JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister

The vast majority of the episodes of the first season of the Perry Mason show were based directly on novels of Erle Stanley Gardner. As I was watching the show I recognized several of the titles as books that I had read as a teenager, not that I recalled the plots anymore.

Then when The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister came on, not only did I recognize the title, but there was a scene that I clearly recalled reading. I didn’t recall the plot details, but I did remember that Mason had come to an apartment where a note was tacked to the door. He read the note and wanted to put it back exactly the way he found it, so he could pretend he hadn’t read it, but there were already two thumb tack holes in the door, so he thought he had been lured into a trap. There were other things that I recognized. For example, as soon as I saw the big freezer, I realized that was used to confuse the time of death.

Out of curiosity, I decided to re-read the novel to see how it diverged from the TV adaptation. As it happened, it diverged a lot. Several characters were cut, including the murderer, necessitating the selection of a new killer with a different motivation. Lots of things were changed, some unnecessarily, in my opinion.

I’ve gotten through the first two seasons of the show, which were produced in the late 1950s, so there’s gratuitous cigarette smoking in nearly every scene except the courtroom scenes. Even Perry Mason smokes from time to time. And this was the period when the pronunciation of Los Angeles was finally settling on the soft “g” sound, although there are still the occasional hard g’s to be heard.

It’s also fun to keep my eye on Barbara Hale, who is so under-used as Mason’s confidential secretary. She’s occasionally given an episode to shine where she’s subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution, and sometimes the writers let her explain the solution at the end of the show, but for the most part she has very little to do.

I recall reading a TV Guide article back in the day where she said she could draw attention to what Mason was saying by clearing her throat, but I don’t recall seeing her clear her throat, and I’ve been watching her carefully. Maybe she doesn’t clear her throat until later seasons.

As a matter of fact, I’ve found that old article online. It was called The Case of the Silent Secretary. Click the link to read it.