#9: The Case of the
Original Airdate: 11/16/57
From The Perry Mason TV Show Book (Revised)
A Hollywood producer hires Perry to get him out of trouble when a foxy young woman the mogul picked up hitchhiking turns out to be not only a blackmailer but also a witness to a murder the producer may have committed.
Note the change in title from Gardner’s original “Vagabond Virgin,” to the teleplay’s “Vagabond Vixen.” Quite a difference.
Robert Ellenstein as John Addison
Catherine McLeod as Lorraine Ferrell
Carol Leigh as Veronica Dale
Peggy Converse as Myrtle Northrup
James Anderson as Peter Handsell
Barbara Pepper as Mrs. Dale
Paul Cavanagh as Edgar Ferrell
Robert Carson as Sgt. Bent
Pierre Watkin as Judge Keetley
Perry Ivins as Print Man
Russell Trent as Neff
Jack Gargan as Court Clerk
Lee Miller as Deputy Sheriff
Don Anderson as Bailiff
added by gracep 11/3/2010
CARS: 1957 Ford Skyliner retractable, black (Mason), 1957 Lincoln convertible, medium color, top down, 1957 Continental MkII, light color, 1957 Mercury 4dr sedan, medium color. From The Cars by Greg Cockerill.
+ Screenshots of the featured cars in the order they appear early in the episode:
- Pete Handsell's '57 Mercury 4dr sedan Lic No MTE 707, with Veronica Dale here; complete car looks like this.
- '57 Lincoln convertible Lic No KYL 907, Edgar Ferrell driving with passenger Veronica Dale, here. Front and rear licence plates are both easily read in this sequence of shots.
- '57 Continental MkII with John Addison exiting passenger door, here. This car's plates are not seen but the car's registration form is shown just after this shot. Note that before the "Vehicle Identification Number" (VIN) was introduced in 1981, engine & chassis serial numbers were used to ID vehicles.
- Perry's 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Lic No HGA 056; no image from episode but similar to this. Lic No clearly seen at 25:28 (CBS/Paramount DVD).
+ Models are '57 Mercury Montclair, '57 Lincoln Premiere. Don't think you can distinguish the Continental Mk II in this episode as a '56 or '57; if you can, tell me how. Submitted by oldgray, March 7, 2014.
Continuity Error: The opening scene shows Veronica Dale and Peter Handsell exiting Peter’s auto on the coast highway. Veronica has a sweater draped around her shoulders. In the closeup shots that follow, Veronica’s sweater has disappeared. After that, Veronica again has her sweater again. Submitted by daveb, 5/27/2008. Updated by daveb, 10/3/2008. A vidcap here.
The missing sweater is because those two responses to Handsell were shot in the studio in front of a white canvas. If they had been on location, you would see the partial dunes/vegetation behind her. This also happens in Show 1 TCOT Restless Redhead. Submitted by Jared 09 May 2021.
Continuity Error: In the scene where Peter Handsell lets Veronica Dale out of the car, he gets out and, with appropriate dialog, unbuttons the top button of her dress. Seconds later, as he gets back in the car, we see the dress is buttoned up again. Shortly after he drives away, as she stands by the side of the road, her dress is unbuttoned again. Submitted by daveb, 10/1/08. Some vidcaps of the magical button here.
The script for “Vagabond Vixen” is dated 18 June 1957. The scripts of at least 8 other episodes are dated earlier. There’s a good chance this was the 9th episode filmed. It’s actually the 9th episode broadcast. Submitted by billp, 4 November 2009.
+ As evidence of Perry's car is back to the Ford Skyliner in this episode. Since we know that there was a "Cadillac" episode shot in April, some of those shot in July, we now have "Cadillac" episodes shot in April and July sandwiched by "Skyliner" episodes (this one in June). Submitted by HamBurger, 9/20/2020
ESG:This episode of Perry Mason (TCOT Vagabond Vixen) is based on the Erle Stanley Gardner novel TCOT Vagabond Virgin. The season nine episode titled TCOT Golden Girls (#255, 9.14) is also based on this same ESG novel. So this ninth season episode is often considered to be a "re-make" of TCOT Vagabond Vixen. See here. Submitted by Charles Richmond, 26 April 2013.
Goof: “T” marks the spot. When Edgar Ferrell and Veronica Dale are at the Gull’s Way hideaway and as they approach a desk/table near a window, you can plainly see a “T” on the carpet. This is Veronica’s mark, and she sort of sidesteps to hit it. This curious lateral movement is what drew my attention to it. You can also see Edgar Ferrell’s mark by the desk leg. They start to be visible at about 4:20 into the episode. Submitted by billp, 29 November 2009.
Uncredited Actors: Don Anderson plays the bailiff seated behind the court clerk. Submitted by FredK, 30 September 2010.
+ Lee Miller appears as a Deputy Sheriff: a job RB held in Real Life before becoming an actor [IMDb]. Mike Bedard 3.8.15.
Location: About 16 minutes in, Perry gets a call: “Mason, I need your help. Meet me up at the house in Malibu. It's called Gull’s Way. 26800 Pacific Coast Highway.” Amazingly enough, this is all completely true and factually accurate! I drive by it all the time and that is exactly what it is called and exactly what the address is. Earlier in the episode, a girl runs down the hill from Gulls Way to a gas station which is still at the bottom of the hill. More of Gull’s Way can be seen here. Submitted by Eric Cooper, 9/25/08. Posted by daveb. A vidcap and more here.
+ The beach back entrance to Gulls Way can also be see in Episode #66. Submitted by Eric Cooper, 6 January 2011.
Location: About 33 minutes into this episode we see an excellent shot down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills where it deadends into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. This hotel is most famous for being the Pretty Woman hotel where Julia Roberts stayed with Richard Gere. Submitted by Eric Cooper, 2 November 2010. Some pictures here.
Portraits: Who’s that in the portrait/poster opposite Myrtle Northrup’s desk? (It’s to Myrtle’s right, above the filing cabinets.) Some have suggested it’s Jayne Mansfield. Submitted by billp, 14 November 2010.
+ Good catch. It is a contemporary photo of Jayne Mansfield with what looks like a silver winged horse (at 25:43 on the 2006 Paramount DVD); tineye found the same photo being auctioned on ebay in February 2015. A similar pose gets more hits, for example here on listal. For this episode, Walter M. Scott and Charles Q. Vassar are credited as the Set Decorators. In 1957, Sophia Loren sat next to Jayne at a Paramount party, in the well-known photo of Sophia looking at Jayne. lowercase masonite, 2/5/16.
++ The portrait to the right of the door in this scene (at the far left of the screen) is of Will Rogers. It a well-known later portrait that was used extensively on posthumous souvenir prints, calendar art, and church fans after his untimely death in an airplane accident in Alaska in 1935. The third portrait in this room, of a standing man, at the left side of the door, is unknown to me. Submitted by catyron, September 13, 2020.
This episode marks the first of four episodes featuring Barbara Pepper, a former chorus girl (Ziegfeld Follies, no less) and good friend of Lucille Ball. She also appears in episodes #119, #134, and #168. Submitted by gracep, 11/14/2010.
+ I noted Barbara Pepper’s name in the credits of Alfred Hitchcock’s excellent 1940 Foreign Correspondent, and thought I would test the hypothesis advanced in these pages that she had been a great beauty in an earlier day. She appears at 12:30 in that film, alongside Robert Benchley as his, um, big blonde escort. Now, she was no Joan Tabor (see TCOT The Substitute Face, or The Dubious Bridegroom), but she’s pretty good-looking, and well-suited for the part. IMDb speaks highly of her early acting, and tells of her tragic personal life. JohnK, 1 July 2018
> If you have the misfortune of watching a station that dumps MeTV, one of the small - very small - benefits that comes from watching one of the Cabless World alternatives is seeing PM regulars in their other (acting) lives. One of them, as JK notes, is Babs Pepper, who also appeared, prominently, in They Made Me a Criminal, an OK movie which doesn't quite live up to the excitement of its title (but then, really, how could it ??) Notcom 070218.
James Anderson played racist Bob Ewell in the 1962 classic "To Kill A Mockingbird" [IMDb]. Mike Bedard 4.1.15
Sightings: Distinguished Gentleman #1 appears as an elevator operator, and Pencil Mustache Man is one of the passengers in the final scene today. DG #1 apparently says “Second floor,” while PMM chews gum and eavesdrops.
Submitted by evelyne, 10 February 2011. More here.
+We can see Distinguished Gentleman #2 in court on Perry's side along with Little Old Lady #2. Distinguished Gentleman #1 is over on Burger's side and later Distinguished Lady #4 joins the group in the elevator. Submitted by BigBill767, Nov 11, 2016.
++ We can see Distinguished Lady #2 sitting next to Little Old Lady #2 in the back row on the defense side as the trial gets underway. Then, as Della escorts their surprise "witness" into the courtroom, Little Old Lady #2 is clearly visible sitting in the back row on the prosecution side. Distinguished Gentleman #1 appears on the defense side, as well as on the prosecution side as noted above. Submitted by JazzBaby, 7/3/2019.
Syndicated cuts: Scene of Handsell in Mason's office where Mason hands him the $2000 check; scene with Mason, Della and Lorraine; Tragg with Addison saying the judge will decide if Handsell's story is true; Veronica identifies the man who picked her up on the highway; Mason says Burger still has enough evidence to convict Addison. Additional Hallmark cuts: Scene of Mason getting Veronica out of jail; Scene in Mason's office where he tells Drake the plan to trap a blackmailer is not working and Della interrupts to tell Perry Sgt. Bent of Forgery wants to see him; a brief section of the print man's testimony where Perry asks him whether or not Addison's prints were put there before or after the murder and he replies that all he knows they were there. Submitted by Wiseguy70005, 7/16/12.
Gun: The murder weapon is a nickel-plated Harrington and Richardson top-break revolver. If you look closely, you can see a round (or casing) in a cylinder chamber. Submitted by oldgray, March 7, 2014.
Cheater!: Second episode in a row where the murder victim is a philandering married man. Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 3/19/2014.
The Automotive Registration in John Addison's car gives his address as 10460 Cheviot Drive. This may be a real address in the Cheviot Hills area of West Los Angeles. The legal owner of the Lincoln Continental is Fidelity Studio. The car was first sold on 3/7/57 and the registration was issued on 3/26/57. The vehicle fee was $248. The license plate is given as KYL-907, the same as the plates seen on the Lincoln convertible of Edgar Ferrell. ..MikeM. 7/20/2016
+ 10460 Cheviot Drive is a very nice pseudo-Tudor home. It has 4 bedrooms and 3 baths in its 2,500 square feet, and in 2018 it sold for $2,122,851. It is shown on Zillow here: https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/10460-Cheviot-Dr-Los-Angeles-CA-90064/20499326_zpid/?mmlb=g,0 Submitted by catyron, September 13, 2020.
This is the first of three PM appearances for Robert Ellenstein, whose father was a two-term mayor of Newark, New Jersey...MikeM. 5/2/2018
This is the first of two Perry appearances for Catherine McLeod (Lorraine Ferrell) who had played in A Blueprint For Murder in 1953 alongside Jean Peters and Joseph Cotten. jfh 27May2020
What’s with this getting out of the wrong side of cars? First it’s Peter Handsell when he drops Veronica off then it’s John Addison at the service station. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather walk around. Submitted by daveb, 10/1/08. A vidcap of John here.
+ I agree the sliding across the seat of the car is very odd. Even years ago, when it was a lot easier to do something like that, I can’t recall a single instance of anyone sliding without a very good reason, e.g., the driver’s side was next to a cliff or something. At the gas station, I know they wanted to position the car so Veronica could get in first and check the registration but even so ...? It seems to me for some bizarre reason they didn’t want to reposition the camera for those scenes and shoot another few feet of film. Why? Submitted by billp 12/26/08.
+ Actually, according to what I was told when I started driving (back in '73), it's actually illegal (or was) to get out of a car on the driver's side. The older cars with big flat bench seats made it easier to do that then, than cars do now. You'd have to be a contortionist to do it in modern cars.. Submitted by MikeReese, 9/4/2014
> I suspect you were told an out-of-context excerpt from an actual statute - e.g. "no one shall exit from a vehicle into a traffic lane in such a manner..."etc. - but it certainly wouldn't apply to a gas station parking lot !! That having been said, and discounting the possibility of legal compulsion, it's not clear why they bothered here: it's true his action kept him in site of the camera the whole time, but so what ?? Perhaps it was meant to imply he was actually sliding over for some other reason (to put something in the glove box, maybe??) Notcom, 100920.
The $100 Della gets from “Mrs. Dale” would be $736.56 in 2007. The $10000 Handsell wants translates to $73656.13. The $2000 check is $14731.23 in 2007. Submitted by billp 12/26/08
The woman who pretended to be Mrs. Dale for Della is in the Courtroom, but Della never notices.
When Edgar Ferrell is driving Veronica Dale to the studio guesthouse, they go by a billboard. As near as I can make it out, it’s an advert for “the world’s largest gopher town.” Do others agree with this? It is a bit hard to see. Apparently, it’s in “San ?” Another billboard advertises the “Holiday House,” apparently some sort of hotel. Do either of these ring a bell with anyone? Also, one of my pet peeves with actors and car driving with rear projection: they jiggle the steering wheel constantly. The impression I get when they do this is there’s either something terribly wrong with the car’s steering, the road or it’s rear projection. Submitted by billp 12/28/08.
+ On the 2006 Region 1 Paramount DVD at about 02:16, the "world's largest collection" billboard is for the San Diego Zoo "at Balboa Park". At about 02:47 is the other billboard for the "holiday house" (Surfside?) Hotel. With Edgar Ferrell concentrating on Veronica Dale's hemline during the drive, it's a wonder he can drive as well as he does. Submitted by (lowercase, with a comma and period) masonite, 07/11/13.
The AUTOMOBILE REGISTRATION Prop will be used in many later episodes to quickly and effectively show the viewer the ownership of key automobiles. The form we see is not, of course, the real California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) form but rather a mock-up simplified for visual presentation of the fictional owner's name. The mock-up was a Hollywood "standard" that originated earlier with the movie studios. Here, from the film-noir CRIME WAVE (DVD 48:08) is the movie form identical to that seen in Perry Mason (here). CRIME WAVE is a Gem! (Filmed on-location in LA in 1952, released 1954. Here's Steve Lacey's car) Added by Gary Woloski, 12/13/14.
+ The same Hollywood prop Auto Registration is found on the fold-down sun visor flap of a 1958 Plymouth Belvedere Convertible in the 1958 monster flick MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS. Gary Woloski, 9/5/17.
+ An Automobile Registration form of the mid-'50s can be seen on the steering column of Mike Hammer's (played by Ralph Meeker) XK120 at 03:41 of the 1955 film-noir Kiss Me Deadly, screenshot here. Reading the form is the means by which character Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman) learns Hammer's ID & address in the opening sequence of the film. In Perry Mason, there's a glimpse of the real form at 18:51 of Ep#126, but not close enough to read. A Registration-holder of the 1950s typically comprised a leather envelope with transparent window and spring fasteners. One is seen on the steering column of Carey York's Mercury at 10:00 of Perry Mason Ep#202. The custom and/or lawful requirement of carrying the form on the steering column or visor apparently goes back to at least the 1920s. Added by Gary Woloski, 1/14/15.
Prop Trouble. The "AUTOMOBILE REGISTRATION" on the visor of Addison's '57 Continental MkII incorrectly reads "License No. - KYL-907, Make - LINCOLN, Type - CONT." Addison's plate number is unknown but it cannot be KYL 907 (which was on Ferrell's car). The other two entries should be: "Make - CONTINENTAL, Type - CONTINENTAL MkII" (or "Type - MkII").
- Reason: From 1939-48 "Continental" was the top-of-the-line model of the Lincoln brand. This model was discontinued after '48. However, in 1955 Ford revived "Continental" as a separate brand (and Division of FoMoCo). For the US car model years 1956-57, "Lincoln" and "Continental" were separate Divisions of Ford Motor Company, each making quite different cars. During this period, Lincoln Division made a variety of models in the luxury price range (around $5K), whereas "Continental" Division only made ONE model (Continental MkII) which, at about $10,000, was "Luxury-Plus" and in the same class as Rolls-Royce.
Ford thus created its own "Brand Confusion" in the public mind. The Perry Mason Prop Man must also have been confused after being told to produce a "Car Registration" prop for the "Lincoln Continental". He couldn't help but get it wrong, since although there was a '57 Lincoln and a '57 Continental, there was no such thing as a '57 "Lincoln Continental". If you understand all that and this, you'll have no trouble sorting out the family relationships in ep#121 TCOT Duplicate Daughter!
Note the Registration Fee of $248.00 on the Addison's Registration ($2K in 2012 dollars!): If authentic, I'm guessing that this was essentially a Tax levied at 2.5% of the purchase price. Added by Gary Woloski, 4/28/12.
I think the hotel that Veronica’s mother stays at courtesy Perry Mason is “The Town House,” 639 South Commonwealth, Los Angeles. For more info, see here. The image of the hotel we see seems to be the rear side which faces South Virgil. Submitted by billp 1/11/09.
+ Actually, as noted above, it's the Beverly Wiltshire. The sign is clearly visible on the roof. The Town House, also known as the Sheraton West, home of the famous Zebra Room, shows up in the remake of this episode, The Case of the Golden Girls. See my post for that episode for more info. OldDave, filed 5/27/2020.
Although I know she’s supposed to appear sexy to Ferrell, I find it a little curious that Veronica needs so little covering whereas Edgar is wearing a topcoat. Submitted by billp. 29 November 2009.
Perry in a hat: As he enters his office the morning after bailing out Veronica, a whistling Perry playfully tosses his hat onto the bust of Voltaire just inside the office door. jfh 02May2018
Perry lights a cigarette in Addison's office and, once again, does not smoke it; Perry accepts the offer of a drink ("straight, no ice"), but never drinks it. jfh 02May2018
Random Musings: It is amazing to me that at one time (at least in California) people were required to display their vehicle registrations--with their home address--in their vehicle for anyone to see. Privacy? What privacy? On the witness stand Tragg says they had not found the murder weapon (surprising, considering where we eventually learn it was) but that they nevertheless knew it was at one time in the possession of the defendant. He starts to say that the defendant did a lot of target practice, but the rest of his testimony is obscured by Della's conversation with Perry. Also, the killer later says he/she didn't know that a bullet could be traced without a gun. Can anyone fill in the details? Perry's client wasn't very smart (he was, after all, a studio executive). He says he decided not to call the police because the "vagabond vixen" could identify him, but why would he then give her a ride? After you've seen the whole episode, the scene where Addison and Northrup "find" the body is amusing. Submitted by 65tosspowertrap, 3-19-14.
Did the police search the grounds for the murder weapon? After the location was revealed it seems unlikely. A cub scout troop could have found that gun if they were asked to look for it. Submitted by H. Mason 9/27/14
As is often the case, the time of events seems wacky. When Perry meets Addison at the murder house, he mentions it being two a.m., but it sure looks like a sunny night. Also, moments earlier Perry was in his office with Handsell. Would Perry really have arranged a meeting with him at what must have been about 1:30 a.m.?
In several later episodes we're confronted with a murderer who (seemingly) feigns surprise when discovering the body, even though there is no one around to witness. Here we have the opposite: when Miss Northrup accompanies Addison to the beach house, she shows not a trace of the nervousness one would expect from someone who knows they are about to "discover" a corpse (though it's possible that she's just a very good actress ... Addison doesn't know the talent hiding in plain sight!) In both cases, of course, the reason is the same: to avoid a spoiler. Mused by Notcom, 081417.