#48: The Case of the
Original Airdate: 11/22/58 Revised
From The Perry Mason TV Show Book
Cigar-smoking art collector Rufus Varner claims to own an original "Van Hooten" called The Purple Woman. He's too embarrassed to admit he was sold a fake by art dealer Milo Gerard and Aaron Hubble, a burnt-out, boozed-up painter. Gerard's wife, Evelyn, suspects her husband will try to pin the fraud on her. She needs Perry's advice and later his courtroom expertise when Milo is murdered and she becomes the prime suspect.
There is a classic scene in this episode: In a close-up of Perry discussing the case with his client in jail, the light's reflection caught in his eye becomes a gleaming little triangle; the shot is held for some time and has an intense effect.
Starring Raymond Burr
in The Case of THE PURPLE WOMAN
Barbara Hale as Della Street
William Hopper as Paul Drake
William Talman as Hamilton Burger
Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg
Directed by Gerd Oswald
Written by Robert Bloomfield and Gene Wang
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
George Macready as Milo Girard
Bethel Leslie as Evelyn Girard
Robert H. Harris as Aaron Hubble
Rhys Williams as Rufus Varner
Doris Singleton as Doris Andrews
Donald Murphy as Wayne Gordon
Stephen Bekassy as Laslo Kovac
Edwin Jerome as Judge
Shirley Houser as Waitress
Don Anderson as Bailiff John Banner appears briefly when the body is found.
Gene Wang | Story Consultant
Production Supervisor … J. Paul Popkin
Story Editor … Alice Young
Director of Photography … Frank Redman, A.S.C.
Assistant Producer … Robert Wechsler
Art Direction …
- Lyle Wheeler
- Lewis Creber
Assistant Director … Morris Harmell
Editorial Supervision … Art Seid, A.C.E.
Film Editor … Otto W. Meyer, A.C.E.
Casting … Marvin Schnall, Harvey Clermont
Makeup … Richard Hamilton
Hair Stylist … Annabell, S.C.H.
Wardrobe Supervision … Dick James
Set Decoration … Walter M. Scott, Charles Q. Vassar
Properties … Ray Thompson
Sound Editor … Gene Eliot, M.P.S.E.
Production Sound Mixer … Robert O’Brien
Script Supervision … William E. Orr
This has been a CBS Television Network Production
Filmed in Hollywood by TCF Television Productions, Inc.
CARS: No cars. From The Cars by Greg Cockerill.
+ There is at least one car driving up the street in an exterior shot about 9 minutes in. jfh 31Oct2018.
Sightings: There is a spectator in the courtroom who appears in several other trials. He is a dark-complected man with a pencil thin mustache who resembles Leo Carrillo. He is wearing Hamilton Burger’s gold tie with black stripes that was described in Episode #22, TCOT Fugitive Nurse. He wore this same tie the year before in the courtroom in Episode #32, TCOT Substitute Face. All during the trial in this episode, he whispers to the woman seated next to him, thereby drawing attention to himself. Submitted by PaulDrake33, date unknown.
+ By now you may wonder, just who is that? Some of his friends join him in the courtroom gallery, too, including Quiet Old Man #1, “Miss Carmody”, the Little Old Lady in a Hat, and Distinguished Gentleman #1, who is first visible when Burger stands to object to Mason’s questions of Mr. Gordon. Submitted by gracep, 1/10/2010. See also continuity note, below.
++ The Pencil Mustache Man is seen eating at the Restaurant in the final scene. The Distinguished Lady #4 attends the last hearing on Perry's side. Submitted by BigBill767, 2/4/17.
Uncredited Actors: Don Anderson repeats one of his familiar roles here as the bailiff seated near the clerk and the reporter. Submitted by FredK 19 Nov 2010.
Continuity: When Burger stands to object to Mason’s questions about The Purple Woman, two courtroom spectators, Quiet Old Man #1 and Distinguished Gentleman #1 are sitting on the prosecutor’s side of the courtroom. As he sits down, overruled of course, the two spectators have teleported to the defendant’s side! As Burger and Mason talk to the judge at the bench, they two are back on the prosecutor’s side. Then, when Kovac and Burger stands before the painting, DG #1 is right behind Perry Mason (and QOM #1 has switched sides, too). But when Burger returns to his seat, DG#1 is in the back row of the defense side again! Submitted by gracep, 1/10/2010. + The Pencil Mustache Man described by PaulDrake33 above also moves back and forth in the final courtroom scene. Submitted by gracep, 1/10/2010.
Syndicated cuts: In jail, Evelyn asks Mason how anyone could think she is guilty, Mason replies there are three reasons; scene in Mason's office before Doris leaves; scene with Varner and Mason discussing the forgery; Gordon telling Mason what he knows about Varner; Paul, Perry and Della being served lunch by Martha before Tragg arrives. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 8/02/12.
Recycled newspaper: The papers Della handed to Perry and Paul in the restaurant came from episode 18 TCOT Cautious Coquette. Submitted by H. Mason 10/14/14
Hotel chain: Doris Andrews and Milo Girard had registered as husband and wife at the Gateview Hotel in Palo Alto. Perry had Claire Olger register as Joan Lewis at the L.A. area Gateview Hotel in episode 19 TCOT Haunted Husband. Submitted by H. Mason 10/14/14
Actor George Macready appeared in another painting-related episode of Perry Mason, "The Case of the Posthumous Painter" in the fifth season (1961), which also dealt with the possibility of faked paintings. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 2/23/15.
George Macready was one of the great urbane villains of many movies of the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps most famously as Rita Hayworth's husband in "Gilda." Here he does a small-screen version of the same haughty, malicious character, and, naturally, meets a similar fate. Submitted by BobH, 4 January 2016.
+ He was Secretary of State Cordell Hull in the 1970 docudrama "Tora! Tora! Tora!" [IMDb]. Mike Bedard 6.2.16
This is the first of four PM directing credits for Gerd Oswald, who was born in Germany in 1919...MikeM. 9/13/2016
This is the second of three PM appearances for actress/writer Bethel Leslie (Evelyn Girard), whose father was an attorney. Bethel Leslie had her first stage role at age fourteen. She worked steadily the rest of her life until her passing in 1999 at the age of 70...MikeM. 6/25/2018
"What Goya did for the Duchess of Alba:" When Aaron Hubble offers to do for Evelyn Girard what Goya did for the Duchess of Alba, the implication is that he proposes to become her lover and to paint a picture of her naked. The 18th century Spanish painter Goya was thought to have been the lover of María Cayetana de Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba. In addition to two formal portraits of her (The Black Duchess and the White Duchess, so named from the colour of her clothing in the paintings), and a playful caprice depicting her scandalizing her pious female servant, there are two informal portraits of a reclining woman, The Clothed Maja and the Naked Maja, that have been assumed by popular art historians to be images of her as well. Submitted by catyron, December 21st, 2020.
A fascinating article about this particular episode, one of my favorites, appeared in a magazine on 2/21/59. The article details the events on the final day of shooting. To read it, see here. Submitted by billp, 6/11/11.
Thanks to billp for linking above the wonderful Dan Jenkins article about the final day of shooting this episode. There are many great details for PM fans. We learn that Assistant Director Morris Harmell had the nickname of Mushy. Also, Raymond Burr notes that since they have a cigarette sponsor, the scripts are full of smoking. After rising prior to 4am, Burr finally drives off in his station wagon after 10pm. Submitted by MikeM, 10/23/2012
Both the summary above and the 1959 TV Guide article linked by billp mention the jailhouse interview scene with Leslie Bethel and Raymond Burr. The scene is a quiet tour-de-force. It was done as a single shot running about 2:15 and required the most exacting actor's skills of memorization, timing and nuance. The fact that it was done with minimal rehearsal and in one take (per TV Guide) is mind-boggling. The fact that they shot no coverage (alternate takes, reverse angle close-ups) shows enormous confidence (and a crazy busy production schedule.) The scene was extremely well written, with memorable lines. ("Now listen, Mrs. Gerard: the police are very efficient; you'd be surprised with what they can do with a handful of ashes".) The camera set up is striking as well. It's shot from behind with Burr's back to the camera; midway through, he turns and plays the scene in profile. There is another fine scene earlier on, right before the murder victim is discovered, in which Perry, Paul and Della discuss Mrs. Girard. Perry steps into the foreground, which is not lit, and delivers his lines from the shadows. It's the perfect, ominous lead in to the discovery of the body, which is yet another great scene - Girard appears to studying an art book with his creepy grin. OldDave, 7/24/2020.
Is there any other Perry Mason episode where the title (or at least the part after "The Case of the...") is mentioned so many times during the episode? Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 8/02/12.
+ The Weary Watchdog was mentioned a # of times also, but PW may have had more script references. Mike Bedard 6.7.16 MeTV viewing.
Although I could find no concrete evidence, it would appear that actor Rhys Williams required the use of a cane in real life. Of the four appearances of his I have on DVD [Perry Mason (1958), The Wild Wild West (1966), Mission: Impossible (1967) and Mannix (1969)], in what would seem to be too great a coincidence, all four characters required the use of a cane. Indeed, in the Mannix appearance, which aired less than three months before his death, his character was seen sitting most of the time, and when walking away near the end of the episode, used a cane in each hand. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 9/16/13.
Why does Milo ring the doorbell of his own house? And how was he killed? If stabbed with the scissors, wouldn’t they have the killer’s fingerprints?
I really like the direction of this episode - a lot of close-in, low level shots. I especially like the scene in Perry’s office with Aaron Hubble.
After questioning by Burger, Doris is excused from the stand without Perry being given a chance to cross examine.
One of the downsides of any episode set in the art world is all that bad art we have to look at. DOD 07/07/19
+Agreed! Robert H. Harris sitting in Perry's chair, uninvited, is priceless. BTW, the murder weapon isn't the scissors, it's Girard's "favorite figurine". Mrs. Girard explains in the jailhouse scene that she picked it up in Girard's office before she realized he was dead. Although it is not explicitly stated in the scene, she must be trying to explain to Perry how her prints were found on the murder weapon. Hamilton notes in court that Mrs. Girard's fingerprints were on the murder weapon (without mentioning what the weapon was.) OldDave 7/24/2020
A guest appearance by Robert H. Harris usually means the viewer can "enjoy" actorial ham by the heaping plateful. As disreputable artist/forger Aaron Hubble, Harris does not disappoint those fans looking forward to his scenery-chewing antics. Submitted by BobH, 6 March 2016.
+ A Quantum Leap For Ham: As overdone as Harris can be in Perry Mason, I've just seen him take it further. I bought a DVD set of Staccato (aka Johnny Staccato), a one-season wonder from 1959 starring John Cassavetes as New York's jazz detective. (It's pretty good, actually, shot in gritty New York. It features some of our favorite Mason actors, plus others on the way up.) In the first episode, Harris played the manager of a rock star (Michael Landon) modeled on Elvis's handler Colonel Tom Parker. Not only did Harris wield a broad Southern drawl, he wore a string tie and big Stetson. Sheesh. However, his appearance was mercifully short. JohnK, 24 March 2021.
Once again we have an affluent, childless, unhappily married couple. In this case, the difference in the actor's ages is thirty years. Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 5-13-2014.
Note the large painting hanging in the entryway of the Girard home. Perhaps in order to get it past the censors, it is far away and slightly out of focus. It is seen in sharp focus for about a second when Hubble leaves and Evelyn enters. Submitted by Alan Smithee, 13 May 2014.
+ The same painting is much more prominently displayed five years later in episode 187. Perhaps censorship standards had relaxed somewhat. Alan Smithee, 13 March 2015.
++ Poor censors! Whenever something is censored, it is they who are over-reacting to some harmless scene or dialog. But then, when the censors actually allow something, they don't get the credit. They only allow something because they didn't notice it or too stupid to see it ("how did THAT get past the censors?"). Although censors can make mistakes just like anyone else, did it ever occur to anyone that they may actually know what they're doing? (Besides, a painting of a woman seen mostly from the rear in the background of a scene doesn't seem too scandalous in the first place.) Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 3/15/15.
I love the ending to this episode. Burger can act like a prickly jerk, but it was magnanimous of him to congratulate Perry. It was classy of Perry to refer to Burger's law journal article and to invite him to sit with them. It shows that although they butt heads in the courtroom they have mutual respect for each other. Submitted by Duffy, 5-13-2014.
+ Agreed! "We'll be happy to do anything to assist counsel that we can," Berger obligingly told Perry in "Curious Bride." There is a time to Contend & a time to Cooperate. Mike Bedard 6.1.16.
++ Hamilton: "A Well-Tried Criminal Case Is A Credit To All Involved: There Is No Winning Or No Losing In The True Administration Of Justice." Chivalry is Not dead; Hamilton showed it in praising Perry & Perry in giving his seat to Hamilton. Mike B. 6.7.16
On the defense side of the gallery sits a gorgeous brunette. And not our Cute Young Lady, I don't believe. She is visible for most of the hearing, but we get a good look at her at 45 minutes on the DVD. Perhaps she was the model for the painting? JohnK, 21 March 2018
The camera shots over the Judge's left shoulder give an interesting Perspective on the courtroom; I also liked Perry's Humility when he said, "you could fool me, but that wouldn't take very much." Did Girard ring the doorbell of his own residence while his wife & the painter were talking? Mike B. 6.7.16.
Staging/ blocking error: Della walks in about 10 minutes in and says "Whats wrong?" Perry says Paul has a theory Mrs. Girard hasn't exactly been honest with us." Then he proceeds to walk too far toward the camera. He goes almost completely into darkness as he talks about a divorce. Eric Cooper 15 Sept 2016
Music: This episode features a particularly gloomy and ominous musical theme which is heard twice: at approximately 4:05, as Rufus Varner is leaving Milo Girard’s office, and again at 12:15, as Milo confronts his wife about some letters he found in her vanity table. The music contributes to the dark and somewhat sinister mood of the episode, which reflects Milo’s personality. Submitted by Dan K, 10/10/17.
When Doris finds Milo dead at his desk he is sitting up and leaning forward. His body doesn't collapse and fall forward until Doris approaches and speaks to him. Very odd behavior for a corpse. Submitted by Kilo 4/7/2018.
The court reporter in the background seems to be recording conversations when no one is talking. This occurs just after the court decides The Purple Lady painting should be produced in court. Also, in the very next scene the court reporter has disappeared, desk and all. Submitted by Kilo 4/7/2018.