Thursday, September 27, 2012

Character Interaction with Della

As the days march on towards the ever-busy last months and weeks of the year, I’m wondering if I’ll need to cut back again to one post per week. Nothing is definite yet, but I want to give a warning just in case.

I’ve been debating whether to do the musing on Della’s interaction with people or if I should do something else for now, especially since it’s shaping up to be one of those busy times. But at the moment I don’t have another topic except one perhaps better suited to posting in a week or more.

Out of all the characters, Della associates the most with Perry, of course. As his confidential secretary and close friend (and perhaps something else, depending on who you talk to), she’s with him through just about everything on the series. She’s absent from very few episodes overall (and curiously enough, Paul is in most of the ones she isn’t in, meaning he’s only absent from two or three total).

Della is a very levelheaded person. She’s also very compassionate and kind, and can easily be swept in by worried would-be clients’ problems. Sometimes, when Perry is hoping to get away for much-deserved vacations, new clients appear and Della tries to convince Perry to help, if she’s been taken in with their stories. This is seen in both The Green-Eyed Sister from season 1 and The Nine Dolls from season 4. Both times Perry initially balks, but of course, being compassionate and kind himself, he ends up taking the cases.

Sometimes Della’s compassion and kindness gets her into deep trouble, such as in The Weary Watchdog when she goes along with Janet’s pleas for help, even when it results in Della being arrested. Even Perry is upset about Della’s involvement, as he knows what could happen to her if she’s charged as an accessory to murder. And sometimes Della shows sympathy towards some of the murderers (The Romantic Rogue and others), as well as towards certain other rascals (The Sad Sicilian). It’s unclear what Perry thinks of this, but Paul is often appalled.

Barbara Hale is an excellent actress, and as some people mused on the Della-Perry Yahoo Group a while back, Della’s expressions can sometimes make a scene, even when she says nothing. It’s obvious when she’s taking in something someone is saying and when she likes or dislikes something. And the fond glances she casts Perry’s way are quite endearing.

It’s unknown how long Della has been with Perry in the series, or if the book Della’s background is also that of television Della. But it’s safe to assume that Della has been with him for a very long time, to have grown so close with him.

It’s unusual for Della to be visibly angry. The only time I can even think of where she becomes furious is in The Dead Ringer, when Perry’s client is fuming and believing that Perry was involved in bribing a witness. Both Paul and Della are outraged and defend Perry against the accusations.

Della loves children and is also highly resourceful. She can be gentle as a lamb with innocents (The Nine Dolls, The Borrowed Baby), and turn around and attack bad guys if she has to (The Bogus Buccaneers). It’s unclear if she learned the latter from hanging around Perry and Paul or if it’s some ingenuity on her part that she’s had for ages independent of them.

When Perry decides to tease Paul, Della generally goes along with it, if she’s around at the time. But as I don’t really care for the ways Perry teases Paul, especially about his money, I like it better when Della interacts with Paul on her own. They have a lovely and comfortable banter, with Paul often innocently flirting and Della coyly responding.

There are few times where Della and Paul are both investigating angles on a case, but one in which there’s some extensive interaction is The Glamorous Ghost from season 5. Della accompanies Paul to where Perry’s client’s sister is supposed to be staying and Paul gets to show off his investigative skills. Della gets to investigate a bit, too. Eventually she inadvertently discovers diamonds hidden in the girl’s face cream and a concerned Paul gives her instructions on what to do next.

Della absolutely breaks down in tears when Paul is brought to death’s door by poisoning in The Carefree Coronary. And at the hospital, while Perry is forced to leave to return, very reluctantly, to the ongoing inquest, Della opts to stay and wait for more news.

Being extremely loyal to Perry, Della doesn’t always seem to be on the best terms with those representing the state. When Lieutenant Tragg comes around she often seems to become aloof, although still charming in a distant way. With Tragg’s friendly facades, it’s not always easy to say whether he’s really got a bit of a crush on Della despite the age gap, but Della accepts his congenial comments and compliments with grace and poise. Sometimes, especially in season 2 episodes such as The Glittering Goldfish and The Lost Last Act, they appear to get along particularly well.

She expresses disapproval at Tragg allowing a witness to drop out of sight by registering at a hotel in season 5’s The Impatient Partner, calling it a “dirty trick”—even though it really is, as Tragg points out, the exact same thing Perry does all the time. As per season 5’s more book-oriented nature, relations between Tragg and Della are not so congenial, when they interact at all.

With Hamilton it’s hard to say if things are any better in general. Della usually seems fairly nice when speaking to him, which only happens rarely as it is, but in The Surplus Suitor she makes a quip about trying not to be hostile on the witness stand. Hamilton replies, as a quiet aside, that such would be a rare experience.

Della really doesn’t interact with him enough to present a clear picture of her feelings. She strongly dislikes a comment of his in The Lonely Eloper. In The Reluctant Model, she speaks to him with the same coy tone she sometimes uses with Tragg. And there’s the issue that Hamilton at least perceives that she treats him with hostility, since his quite aside seems completely serious and not just a return quip.

On the other hand, at least twice out of his presence she’s called him “Hamilton”, which Paul certainly would never do and which, under the circumstances, seems almost a term of endearment. Does she like him, in a platonic way? It’s a very good question. I would think that, since Perry likes him, Della would try to be open-minded. And maybe along the way, she would find that she’s come to like him too.

She also doesn’t interact much with Andy or Steve. With both of them she seems fairly comfortable and amiable, but there really isn’t much of any significant interaction to report. In The Weary Watchdog, Andy discusses the case and comes several times to deliver messages to Della from Hamilton, warning her of her state as an accessory when her friend Janet is charged with murder. Andy is sobered and seems reluctant. Della’s verbal responses to these messages are never shown in the script, and her facial reactions are mainly worried over what he’s saying. Steve, meanwhile, is more likely to interact one-on-one with Paul than Della. I can't remember if he's ever talked with Della at all, except to say Hello or Goodbye when they're having lunch or dinner with Perry and Paul, and in The Final Fade-Out when he delivers the invitation from Hamilton about dinner.

In season 9, Della interacts at times with Terrance Clay. Once, Della arrives laden with packages from shopping and wants Clay to help her stack them. Clay comments how he doesn’t understand women and Della proclaims him a masochist, in that matter-of-fact way of hers. Nevertheless, they usually seem to be on good terms.
The next post may or may not continue the interaction series. I think I might try to spread some of them out, with other topics in between.


  1. I love reading your entries. I wish I was as dedicated in exploring the show in such a detailed way. As far as the interactions between Della and Hamilton go, I agree that it's sort of hard to tell how she views him. I never really detected any hostility toward Hamilton himself. He's had to grill her on the stand a few times, but I think she's worked so long for Perry that they both understand it's nothing personal. I really only felt Della was joking (albeit the situation was serious) when she made the comment about trying "not to be a hostile witness." They both knew he was going to ask her things she wasn't going to want to answer. I think her frustration there was more that particular aspect than Hamilton himself.

    Also, unlike Perry, Della and Paul are much more familiar with Hamilton the Prosecutor rather than Hamilton the Man. Perry gets more frequent glimpses into who Hamilton is as a person. It was obvious though, even in the courtroom that Hamilton was not thrilled about having to prosecute Paul. I think that's partly due to the possibility that Hamilton didn't even truly believe or didn't want to believe that Paul was guilty and perhaps also because he knew it hurt Perry.

    The interaction between all the characters is extremely interesting and very dynamic. They're all striving for justice, albeit from two different camps and that causes a lot of friction. I think they all handle the professional rivalry and competition in great stride honestly.

    1. Thank you so much for your interest in reading, and for your lovely, thoughtful comment! :)

      I agree that Della seemed to be joking with her comment. It was Hamilton's quiet response that made me wonder exactly what kind of interaction they have/how Hamilton perceives things.

      And a very good point that Della and Paul don't see Hamilton quite as Perry sees him. I bring that out sometimes in my stories. I often wonder if Paul really picked up on the fact that Hamilton didn't want to prosecute. It was hard to tell from Paul's expression.

      And a great way to sum it up! I really like how the show portrayed both camps seeking justice, instead of just making the prosecuting side the bad guys. I love the scenes where Perry is explaining about how he and Hamilton approach a case, such as the scene that's often cut from The Renegade Refugee where he's trying to get David to realize that Hamilton is not a villain.