 May 2014.
+In episode 24 TCOT Deadly Double, during Perry's first meeting in his office with Helen Reed and Robert Crane, there is a set of law book on the shelf behind Perry, the book nearest Perry (seen over his right shoulder) is turned upside down. jfh 11May2017.

Sightings: In the opening scene, “Miss Carmody” speaks to someone and then sits down, out of view, behind the men talking in the foreground. A little later she is standing again as Richard Harris (Michael Pate) enters the room (and she sits down again). Apparently she is one of the reporters at the press conference, although she never asks a question. We see the back of her head once more as the scene fades. Submitted by gracenote, 2/7/2011.
+ Although the reporters are collectively addressed by Harris as, "Gentlemen". jfh 07Dec2016
+ That looks like Distinguished Gentleman #1 helping a customer at Collins’ office supply store. A little later, he turns up as the court reporter. He certainly is busy holding two jobs at once. Submitted by gracenote, 2/8/2011.
+ Read more about these and other recurring background players in the Who Is That? section. Submitted by gracenote, 2/8/2011.

When Paul quotes, “Things are seldom what they seem / Skim milk masquerades as cream,” he’s quoting Gilbert and Sullivan, specifically a duet from H.M.S. Pinafore. The duet is full of commonplace sayings that predated Gilbert, but stringing these specific lines together back-to-back identifies it as Gilbert’s lyric. Submitted by alan_sings, 11/23/2011.

CARS. The PaperBoy delivers the Cliffside Heights Sentinel (motto: Primo Veritas) from his:

  • (1) 1954 Schwinn Wasp ('54 or later) with rear rack & newspaper bags. This was the standard mode of newspaper delivery in the 1950s/60s, and was seen in every neighbourhood, every day.

As PaperBoy tosses the newspaper onto the Layton's front walk he pedals by a:

  • (2) med-color 1963 Buick Electra 225 HardTop (2-dr?), Black-Plate No QCV 009 parked on street in front of Layton home; presumably George Layton drives the girls to school in it.

As Margaret Layton comes around the side of her house to meet Dave Weaver at the front, there's a

Later, in the location-setter out in front of the LA County Courthouse:

  • (4) Perry walks from his OLD black 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 Sunliner (top down) into the Courthouse. This is re-used film footage from early Season 6, which explains the expired yellow-plate Lic No XCF 015 on Perry's car. See the Courthouse Location-Setter entry below.

Fifty-plus years after this episode aired there's lots of these cars left to be seen but the genuine bicycle-borne PaperBoy or Girl is, alas, virtually extinct in North America. Added by Gary Woloski, 10/2/13.
+ Indeed, I haven't seen anyone delivering a newspaper in at least ten years. Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 10/23/2013.

There are two very similar Season-6 versions of a Courthouse Location-Setter showing Perry walking from the driver's door of his 1962 Galaxie 500 Sunliner to the front doors of the LA County Courthouse on Hill St. They were each used in more than one episode. The version seen here in ep#179 is exactly the same shot as used in Ep#156, where I believe it originated. For reference, the cars stopped in the near (traffic) lane in this episode & #156 are, L-to-R:

In the other version (Ep#166), Perry's Skyliner is parked ahead of Paul's '62 TBird and traffic on Hill Street is scant: most noticeable is a white 1959 Cadillac Sixty Special Fleetwood 4-door hardtop, moving L-to-R. Added by Gary Woloski, 10/3/13.

Location. If you keep a mental image of the houses & street details from the PaperBoy scene, you will notice that the Laytons' street, "South Farrington" in "Cliffside Heights", is transported to the next episode as the Tarrs' street in "Palmetto" and that the Layton house (#622½) becomes the Tarr house. The camera was moved across the street for ep#180 (a bit more distant). Also, in ep#180 be observant as Andrea delivers Melinda home to the Tarr house. There's a mysterious structure in the shot that's not here in ep#179! Unless the structure was optically masked-out, I suppose the reason that we can't see it here in ep#179 is because the camera was located closer to the roof-lines than it was for ep#180. Added by Gary Woloski, 10/3/13.
+ If you observe the shadows cast by the sun, I think you will agree that the Layton house can only be:

  • on the North side of an East-West street (ie, facing South) or
  • on the West side of a North-South street (ie, facing East).

Added by Gary Woloski, 11/14/13.
+ With (quite) a bit of research, I've identified this location in the PaperBoy Scene as the North half of the 1300-block N. Sycamore Ave in Hollywood. The "Layton House" and its immediate neighbours still stand 50+ years later, as seen in this streetview on Sycamore just South of De Longpre Ave. The garage that housed Margaret's '54 Chevrolet is seen around the back to the right. You can also match the roofs and eves of the row-houses to the right of the garage to those seen when Margaret comes around the side of her house at 9:40. If you look North (to the Right) across the T-junction with De Longpre Ave, you'll see a fenced parking compound and the rear of a large building complex that had a very close relationship with the Perry Mason series!
      By the year 2013 the house neighbouring the "Layton House" to the South has grown a tall hedge. The houses further South beyond the neighbour's were replaced by apartment buildings in 1987 or later. Roof details of the neighbour's house visible above the hedge match what is seen during the PaperBoy's delivery.
      This finding was made by identifying and backtracking from the "mysterious structure" looming over the Tarrs' street in the next episode: see Comments Ep#180. Added by Gary Woloski, 12/08/13.

Names: The Pitt Herbert character was given the name Dr. Desmond in the credits. In episode 79 TCOT Lucky Legs he was identified as Dr. James Latham. Submitted by H. Mason 2/10/15

This is the first of two PM appearances for Linda Marshall,...MikeM. 12/7/2016

This is the second of two PM appearances for Diane Mountford, who was a regular with Barbara Hale's husband, Bill Williams, on the television series "Assignment: Underwater"...MikeM. 3/15/2017

Comments Edit

Is it just me, or is it odd that there are two walls of rifles for sale at the office supply store? Or is that a California thing? (At least Mason was puzzled by it, too.) Submitted by gracenote, 1/8/2011.
+ Near the end of the episode Mr. Collins acknowledges it is unusual to sell guns in an office supply store. He states is an expert and collector of firearms. It gives him an “excuse” to further indulge in his hobby. Submitted by Mason Jar, 9/19/2011.

And another thing, why is a policeman (Lt. Anderson) present while Perry is conferring with his client? (This occurs during a court recess.) It moves the plot along, but it’s highly irregular. Submitted by gracenote, 1/8/2011.

Having Paul present is also odd. Although private secretaries can have confidentiality umbrella (as do court-approved interpreters), private investigators do not. cgraul 10.5.12

Hopefully the Laytons (despite a recent large expense) can profit from the publicity and can afford to buy at least a second dress for each of their two daughters. And, speaking of the Sentinel, how often has it changed its content in the past 30 or so years? The article above the photo mentions that “Scott-Paine would make a definite decision” about the trophy race “not later than Thursday of the present week.” Maybe that is not the Hubert Scott-Paine who died in 1954! Submitted by masonite, 12/02/2011.

Odd, how that actor who played the judge seems to have disappeared into the mists of time .. I was able to find out that there were protests (probably letters) about his appearance (as there were against Nat King Cole's variety show, and later, against Nichelle Nichols' role in Star Trek, years later) but no information on him .. perhaps the experience soured him on acting? Also notice his similarity to real Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (?) Submitted by MikeReese, 7/29/2013.
+ Also odd that he wasn't identified in the credits. He had no lines and most on-screen nonspeaking parts are uncredited. The Norma Weaver character did not speak but was in the credits. Added by H. Mason 2/10/15

Who, me biased?: When one of the prosecution's witnesses is a serviceman with the Cliffside Heights Water and Power Company, I expect testimony something like, "I turned on the power at 5:13, yes sir." "No further questions." When Dabbs Greer is the serviceman, I expect testimony that is more voluble, and he entertains us yet again with the not-quite-simple description of a day in his life. During the cross examination, Perry asks Mr. Tabor, "Tell me, Mr. Tabor, if you were biased, fanatically righteous let us assume, would you permit that prejudice to affect your objectivity, your ability to see and tell the truth?" "Why not at all!" Mr. Tabor answers. Perry then reads back some of his testimony and, as in #29 TCOT Hesitant Hostess, the read-back is less than accurate. The original testimony (starting at 35:11 on the 2011 Paramount DVD): "There was a woman. Stiff. She was leaning forward, her hands flat on a desk, as she was looking down over the desk to the floor, to something on the other side of the desk. Now she never moved, not once, not an inch. It was almost as though she were hypnotized." Perry's read-back, at 40:12: "It was strange. A woman. Stiff. She never moved, not once, not an inch. Almost as if she were hypnotized." I guess that the gist is good enough when you are on trial for your life. lowercase masonite, 3/5/16.

TIME TUNNEL Perspective: Original viewers of TCOTSC would have heard these Top 5 Hits on MAY 2, 1963: 1: "He's So Fine [Chiffons]" 2: "I Will Follow Him [Little Peggy March]" 3: "If You Wanna Be Happy [Jimmy Soul]" 4: "Can't Get Used To Losing You [Andy Williams]" 5: "Puff (The Magic Dragon) [Peter, Paul & Mary]" takemeback.to Mike Bedard 2.18.15.

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