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May 21 was actor Raymond Burr’s birthday. Burr, who died in 1993, was, to me, the consummate Perry Mason, but he was not the only actor to play the role.
Perry Mason is the fictional criminal trial lawyer created by Erle Stanley Gardner in 1933. Of the 82 Perry Mason novels written by Gardner, the fourth one, The Case of the Howling Dog, written in 1934 establishes the template that was used once this character made it to the movies and television. That is, a client comes to Mason seeking his legal advice, someone who the client knows (and is causing the client grief ) “needs killing” and is murdered. The client is accused of the murder and Mason uncovers the murderer.
The Case of the Howling Dog was the first Perry Mason novel to be made into a movie. Starring Warren William as Mason, this 1934 movie is very close to the book and is an excellent portrayal of the lawyer-detective as envisioned by Gardner in the early books. It is presented below:
When the Case of the Howling Dog was shown during the second season of the Perry Mason TV show starring Raymond Burr in April 1959, the story bore little resemblance to the 1934 movie or the novel. While Burr has always been the Perry Mason for me, I must admit William’s portrayal was right on target to those of us familiar with the book. Burr’s version of the story can be found here thanks to Foxeema. Both the movie and TV show are good and both are worth watching, but the twist at the end of the movie and William’s acting style makes his version the more enjoyable of the two.