Friday, January 25, 2013

Notable Guest-Stars: Allison Hayes

I am so sorry. I was so busy this morning/afternoon, I wasn’t able to squeeze a blog post in. And I hadn’t decided on a topic. Several ideas came to mind tonight, and I determined to go with this one.

One of my favorite female guest-stars on Perry is Allison Hayes. Popular with the B movie crowd, I’ve heard, one of her most well-remembered roles was in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.

Apparently I’ve known of her existence for years without being fully aware of that fact, as her first released appearance was in one of the Francis the Talking Mule movies. I saw most of those many years ago, and although I was never a big fan, I found them fairly enjoyable. I remember seeing the one she was in, Francis Joins the WACs, but I don’t recall anything about her character.

I find it a bit sad that the film she considered her best, Count Three and Pray, did not give her the proper attention. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t fully pass judgment, but I’ve seen multiple times where various actors and actresses don’t get the credit and attention they deserve from audiences and critics and are overshadowed by other, more well-known names. In this case, however, the opposite happened—the previously unknown actress (Joanne Woodward) was given the attention while the already-known Allison was mostly ignored. They should have both received attention, if their performances warranted it, and I have no doubt that Allison’s did.

According to Wikipedia and other sources, Allison became friends with Raymond Burr while working on the picture, and it was implied that their friendship was at least partially responsible for her appearing on Perry.

This fansite that I just stumbled on seems to include a great deal of biographical information. I’m going to be perusing it for a while; it looks like fun.

I was stunned a couple of days ago when I learned that Allison died very young, at age 46 in 1977. And it’s very tragic that it sounds like it didn’t have to happen. She received lead poisoning through a calcium pill she had been taking for years. For the last years of her life she fought hard to get the FDA to stop importing that pill. When she was diagnosed with the leukemia that led to her death, it was unclear how it had developed, but it might have been instigated by the pill, or by the many X-ray examinations when she was trying to find out what was wrong before she realized it was the pill.

The fansite I’m still looking at seems to only make a brief note of her appearances on Perry. She was in five episodes through the series’ run. I spotted her in The Singing Skirt when I watched it recently. And I saw her in The Laughing Lady on MeTV. She’s also appeared in The Deadly Debt, as the sister of the murder victim, and in The Captain’s Coins. I am having a terrible time bringing her character to mind in the latter episode, however. From the summary I found, it doesn’t sound like she had much screentime. And I suspect at least some of it was chopped out of the only version I’ve seen. Maybe that’s why I can’t recall her. I like the episode, and I plan to dig it out to watch her in it. I’ll probably send for the uncut disc from NetFlix.

Her largest and most memorable Perry role, I feel, is in The Bogus Books. (Of course, you knew I wouldn’t forget that one, right?) As Pearl Chute, she has many scenes and even has the chance to light up the screen with H.M. Wynant, who is playing her “friend” Gene Torg. The characters certainly seem to behave as though they’re not solely friends! In any case, lucky, lucky girl.

I’ve been pondering more on Pearl’s actions in the episode, specifically towards Gene, and came to a conclusion. It doesn’t seem to me that Gene’s presence in the book racket would have particularly added anything to Pearl’s benefits, considering what she wanted. In fact, she would probably get a bit less than she might otherwise, since Gene would need to be paid part of the money too, under Pearl’s terms. Hence, from Pearl’s point of view, I imagine that regardless of whether Gene was really trying to go straight, Pearl felt that the deal was just too good to pass up and she honestly wanted to share the benefits with him. Not that it justifies her trying to pull him back into criminal activities, but if from her point of view she honestly was trying to do him a favor, it would make me feel better about her actions towards him.

I wonder if Allison and H.M. were friends in real-life. The Bogus Books was not the only time they appeared together. Of course, they were also in The Singing Skirt, but I don’t think they shared any screentime in that.

They did, however, in an episode of Shotgun Slade called The Laughing Widow. H.M.’s character sadly ends up dying in that, and Allison’s character falls apart, grieving and sobbing over his body.

Who knows; they may have had other appearances together, too. This one wasn’t even listed among H.M.’s credits; I stumbled across it quite by accident. I’ve added H.M. on the IMDB page for the episode and hope that there are other things he’s been in that aren’t listed. That would mean more surprise finds!

I consider Allison a hero in the same way I do William Talman, for her staunch determination to get the FDA to ban the dangerous calcium pill. I plan to look up more of her movie and television work; her last appearances are two episodes of Gomer Pyle that I have around here somewhere and like. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if my favorite of her roles is always Pearl Chute.


  1. Thanks for this piece focusing on Allison Hayes (whose name I never knew) and the link you provided.

    I went to the link (a great tribute site) and read of her life and of her battle with her illness. What a horrid fate, and it's a service that her story gets told.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I'm glad you enjoyed this piece and the website. Allison's story definitely needs to be told.

  2. Thanks for the link to my site! Always glad when Allison's story gets out there. The internet is a wonderful place. Yes, I think Pearl is one of Allison's best roles and certainly her shining moment in a Perry Mason episode. I think if you have the chance to see COUNT THREE AND PRAY and see Allison and Raymond Burr in their scenes, you'll see how good they are onscreen together.

    A writer friend of mine talked to H.M. Wynant and asked him about Allison, and he said he enjoyed working with her, but didn't really have anything else to say as they were not social friends.

    One of the things that she wrote to me in the early 1970's was that she thought her story was an important one that should be told and that she was looking for a publisher. She never found one, although a magazine expressed interest, she didn't mention the magazine title. But nothing came of it. And her book manuscript wasn't listed among her mother's belongings - so I am guessing it went out with the trash.

    Anything we can do to make her story available is appreciated! Thanks again! Jack Randall Earles

    1. You're welcome! I'm always happy to promote a good site related somehow to Perry Mason. :) I'll definitely have to try to find that film.

      Ahh, I see. Thank you for the information!

      That's too bad that she never found a publisher. It would be neat if her manuscript would somehow turn up somewhere.