Perry Mason

After hearing Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor mention that “Perry Mason” was one of the reasons she initially entered the legal profession, I showed my sons an episode of the original tv show. (Ah, the wonders of a summer schedule!)

We happened to come across the very first episode from the first season, and it offered an interesting glimpse into the tv world of the 1950’s. With a heavy dose of heated violins, it was a remarkably white world, one dominated in black and white simplicity by Perry Mason, a man with a penchant for cigarettes, black coffee, and boxie suits.

After watching the show, I was curious about Raymond Burr, the actor who portrayed Perry. According to Wickipedia, he was a  Canadian, a philanthropist, a lover of wines and vineyards, and he was gay. I found myself thinking what it must have been like for him to conceal this part of his identity in Hollywood half a century ago. The character, Perry Mason, was defined by his brute rationalism and seemed to thrive in the straight-laced black and white world of law and order. I wonder how the actor was able to play this role with such force, all the while wrestling with the inconsistencies of his age?

If in 50 years, someone happens to come across a current episode of “Law and Order,” I wonder if they’ll see actors trapped in the conformity of our time ? And will they wonder what kept us so blind in 2009?


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