#15: The Case of the
Fan Dancer's Horse
Original Airdate: 12/28/57
From The Perry Mason TV Show Book
Returning to L.A., Perry and Della witness an auto accident. The Mexican woman who was driving the overturned vehicle leaves behind some high-heeled shoes and ostrich plumes. Perry is delighted to find out that the owner of the feathers is none other than fan dancer Cherie-Chi-Chi. He is not so delighted to find out the trouble she is in.
Starring Raymond Burr
in Erle Stanley Gardner’s
The Case of Fan-Dancer’s Horse
Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman, Ray Collins
Directed by William D. Russell
Teleplay by Stirling Silliphant
Ben Brady | Producer
Produced by CBS Television in association with Paisano Productions
Gail Patrick Jackson | Executive Producer
Sam White | Associate Producer
Raymond Burr as Perry Mason
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
William Talman as Hamilton Burger
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Susan Cummings as Lois Fenton
Scott Elliott as Arthur Sheldon
Judy Tyler as Cherie Chi-Chi
Robert Bice as Faulkner
Minerva Urecal as Landlady
Hugh Sanders as John Callender
Sydney Smith as Judge Donahue
John Brinkley as Jasper Fenton
Connie Cezon as Gertie
Rusty Westcoatt as Sgt. Holcomb
James Nolan as Meeker
Herbert C. Lytton as Dr. Lambert
Production Supervisor … J. Paul Popkin
Director of Photography … Frank Redman, A.S.C.
Art Direction … Lyle Wheeler, Lewis Creber
Assistant Director … Art Marks
Editorial Supervisor … Art Seid, A.C.E.
Film Editor … Richard Cahoon, A.C.E.
Makeup … Mel Berns
Wardrobe Supervision … Dick James
Set Decorations … Walter M. Scott, Charles Q. Vassar
Properties … Ray Thompson
Recorded by … Alfred Bruzlin
Rerecording Mixer … Harry M. Leonard
Script Supervisor … Cosmo Genovese
This has been a CBS Television Network Production
Filmed in Hollywood by TCF Television Productions, Inc.
CARS: 1957 Ford Skyliner retractable, black, top down (Mason). Cameo: 1957 Mercury 4dr sedan. From The Cars by Greg Cockerill.
The front license plate on the car Perry and Della are in when they witness the overturned auto is: HGA 056; the car which stops and drives the Spanish-speaking woman away has a rear license plate: LJY 933...MikeM. 7/28/2016
The ad Perry places reads: IF THE "FAN DANCER" who lost certain property wishes to recover it, write P.O. Box #9052, L.A., Cal...MikeM. 7/28/2016
Perry makes the newspaper: Los Angeles Chronicle; City Edition; Final 9AM; MURDER SUSPECT APPREHENDED; LOIS FENTON CAUGHT ATTEMPTING ESCAPE IN LAWYER'S CAR; Attorney May Be Charged as Accomplice...MikeM. 7/28/2016
Phone Numbers: Perry’s office number, MA 5-1190, makes its second appearance. Perry gives the number to the hotel operator when he calls police headquarters from the detective’s room across the hall from the murder victim. It’s first used for Perry’s office in episode #17, TCOT Sun Bather’s Diary. Submitted by D. A. Supernaw, 6/30/05.
+ This is the appearance of what would be Mason’s phone number. The previous episode used MA 5-1199. Submitted by alan_sings 10/01/10.
++ When calling from room 510 of the Richmel Hotel, Perry uses the number MA 5-1190 to phone the police, so Paul Drake can report the murder. In the previous episode (TCOT Baited Hook), the very similar MA 5-1199 was used as the number of Tydings & Dawson. In later episodes, the phone number MA 5-1190 becomes Perry’s office number. Submitted by Charles Richmond 10/9/08. Edited by alan_sings 9 Oct 2010 and gracep 11/21/2010.
Perry gives the number 5-1190 to the hotel operator as the police phone number. Why the producers decided to later use the same phone number for Perry's office is a mystery. cgraul 6.7.12
+++ Nowadays the reserved prefix 555 - corresponding to KL5 during the exchange era - is typically used for the numbers displayed in movies or TV. In the 50's , tho, producers weren't so constricted - one might recall an amusing dialogue in the movie Desk Set involving the number COlumbus0-1492 - and here they apparently turned to reality: MAdison5 was an actual prefix used on the 9th Floor of 550 S Flower (The structure whose exterior served as the 'Brent Building'). Notcom, 052219.
The building next door to where Perry finds Shelton has "Carmody Fine Tailors" painted on the window. Perhaps Sasha Magaloff is employed by Miss Carmody. jfh 22May2019
Judy Tyler (Cherie Chi-Chi) never got to see her work in this episode. She died in a traffic accident on 4 July 1957 shortly after filming this episode. Submitted by PaulDrake33, 21 June 2008.
+ Miss Tyler, who started her career as Princess Summerfall Winterspring on the Howdy Doody Show, had been on Broadway and had made two films before filming this episode: Bop Girl Goes Calypso and Jailhouse Rock. Submitted by Francis, 10 June 2011.
This is the first of two Perry appearances by Susan Cummings, who died 03Dec2016. Her second appearance was in The Case Of The Lame Canary, 1959. jfh 10May2018.
Pilot or not? I believe this is the 2nd Perry Mason episode filmed. It has an early script date, 20 March 1957. Plus Perry drives a 1957 Ford and wears a hat, both characteristics of the first set of episodes filmed. As an aside, it also shows a characteristic Perry Mason driving habit: Zooming up to a car and pressing hard on the brakes causing quite a bit of subsequent oscillation (up/down). Perhaps what I assume to be “normal” driving doesn‘t film well? Submitted by billp. 29 November 2009.
+ In an interview on the 50th Anniversary Edition DVD, series producer Arthur Marks identified this episode as the pilot episode. Submitted by alan_sings 9 October 2010.
++ I think Mr. Marks may be an unreliable witness. In the same interview, he says the “pilot” was directed by Ted Post, but William D. Russell is credited as Director for this episode. Marks also says he was 2nd Assistant Director for the episode but he is credited as Assistant Director, his initial job after signing on for the series. Ted Post is credited as Director of #13, TCOT Moth-Eaten Mink. See that episode for more information. Submitted by daveb, 11/1/10.
+++ Could this be a “2nd Pilot,” then? Also this seeming confusion might bolster my hypothesis that this is the 2nd episode filmed. Submitted by billp, 12 November 2010.
++++ I agree this must be the first or second show filmed. The courtroom set is the same as in “Mink” and the bench still looks new. DOD 06/04/20
+++++It is not unheard of for a television show to have 2 pilots. Gene Roddenberry had to shoot two pilots before he could sell "Star Trek". Maybe there was something about the first PM pilot that needed tweaking before the show was a "Go". OLEF641 10/16/2020
Product Placement provides a date. In looking at the records at the "Vine Record Shop" I see a panel on the counter to the right of the front door with the text "latest release(?) - THE PEERLESS - MILES DAVIS - EXCLUSIVELY ON - COLUMBIA RECORDS" (DVD 29:14). The image on the panel is the front cover of Davis' LP 'ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT, released by Columbia Records on 18 March, 1957. The proximity of this date to the "early script date, 20 March 1957" provided by billp is intriguing. See Trivia items below for other records spotted in the shop. Submitted by Gary Woloski, 22 May 2012.
This may be "incompetent, irrelevant & immaterial" to The Case Of The Pilot Episode, but Perry Mason associate Jackson mentioned here appeared in Episode 2: The Sleepwalker's Niece. Mike Bedard 4.9.15
Perry's hair is much fuller and a bit longer than in later episodes.
We get a very nice view of Gertie's receptionist office early in the show, revealing a file cabinet with one drawer open, showing absolutely no files in it. cgraul 6.7.12
+ Those file cabinets get around, sometimes in Gertie's office, sometimes Della's, sometimes missing completely. Another odd thing - there are always twelve drawers, each labeled with a single letter of the alphabet.DOD 05/10/18
Uncredited Actors: This is another possible three-spot for Don Anderson. He’s one of the uniformed policemen with Lt. Tragg at the crime scene and later a courtroom spectator. He may also be a nightclub patron on the dance floor, but this is another sighting that’s difficult to be certain of. Submitted by FredK 30 September 2010.
Sightings: Carefully guarding the defendant is a police matron played by Distinguished Lady #2. A courtroom spectator when court reconvenes is Distinguished Gentleman #2. Submitted by gracenote, 8/28/2011.
Uncredited Actors: Prolific B-Western actor Dennis Moore (a.k.a. Denny Meadows) plays the amicable stablehand at Etondale Stables. He gets lots of lines, but no credit. Submitted by gracenote, 8/28/2011.
Character Names: Meeker’s first name is Sam. Faulkner’s first name is Frank. Submitted by gracenote, 8/28/2011.
Cherie Chi-Chi II's name is Irene Kilbe.
The Hi-Lo's. Perry visits the "Vine Record Shop" just past half-way through the episode. I couldn't make out any of the LPs on the counter but I did notice the prominent display for the Hi-Lo's and their 1957 LP Suddenly It's The Hi-Lo's. Their "Brahms' Lullaby" seems to be just what Perry would put on after one of his usual late-night working sessions. Submitted by Gary Woloski, 12 Apr 2012.
+ Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's was the Hi-Lo's first LP with their new label, Columbia Records (as it was for Miles Davis and his 'ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT). Most sources give the Hi-Lo's LP release date as a bare "1957" but one (mtv) gives it as 1 Jan 57. This last date could be correct:
- At least five of the songs on the LP were recorded 17-21 Dec 1956.
- The Hi-Lo's were the regular vocal group for the NBC network's The Rosemary Clooney Show. Jose Ferrer, who wrote the liner notes for Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's, was guest star on Clooney's 3 Jul 56 show which was re-run on 14 Jan 1957.
The trade magazine BILLBOARD reviewed Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's in its 23 Feb 57 issue, page 40. The 6 Apr 57 issue, page 24, listed it as the Number One "Pop Album Coming Up Strong" and the Number Four "Most Played by Jockeys". The LP was released before the 20 Mar 57 script date for this episode and cannot further help date the filming. Submitted by Gary Woloski, 22 May 2012.
Perry shows off another Columbia Records LP at the Vine Record Shop when he chooses Castles in Spain by Michel Legrand & His Orchestra to play in the private booth with Lois Fenton. It's hard to identify the LP as he picks it up. However, in the booth he holds the cover up three times so that the title at the top of the back can be easily read. You can also spot the LP on the wall behind the front counter sales clerk: it's the one that looks like it has a picture of three Mouseketeers on it, except that one has a big cigar in his mouth and they turn out to be matadors! Castles in Spain was released by Columbia as CL 888 in 1956 in the Jazz/Easy Listening category. Is the soundtrack music from this LP? Compare to clips here. Submitted by Gary Woloski, 23 May 2012.
+ The album cover may indeed be the one referred to above, but the music heard under the scene is definitely old Vienna. The record Lois is listening to when Perry enters is the Emperor Waltz, one of the most famous by Johann Strauss Jr., which Mason takes off the turntable and replaces. The new one begins with a melody from Strauss's Roses from the South and then veers off into Tales from the Vienna Woods. Submitted by FredK, 8 June 2012.
The music heard ending just before Mason enters the private booth is the same music heard on the pilot of The Twilight Zone "Where Is Everybody?" (broadcast 10/2/59) as Earl Holliman enters the deserted diner with the jukebox playing. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 6/14/12.
More on Product Placements: As you all may have caught on, this fascinating record shop contains nothing but Columbia product! Additional sightings: Bruno Walter conducts Brahms: Symphony No. No. 3 In F Major, Op. 79, Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, Hungarian Dances, ML 5126 and Budapest String Quartet: Budapest Quartet Encores, ML 5116. Spoiler alert (not really): CBS owned Columbia at this point. I find this all fascinating, because by the 1960s, this would have been a no-no. Broadcasters generally adhered to The National Association of Broadcasters' Television Code. (This was one of those gimmicks like the Motion Picture Production Code and the Comics Code, where the relevant industry self-regulates to avoid government regulation. You may spot the Seal of Good Practices at the end of many old shows indicating adherence to the Television Code.) The Television Code put voluntary limits on the number of advertising minutes per show, and product placements would arguably violate this provision if not counted against the limit. Broadcasters got really jittery about government regulation of TV when game show fixing surfaced, in fact right about the time this episode was shot. This kind of naked product placement would really have been suspect just two or three years later when the Payola scandals (hidden payments to radio stations and DJs for playing records on the radio) broke. (Although I doubt Columbia was paying payola to get Bruno Walter on the radio!) This is the reason that in the 60s and 70s, until the Carter and Reagan administrations successfully challenged the Code as anti-competitive, characters on TV ate weirdly brandless "Corn Flakes" and drank generic "Beer." In case you were wondering, cars were as a matter of practice exempt (can't have Perry on the bus!), which permitted the paid promotion of Fords on Perry. Posted by Old Dave, 6/5/2020.
+ Hence it was a singularly weird life-imitates-art moment for those of us around c.1980 when generics really did appear. Notcom, 060520.
++ Here's a bit of local trivia about generics and product use on sets: In 1978, local grocery store Ralphs introduced a bottom-of-the-line generic, called Plain Wrap, that had a very minimal blue-and-white label and no visible branding at all. Prop Masters on some shows quickly adopted the products: instead of having to crank out replicas to use, they just bought these. A big advantage was that, for example, a can of corn really did have corn in it, was probably cheaper than buying the brand name and replacing the label. It's fun to occasionally spot these on reruns from that era. OLEF641 10/16/2020
Syndicated cuts: Callender returns to Mason's office to tell him about a bullet wound and Mason repeats the description doesn't fit; Mason in room 511 after discovering the body then crossing the hall to room 510 where Drake and the operatives are; scene with Mason and Sheldon where Sheldon packs his things; Mason and the landlady discussing the key and registering and discovering the blood, feathers and hairs in room 5; Mason seeing a man watching him. Additional Hallmark cuts: Drake and Tragg in room 511 and Tragg checking room 510 for Mason; the judge asking Mason if wants to make an opening statement, Mason saying no; Dr. Lambert's testimony. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 7/18/12.
Name of the "Fan Dancer's Horse": Starlight. - Submitted by H. Mason 9/30/14
Among his many Pre-Acting jobs to support his mother & younger sister/brother, Raymond William Stacey Burr worked as a "Ranch Hand in Roswell, New Mexico" [IMDB Bio]. Mike Bedard 3.8.15.
Minerva Urecal: For information about the actress playing the part of the landlady at the boarding house see trivia notes for episode 231. Submitted by H. Mason 4/23/15
+ The landlady "Minerva Urecal" was in a Three Stooges short They Stooge To Conga where she played Marsha, the Nazi Housekeeper (uncredited). Submitted by HamBurger, 8/13/2017
Sgt Holcomb as a character makes his second appearance here (the first was TCOT Restless Redhead) but it's not the same actor as in that episode.
Featured albums in the record store: The Hi-Lo's "Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's (1957)", The Fearless Miles Davis, and Tony Bennett among others. By the way, Perry gets to park about four feet from the front door. Submitted by Kilo 3/4/2018.
This is the second of two PM teleplay credits for Stirling Silliphant, who created two television series, "Naked City" and "Route 66", and who won an Academy Award for his screenplay of "In the Heat of the Night" in 1967...MikeM. 5/10/2018
While “processing” this episode today, I was impressed by its high production values. There were many extras and elaborate sets. And, if I didn’t miscount, there were seven uncredited actors with speaking parts. daveb, 5/20/09.
+ And an actual 12-person jury -- the expense of which was later cut from the series. cgraul 6.7.12
I agree with you about the sets. There seemed to be a real attempt at individuality in the first years. Later, the same sets and props would keep reappearing to an almost comical extent. There are even some shows in the final years in which props such as lamps and furniture are used on different sets in the same show.DOD 05/10/18
The courtroom set used for the trial scenes in this episode (and other early ones) was larger than the sets used later, so there were more spectator gallery rows as well as a jury box that needed to be filled with extras. And if my memory is correct (and it isn't always) the unbilled Spanish-speaking good Samaritan who helps at the accident later turned up as one of the villagers protected by the Magnificent Seven in that classic Western. Submitted by FredK 8 June 2012.
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg (my favorite character in the series) does his usual excellent job of communicating acerbic professionalism. cgraul 6.7.12
Oddly enough, while a good many bit players in this episode who spoke received no billing, Rusty Westcoatt as Sgt. Holcombe was in the cast list though he had no actual lines aside from an almost inaudible word with Tragg. Submitted by FredK 8 June 2012.
Random Musings: When Perry tells Della to fasten her seat belt, I presume he was speaking metaphorically, since as I recall cars typically didn't have seat belts in 1957. When he hands the accident victim his card, he says "I'm not looking for business, I just want to be helpful." Can you imagine any of today's ambulance-chasing lawyers saying that? This is especially funny since the MeTV Perry Mason broadcasts I'm watching typically contain several ads for ambulance-chasing lawyers ("Been injured in an accident? Pain and suffering? Great! This is a potential financial windfall for you! I'm lawyer Whiplash Willie. Call me! Don't settle for a tiny check. I'll get you a BIG check!"). I love that periscope thingy that Perry's gang uses to spy on the room across the hall. I guess peepholes hadn't been invented yet. I'm surprised Perry lets his client dress like that in court. It does make for some nice eye candy however, especially when she stands next to the other Lois Fenton. Paul seems to be enjoying the view. Speaking of Paul, once again we seem him in court slouching disrespectfully in his chair. C'mon Paul; sit up straight!. Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 3-26-2014.
+ Seatbelts. Ford first offered a seatbelt option in the 1955 model-year. In 1956, seatbelts became an optional addition to the optional Lifeguard safety package. Cursory research indicates price varying from about $6/seatbelt in 1956 declining to $1/sb in 1959. "In a survey of 1957 Ford owners in the March, 1957 issue of Popular Mechanics, only 6.2% of owners ordered seat belts." (ref: Standard Catalog at your public library). I bet that part of the 6.2% were ambulance-chasing lawyers. Added by Gary Woloski, 3/26/14.
+The real Lois Fenton spends the entire episode in the same dress, at least until her fan dancing finale when she wears her . . . fans. Maybe the reason Perry lets Lois dress like that in court is because it's the only dress in her wardrobe. Submitted by BobH, 29 December 2015.
Helpful Perry II: When the boardinghouse landlady asks if Perry has a badge, he replies that he's a lawyer and that he just wants to help.
+ Fasten your seatbelts was also a famous line, uttered by Margo Channing (Bette Davis) to her party guests, from the movie All About Eve in 1950. jfh 10May2018.
+ Referring to airline passenger seatbelts, I'm guessing. Gary Woloski, 5/11/18.
Perry warns his Female client that she may end up in TEHACHAPI if she doesn't start cooperating: "At the end of 'The Maltese Falcon' Humphrey Bogart turns to femme fatale & murderer Mary Astor and says, 'If you get a break you'll be out of TEHACHAPI in 20 years...I hope they don't hang you, precious, by the neck.'...The California Institution for Women, TEHACHAPI, was the Only Women's prison in the state of California," observes muse.jhu.edu ("Hard Times At Tehachapi: California's First Women's Prison" review). Mike Bedard 4.10.15
"You know, Paul, the Trouble with Lawyers is they're Too Skeptical," said Perry. Mike Bedard 4.10.15
Why would anyone reading an ad for "property of a fan dancer" assume it referred to a horse?
In my opinion, about the most convoluted story line of any episode. I read the book and just couldn't imagine how it could be comprehensively adapted for TV - not sure they were completely successful.
Also, the only episode I recall in which we never do learn for certain who the killer is - we just get Perry’s theory. DOD 05/10/18
+ Callender was missing his horse, the property of his wife, a former fan dancer. But of course, the author of the ad would have had to have know that the horse belonged to her and she had been a fan dancer (if the author had found a horse). So, in that respect, it was a stretch. --yelocab 25OCT19
Tremors: There must have been a minor earthquake while filming this episode. When John Callender is speaking to Gertie at her desk watch the hanging lamp in the background. It starts swaying and shaking on its own! Kilo 12/5/2018.
+ somebody moving about in the overhead scaffolding who shouldn't have been while filming was going on . . . it is quite funny when you know to look for it. OLEF641 10/17/2020
As Perry is questioning Irene on the stand, her beauty mark disappears. --yelocab 25OCT19
HAMILTON [irate]: Are you now claiming that Arthur Sheldon killed John Callendar?
PERRY: I'm not claiming a thing! I'm just trying to get the defendant in this case acquitted. As far as the murder case is concerned, you are quite at liberty to solve it.
I believe the syndicated version cuts the next line of dialogue:
HAMILTON: Ray, didn't you get the memo? You're supposed to solve the murder case. By the way, I get to lose every case I try against you for the next 8 seasons!
Seriously, I really enjoy the fact that this episode leaves the actual killer an open question. They haven't quite set the formula yet. Great episode. Old Dave, 6/9/20
+ Actually, if you listen carefully to the final scene, it was Jasper who killed Callendar: to quote Paul: ". . Jasper picked up the sword and pushed it through the open fan that Callendar held in front of him." OLEF641 1]/17/2020