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#163: The Case of the
Lurid Letter
Original Airdate: 12/06/62

Summary Edit

From The Perry Mason TV Show Book
This is one of the few Perry Mason episodes that doesn’t involve a murder trial per se. Perry is on vacation in Placer Hill, but any hopes of relaxing are quickly ended when he becomes involved in a local scandal.

A local teacher is the target of a whispering campaign. Her supposed romantic antics with some of her young male students cause quite a stir among the locals.

Perry takes up her cause and gets her a public hearing. But when a local innkeeper is killed, the situation takes a more ominous turn and all eyes are on the teacher.

The scene is not a courtroom, but a board meeting in a high school gym. The testimony revolves around the death of a student some months before. Perry’s client is involved because she took an interest in the boy before his death.

Edgar Buchanan, Uncle Joe of Petticoat Junction fame, is featured as the homespun judge.

Credits Edit

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


Starring Raymond Burr
Based upon characters created by Erle Stanley Gardner
Barbara Hale, William Hopper, Ray Collins


Directed by Arthur Marks
Telplay by Jonathan Latimer
From a story “The Man with Half a Face” by Hugh Pentecost

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
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg


Mona Freeman as Jane Wardman
Edgar Buchanan as Judge Edward Daley
Robert Rockwell as Everett Rixby
Kaye Elhardt as Doris Wilson
Ann Doran as Mrs. Cornelia Slater
John Durren as Pat Mangan
Thomas Lowell as Bobby Slater
Noah Keen as Dr. Stephen Grant
Mark Murray as Terry Wardman
Kelly Thordsen as Sheriff Watson
Chris Alcaide as Gus Wiler
Elizabeth Harrower as Mrs. Mangan
Cheryl Miller as First Girl
Judee Morton as Second Girl
Nancy Lee as Third Girl
Greta Granstadt as Mrs. Sommers
Harry Travis as Mr. Mangan

Uncredited Actors
Lee Miller Townsperson at Board Hearing
Don Anderson as Townsperson at Board Hearing


“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 … Charles Q. Vassar
Properties … Ray Thompson
Production Sound Mixer … Herman Lewis
Script Supervision … Cosmo Genovese
Theme Composed by … Fred Steiner
Automobiles Supplied by … Ford Motor Company

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

Trivia Edit

Anomaly: Edgar Buchanan is listed as Judge Edward Daley but the sign on his office window spells his name as Daily. [Mitch English]
+ Additionally, Mrs. Wardman addresses the Second Girl as Agnes, but she is not listed as such in the credits. Submitted by gracenote, 7/23/2011.

Thomas Lowell makes his first of two appearances on Perry here playing Bobby Slater. (His second was Episode #208, TCOT Careless Kidnapper, as David Pelham.) Thomas Lowell was born in 1941 with the birth name of Lowell Thomas. But of course once he became an actor, he would not use the same name as the famous newsman. Thomas Lowell had a minor career, his most famous role being Billy Nelson in the 60s action series Combat. Submitted by PaulDrake 33, 2 September 2009.
+ Thomas Lowell played Private Bobby Lembeck in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) jfh 03Dec2018

Uncredited Actors: The schoolboard meeting seems to have been shot in an actual school gym with the spectators seated in real school-type folding chairs. Among the townspeople, both Don Anderson and Lee Miller can be seen. It was rare for Anderson to appear in episodes outside of Los Angeles. By this time Miller should have been recognizable as Sgt. Brice, and his presence must have been somewhat jarring to regular viewers. Submitted by FredK, 3 Nov 2010.
I have seen every (or almost every episode) at least once, and am watching them again. I still don't recognize Miller or Anderson, even though they are mentioned here often. And I watch them several times a week. So maybe you are overestimating how many of the secondary cast members average people recognize and remember. And remember, these were only shown once a week, back in the day. I am starting to notice Miss Carmody once in a while, but usually I am paying attention to the main actors. --yelocab 25APR19
- It also appears that the Distinguished Gentleman #1 is present in the gym during the meeting. His back is to the camera, but his distinctive "toupee" is pretty apparent. Submitted by Kenmore 1/04/2012

CARS. (1) Jane Wardman's white 1962 Mercury Meteor 4-Door Sedan, Lic No XCH 325.

There are too many fleetingly-seen background cars to list. At least four motorcycles, belonging to the local Toughies, await ID by a motorcycle enthusiast. Added by Gary Woloski, 6/29/13.

Although credited, Barbara Hale does not appear as Della Street in this episode, and neither does Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg. William Talman neither received credit nor appeared. Submitted by gracep, 1/15/2011.
+ LL was the 5th of Della's 11 absences. Barbara graduated from Rockford, IL HS in 1940 {IMDb]. Mike Bedard 3.18.15

Perry's Client: Perry did not have to defend Mrs. Wardman in a murder case. This was the third episode without court (episodes 6 and 14). Submitted by H. Mason 12/31/14
+While Perry did not defend his client against a murder charge, he did solve one death (probably manslaughter) and one murder.

The Gavel: Judge Daley used a gavel at the school board meeting. The first time a gavel was seen and used since episode 80. Submitted by H. Mason 12/31/14

Mr. Buchanan: For the second time actor Edgar Buchanan was in charge of the proceedings in a small town and Perry solved a murder (see episode 50). Submitted by H. Mason 12/31/14

This is the first of three PM appearances for Mona Freeman, who was also a portrait painter...MikeM. 11/15/2016

This is the third of three PM appearances for Kaye Elhardt, who appeared in eight episodes of "77 Sunset Strip"...MikeM. 2/21/2017
+ and in two episodes of "Hawaiian Eye". jfh 28Sep2022

This is the fourth of five PM appearances for Robert Rockwell (Dick Benedict Deadly Toy, Major Jerry Reynolds Misguided Missile, Cole B. Troy Shapely Shadow, Everett Rixby, Ed Purvis Candy Queen). jfh 16Dec2019

Hugh Pentecost is a pseudonym for writer Judson Pentecost Philips...MikeM. 3/13/2018

Location of Placer (Plasser / Place-Er) Hill? On first usage, the name of the fictitious town of Placer HIll is correctly pronounced Plasser Hill, as in Placerville (a real California town), but later pronounced Place-Er Hill (as in Win, Place, and Show). More to the point -- where was this episode filmed? And who got the bright idea that a town with a Gold Rush name like Placer Hill would be next to "Cactus County"? Submitted by catyron, 04/26.18
+ Actually, that's not all that improbable. Counties in California are fairly large (San Bernardino County is the largest by area in the lower 48) and most of the Gold Rush counties extend from the foothills to the crest of the Sierras. And, just over the Sierra from Gold Rush Country it's all desert. That's where Death Valley is, for example. ("It happened in the next county, near Cactus City . .") In reality, it's a bit far and a longish drive, and, except for Interstate 80, on very winding roads, but in the literal sense of the line of dialog, entirely possible. Of course, there is no "Cactus City" in California. OLEF641 5/13/21
++ IMDB lists Big Bear Lake as the filming location, which seems to have been the show's choice for actual "mountain scenes" - as opposed to faking it at Malibou Lake - tho which of the several small towns in the vicinity isn't specified. The obvious question, then, is "were the high school scenes filmed as Big Bear High School?" We'll probably never know for sure, as it wasn't some large distictive building, but one small bit of circumstantial evidence: in the beginning of the episode, there's a gathering of people inside at the top of a short stairway... a BBHS Yearbook from that period shows just such a scene. Hardly conclusive - just the type of thing that always trips up Burger! - but nevertheless supportive. Notcom 052722.

Stunt Double: When Jane Wardman and her son Terry are being chased in their car by Pat Mangan and the motorcycle gang a zoom of the DVD reveals that the driver is a man in a wig. The boy looks like he could still be actor Mark Murray. Submitted by Kilo 8/5/2018.

Casual Perry/Perry In Pajamas Vacationing Perry spends the first half of the episode in casual slacks and shirt with a zippered jacket. After Jane's accident, at Perry's cabin, Perry appears to be attired in his pajama top under his smoking jacket. jfh 03Dec2018

Looking for Elvis ? Paul's fashion sense on display with that black shirt collar not only outside the plaid jacket, but most of the time raised in the back. Was he trying out to be part of the Memphis Mafia ? hojocola 13Jan2022

Syndicated Cuts from FETV:
04:44 - 05:11 .. 0:27 Jane Wardman drives into Placer Hill and walks down the street
09:23 - 10:45 .. 1:22 Jane Wardman gives Perry a ride to the cottage … motorcycle teens follow … she picks up son 14:37 - 14:42 .. 1:05 As Jane Wardman and son drive home, motorcycle teens follow along and agitate
18:20 - 18:37 .. 0:17 Perry and Paul overhear high school girls talking about Jane Wardman
24:14 - 25:15 .. 1:01 Perry visits the high school and talks to the principal (Everett Rixby) and secretary (Doris Wilson)
Total ............... 4:12
Submitted by DexterLakeClub, 02/27/22.

Comments Edit

The closing credits state that this episode was based on the story “The Man with Half a Face” by Hugh Penetcost (a pen name for Judson Philips). The story appeared in the December 1958 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Are there other Perry episodes based on previous writings by other authors? Submitted by Ed Zoerner, 5/5/2009.

At over 40 minutes in, I believe this is about the latest into the story that we have our murder. DOD 12/29/20

This is a very brave episode, handling controversy and rather grown-up topics (teacher-student affairs, sexuality, underage drinking, corruption, vigilantism) rather deftly. Furthermore, Perry Mason shows himself not only a true gentleman but a fine moral example, such as when he scolds the doctor for his wishy-washy statements to the board. Submitted by gracep, 15 January 2011.

This episode is shocking in another way. At my high school, if any student had spoken to any of my teachers the way those boys spoke to Mrs. Wardman, he would have been suspended and probably expelled, never mind any lurid letters. Could kids in the 1960s get away with more? Submitted by gracenote, 7/23/2011.

He wasn't a delinquent like Pat Mangan, but there was a guy at my high school, in the early 1970's, who was, shall we say, "very worldly" and a bit of a discipline problem. But he was still his mother's "baby boy" and she made trouble with the school. Once she almost got a teacher fired over something completely innocent. Talk about rose colored glasses! OLEF641, 3/14/2018.

This was an excruciating episode for me. I do not remember any students back in my HS days getting away with such horrific behaviour--but it was painfully similar to my experiences 6 years ago, in my brief tenure as a HS Latin teacher. Despite my age (50's), I was subjected to sexual harassment, molestation, and threats of violence from the boys in my classes. Any time I reported their behavior, I was told it was my fault for "poor classroom management." If I disciplined them, the parents attacked me. This was a public school in a wealthy suburban county whose principal cared only about pleasing the parents. Two best situations: If the boy was African, I'd call his parents and he'd never give me any trouble again. Or, if he was an athlete, I'd call his coach, and, boom, done! I quit. This episode brought it all back! Submitted by JazzBaby, 3/25/2019.

TCOT (Not So) Juvenile Delinquent: John Durren, who played Pat Mangan, was 24 when this episode was filmed, and - more to the point - he looked like he was 24, which tends to dilute the shock value of the episode. (Of course one could argue he had been held back a number of times - at least six of them, to be exact - but then he would no longer be "underage".) Submitted by Notcom, 021016.
+Mrs. Wardman pointedly remarks that Mangan is hardly a boy, being old enough to be a soldier; how old would that have been in 1962?
+ Eighteen was the lowest age of enlistment, although i know one man who told me that he was a juvenile delinquent in the mid 1960s and his mother applied for and got a special dispensation from Senator Alan Cranston (of California) for him to volunteer for the Army at the age of seventeen rather than face criminal charges, but he was only sent into combat in Vietnam when he turned eighteen, i think. Just hearsay, but those were the days, eh? Submitted by catron, 04/26/18
I personally know of the "enlist or go to jail" option. My buddy ended up 101st Airborne in Vietnam, and a success in life afterward. I suspect there are a lot of similar stories were the discipline of service straightened a guy out. It's different now.Joe B.05/22/22 ++In addition, early in the episode, Mrs. Wardman asked why none of the students completed their assignnment, and one student replied that she should ask someone "older" like Pat Mangan.
+ I found Mangan's age a problem, too. How many times can a student be held back?!? He shouldn't have been in school with underage girls, in my opinion! Maybe they should have cast a more-age appropriate actor, say 19 or so. Submitted by JazzBaby, 3/25/2019.
+++ Pat Mangan is old enough to be in the army (probably 18 or more) but too young to buy liquor legally according to a plot point, so therefore, under 21. OLEF641 3/13/21

Vote Of Confidence After Pat Mangan attacks Paul on the Mangan front porch, Perry sarcastically calls Pat a "nice boy". Paul retorts, "Boy? You should feel the arms on that moose!", to which Perry replies, "You can take him." Great line! jfh 03Dec2018.

This was a fine episode when it came to showcasing Paul's pugilistic skills. Not only did he "best" the town bully once, but multiple times. Paul didn't always come out on the winning end of encounters. I recall the wimpy academic getting the jump on him in a late night brawl in a bookstore in one episode. But in this episode, he definitely showed that he had some skills. Submitted by Paul's Operative. 2/14/2024.

It's hard (for me, anyway) to say who is the lowest person in this episode ... but I'll put in a vote for the judge. You would think he'd insist on some real proof of the accusations, as well as knowing what undisciplined creeps the 'boys' are. But no, he just tells Jane to give up and move was a pleasure to see Paul humiliate the biggest creep!! Submitted by MikeReese, 3/13/2018.
+ Agreed. Everyone in this episode--except Mrs. Wardman and son--were creepy and mean. I don't know why she would want to stay in that town. But the Judge was up there at the top too for being a jerk. (I thought the Principal was the nicest person...) --yelocab 25APR19

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