Perry fans may want to check out tomorrow night’s Love Boat movie on MeTV. Raymond Burr is one of the main guest-stars! He delivers an amazing performance ranging from comedic to dramatic as a gruff, alcoholic theatre teacher. We even get to hear him sing! (He’s quite good, too.)
I happened to see it recently and by accident, as it was on the same disc as the wonderful Richard Anderson episode (which I’m hoping to record some Sunday if it hasn’t aired yet). It was definitely a surprise treat to see Raymond and well worth watching, even if you’re not a Love Boat fan. (Me, I kind of like the wonderful 1970s cheese and adorableness of the show, and how it deals with serious issues in a respectful way, even though at other times the mushiness makes me roll my eyes.)
And for once let’s do this early instead of late! Tomorrow is Barbara Hale’s 92nd birthday! Oh my goodness. It’s so wonderful to still have some of the original Perry cast members alive and well with us, especially as we’re losing more and more of the last remaining Golden Hollywood greats (R.I.P., Mickey Rooney).
This is a lovely fansite for Barbara: http://www.barbarahale.com/index.htm I had previously thought that Barbara either had some affiliation with it or that she was aware of it and came to look at the Guestbook comments. The website owner has a notice that says it’s an unofficial fanpage. That doesn’t mean Barbara isn’t aware of it and perhaps sometimes sees the Guestbook comments, however, so it might still be a nice thing to leave a birthday wish for her there. In any case, it’s a very nice place to visit, clearly a labor of love by a devoted fan.
Over the past year I have enjoyed seeing Barbara as Della on the main Perry Mason series as well as finally discovering her revival of the character in the television movies. I really love how the character grows through the years and how Della is depicted as so motherly in the movies. Della has always had that motherly, protective streak, as shown on the series whenever children are present or when she encounters someone else that she develops a certain fondness for (such as the defendant in The Sad Sicilian). And she serves as Perry’s conscience during those times when Perry is getting too swamped with work or too eager for a vacation to take a particular case. On the one hand, I feel sorry for Perry never getting to have a proper vacation. But when the people genuinely need help and Perry is likely the best one to give it, it is nice of Della to be thinking of their problems. Della doesn’t get much vacation/downtime, either. Many are the nights that she works far later than most other secretaries. Once she asks Perry if they will ever be able to leave earlier than midnight. (I think that’s the one with the amusing ending where they keep trying to hurry out the door before the clock stops chiming midnight and they keep having to run back because of forgetting to close the balcony doors or turn off the lights.)
Della is absent from only a handful of Perry episodes. While I often still enjoy them for their plots or favorite guest-stars (or for Hamilton being present, if they’re in-town episodes), Della’s presence is definitely missed. She’s an integral part of the cast, certainly made so by Barbara Hale’s amazing performance.
I still have to wonder why anyone thought a remake of Perry Mason would work so soon after the original stopped airing new episodes. Perhaps if they had waited longer people would have been more accepting, but only seven years later, the comparisons between the two series and their casts were inevitable. The show itself was very good, plot-wise, and I will forever praise Dane Clark and Harry Guardino, but some of the other casting choices bewilder me. Sharon Acker is a fine actress, but she just wasn’t a believable Della Street to me. Perhaps if I see more of those episodes I’ll change my mind, but of course I’ll always feel that Barbara Hale is the quintessential image of Della Street.
Happy Birthday, Barbara Hale! I hope it will be a lovely day spent with your family. The fans remember and love you and I also hope for still many more birthdays for you.