For the Bette Davis Blogathon, Bette’s Guest Starring Role on Perry Mason

The Perry Mason tv show, which aired on CBS from 1957-1966, was a top performing show.  The plot was straightforward, as defense lawyer Perry Mason would defend some unlucky fellow or gal who looked very guilty of murder and after nimbly battling with the prosecutor, Hamilton Burger, Perry would usually win the case, with the helpful confession of “I did it! I killed Sam!” emanating from another witness for the prosecution or witness in the courtroom.  With this show on the air, CBS had a ratings hit for a number of years, so when 1963 arrived, the producers and the network had a dilemma.  Star of the show, Raymond Burr, had to have a dental procedure done and was going to miss 4 episodes.  What a disaster! The network didn’t want to show reruns, so it was decided to cast special guest stars to take on a case for Perry, who was in the hospital; scenes with Perry checking in with his secretary, private investigator, or the guest stars, via the phone in his hospital room were filmed prior to Burr’s absence.

Bette, as lawyer Constant Doyle, arriving at the jail to meet her client.

Constant with her client, hoodlum Cal Leonard(Michael Parks)

The first guest star turn was done by none other than Academy Award winning actress Bette Davis.  For her role, Bette played lawyer Constant Doyle, a recent widow.  She takes the call from a potential client, a hoodlum, who was arrested after trying to steal goods from a factory.  He was stopped by the security guard but his two pals got away.  Somehow, this hoodlum knew of lawyer Joe Doyle and calls him for help.  What he doesn’t know is that Doyle died two months ago and his widow and fellow lawyer in the Doyle Law Firm, Constant, will be the lawyer who calls on him while he’s in jail.  Here’s a shot of that lawyer-client meeting, courtesy of YouTube.

Bette working with Della Street, Perry’s loyal secretary, played by Barbara Hale.

With the arrival of the medium of television, and a cadre of aging film actors and actresses, it was a logical next step for many in Hollywood who wanted to keep acting to accept roles in tv shows.  Davis, imho, did a great job on this episode of Perry Mason.  Even when Co-star Michael Parks, the young method actor playing the hoodlum got too loud or hammy, Davis stood her ground and brought the needed gravitas to the scenes.

Perry Mason cast: Barbara Hale as Della, William Hopper as PI Paul Drake, Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, William Talman as Prosecutor Hamilton Burger.

I know that the Perry Mason episodes are out there for the public to buy.  If you have access to ME-TV, FETV, or possibly some other cable or Dish or Direct tv channels, there’s a good chance one of those channels may be airing Perry Mason, it’s still that popular of a show!  So try to find season 6, episode 16, for a treat: Oscar winning actress Bette Davis guest starring on Perry Mason.   This post has been for the 3rd Annual Bette Davis Blogathon.  Be sure to read more wonderful posts about Bette and her fantastic acting career, at In The Good Old Days of Hollywood.

 

Bette was a huge fan of the tv show, Perry Mason., and was quite happy to fill in as the guest lawyer.

 

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5 responses to this post.

  1. […] Portraits By Jenni talks about Bette’s appearance on Perry Mason . […]

    Reply

  2. Posted by mercurie80 on April 9, 2018 at 6:50 PM

    They showed this one again on ME-TV. Of the various actors who pitch hit for Raymond Burr, Bette Davis was my favourite. Indeed, “The Case of Constant Doyle” is one of my favourite Perry Mason episodes! I often wish they had done a spinoff with Bette Davis as Constant Doyle!

    Anyway, I did a post on the episodes of Perry Mason that featured substitutes for Mason quite a while back. It seems to be one of my more popular posts.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Michaela on April 8, 2018 at 7:55 PM

    I love Perry Mason, both the books and the show. I haven’t gotten very far with the show, unfortunately. It seems like every time I find it online or on TV, something happens and it disappears. I’ll definitely keep on the lookout for this episode, though! It sounds awesome!

    Reply

    • It is a great tv series. When our cable tv system added ME-TV, I was able to record all the episodes and watch them. The other guest stars for an ill Raymond Burr were Walter Pidgeon, Hugh O’Brien, and Michael Rennie. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply

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