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#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

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


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


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


“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.
++ This silent, uncredited African-American judge struck me as very sad. His enforced silence also distorted the legal aspects of the courtroom scenes, as no objections could be raised lest the judge be forced to speak and thus fail to remain in his assigned role as a silent "extra."Submitted by catyron, May 15th, 2018.
Even when Perry asks the judge for permission to bring the desk into the courtroom, he stays silent. Indeed rather sad. DOD 02/04/22 +++ The black judge who is uncredited is Vince Townsend Jr. Submitted by Thomas J. Shea 3/06/19
++++ According to IMDb: "Vince Townsend Jr. was born on April 12, 1906 in Arkansas, USA as Vince Monroe Townsend. He was an actor, known for Weird Science (1985), Porgy and Bess (1959) and Never Wave at a WAC (1953). He died on October 16, 1997 in Los Angeles, California, USA. The First African-American Attorney In The City of Los Angeles, California (Post 1930's), Actor and Honorable Reverend/Minster at First AME Church, Los Angeles, California & Municipal Court Judge, Roommates with the late Thurgood Marshall Judge/Justice of the United States Supreme Court (Best known for his historical Supreme Court victory in Brown v. Board of Education) at Howard University School of Law. Vince Townsend (aka "Vince Monroe Townsend Jr., "Vince M. Townsend Jr." & "Vince Monroe Townsend." -- WOW. Submitted by catyron, August 2nd, 2021.

Casting decisions not all black and white Integration was a headline-grabbing issue in 1963, off- or on-screen, and (as reported below) PM's casting choice created some controversy, with the story picked up in the media, first in trade publication Variety, and then by columnists and wire services shortly thereafter. Perhaps of more interest, tho, was a report on what didn't happen: "...(Gail Patrick Jackson)...was reported to have tried to sign a Negro girl to play an elevator operator who becomes a key witness - but the NAACP ...nixed that on the grounds that the girl...would be seen in a menial capacity." Although the story provides scant details - and seems to imply the incident was c. 1963 - the description bears a remarkable similarity to Season One's TCOT Daring Decoy; so was PM attempting to break the Color Barrier as early as 1957 ?? It would, indeed, have been a daring move. But regardless, the issue of how the Perryllel Universe should match the real one remained an active one thruout the show's run. Notcom, 050719.

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.

The tattersall vest from episode 119 The Case Of The Violent Vest makes a reappearance here on Harry Collins when he delivered office supplies to Richard Harris. jfh 21Sep2017.

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.
++ Yet another case of The Upside Down Law Books is episode 223 The Case Of The Wooden Nickels as we see Vivian Norman in Perry's office, this time over Perry's left shoulder. jfh 13Feb2018.

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.
++++ The African-American Man and African-American Woman among the spectators are the same man and woman who appeared twice or three times in earlier episodes -- that is, the African-American Couple. As usual, they sit next to one another, as a couple, apparently to avoid the idea that either one of them might be somehow familiar with or related to one of the Caucasian spectators. These were daring directorial decisions at the time, and it is not important to judge those times versus these times. Submitted by catyron, May 15th, 2018
+++++ Distinguished Gentleman #1 is the Uncredited Actor Rudolph "Rudy" Salinger.
++++++ 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

Magic Bullet Six-and-a-half months after this episode was aired, an historic, tragic event would make headline news around the world of another magic bullet.

This is the only PM appearance for Toby Michaels whose mother is Pat Barto, costume designer. Toby Michaels was the first wife of Richard Michaels, noted script supervisor, director and producer...MikeM. 4/4/2018

This is the first of two PM appearances for Keith Andes, who might be remembered for playing the brother to Barbara Stanwyck, and the love interest to Marilyn Monroe, in the 1952 melodrama Clash By Night. Notcom 070423.

This is the second of two PM appearances for Peggy McCay is best known for playing Caroline Brady, matriarch of the Brady family on Days of Our Lives from 1983 until her passing in 2018. Submitted by Apofisu 3/1/2023

Mr. McCann's office is outfitted with the same model of "UFO" style hanging light fixture we see in Perry's office, and which we also once saw at a motel where Perry stayed, but McCann's is brushed aluminum, not black. I seem to recall that Perry's was aluminum too in the first or second episode, went away for for a week or so, and came back with a paint job by episode four. Submitted by catyron, May 15th, 2018

Comments Edit

LAZY WRITINGThe writers on this show are getting very lazy. Detaining Paul and accusing Perry of trying to retrieve a possible murder weapon and hide it from the police? He has never ever done a thing like that. Burger, Andy, and Tragg must know that because when their friends or family need legal help, they call Perry. It makes very little sense that Burger would order Paul's arrest/detention instead of simply asking what happened and taking it at face value. These are not strangers. In fact, they have worked together for years. Perry and Paul are always very careful not to lie to cops or do anything illegal. The writers are being very lazy by relying upon the age old trope of prosecutors and defense attorneys being enemies. Particularly knowing what we know about their long history of seeing that justice is done.

And then there's the ludicrous scenario about how Mrs Leyton incriminated herself. They asked us to believe that this woman brought a gun to her ex-husband's home, shot him with it, put the gun in her purse, and then left her purse right next to the body. I've heard of stupid criminals, but this is just stupid writing. Not to mention a very lazy way to point to Perry's client as the murderer. How would that have gone exactly? Did she shoot him and then hang around for so long that she had to put her purse down from the fatigue of holding onto it for so long? SMH

Even Harris' future plan to publish a sequel book using real names did not seem realistic. He would be slapped with a Cease & Desist order so fast his head would spin. That's the reason books like that are never published. Too many people can and do sue. The whole thing just seemed deliberately designed to be shocking and make us believe everyone is a suspect. Submitted by DellaMason

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

Golly! Anyone know where I can get a copy of “Dishonored”? - bet it’s just chock full of “Spicy Bits”! DOD 02/04/22

Tragg allows Paul to use the phone in the ‘murder room’ - then moments later we see the phone being dusted for fingerprints. Odd that Harris apparently keeps nothing in his desk drawers. In McCann’s office we get a glimpse of the same ceiling fixture in Perry’s office, but in chrome. DOD 01/07/20

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
Also a rare episode with an African-American couple among the spectators. Perhaps the producers were quietly doing what they could to integrate television.\\
Perhaps the judge did not speak because they did not want to put his name in the credits, because they knew it might cause some complaints from viewers (and wanted to protect him?). By not speaking, he could be considered an 'extra'. Just a guess. -yelocab 12MAR18
+ Genesis of Courtroom Script I have questions regarding how the actor was selected for the role of judge. Was the script deliberately written for a black judge? Or was it afterwards the PM production thought this script could be amended for a non-speaking black judge? Almost all of the 270 PM episodes have a courtroom scene, and almost all include rulings from the judge. This script was assiduously written to exclude any response from the judge. Burger never objects like he normally does so there are no rulings. At 45 minutes in Mason addresses the judge as "Your Honor" to ask about some evidence,but the judge does not explicitly respond; rather we deduce the judge ruled affirmatively. PM therefore acknowledged the authority of the black judge, but good grief the extremes they went to. Interesting to think how things were about to change regarding TV - Star Trek was about to be broadcast, and for instance Law & Order was first broadcast in just 22 years from this PM episode.
Regardless you have to feel sorry for this actor: "Good news, you were selected to play the judge! However ..."
BTW there is an excellent article in Smithsonian Magazine about the social impact of PM, including discussion of this episode. Rick P 12/20/21

Although Tragg is in on the initial investigation, it is Anderson who testifies and gets to say "It has my mark."

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.
+ Goof: With his back turned to the witness, Burger asks him to "point to" the woman he saw. Mr. Tabor points to the defendant, and, still with his back to the witness, Burger looks toward Mrs. Layton. jfh 20Jan2021

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]" Mike Bedard 2.18.15.

TCOT Patently Obvious Perpetrator I love this episode. The characters are well done, their interactions are convincing, and the writer included plenty of humorous touches. This is, however, the only episode where I found the murderer obvious from their first scene! Usually, I can't remember whodunnit even when I've seen the episode before, so this was a unique experience. It actually added to the fun for me! Submitted by JazzBaby, 04/06/2019.

TCOT Lurid Literary Phenomenon It seems to me that writer Sam Neuman was inspired by the sensationalistic novel Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious. Published in 1956, the book drew on real-life small-town lurid crimes including incest and murder, and was an outrageous, so to speak, success. It was meant to expose the seamy underside of respectable small communities. Metalious, suddenly wealthy and promoted as "Pandora in Blue Jeans," took to drinking and died in 1964 of cirrhosis of the liver. The legacy of her one bestseller lived on in film and TV. At the time this PM episode aired, I doubt any viewer would have missed the connection. Even the title may have been a nod to Metalious, who said in an interview that small towns are "where the people try to hide all the skeletons in their closets." Submitted by JazzBaby, 04/06/2019.

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