Friday, January 30, 2015

Birthday post for William Hopper and news


I wanted to make sure to get in one more post in January. As an anonymous reader hastened to inform me, I neglected to put up a post for William Hopper’s birthday on Monday. This year, it wasn’t for lack of remembering, but lack of physical capability to make the post. I was feeling miserable all that day. Then Tuesday was rather busy, as has been the rest of the week, but I decided I must make sure to get William H. acknowledged before the month is out.

This is a real milestone birthday for our William H.; he would have been 100 this year! (William Talman and Simon Oakland celebrate the same milestone this year as well.) It’s really quite incredible to think that it’s been that many years. I wish I really had a decent tribute to give, but I haven’t seen any more of his movies yet, nor have I gleaned new insight into Paul-centric episodes or scenes since the last time I posted on that matter.

The best I can do is mention my geeky excitement when I was watching The Stars and Stripes Forever, the biopic for John Philip Sousa, and they mentioned the actor DeWolf Hopper was going to star in a musical play Sousa was writing the music for. I figured that must be William H.’s father, considering his full name is William DeWolf Hopper, Jr., and looking him up, I find that is true. So it was fun to find a little Perry-related connection in that film.

Also, looking up things further, it says that William H. first appeared in one of his father’s silent movies, Sunshine Dad, as a baby. That’s pretty adorable.

William H. had a very illustrious career in the motion picture business during the late 1930s and off and on through parts of the 1940s and 1950s, before he became Paul Drake on Perry Mason in 1957. And it wasn’t just B-grade movies, either; he has quite the impressive resumé—even though many of his early roles were bit parts. Among other well-known films, he appeared in Stagecoach, The Maltese Falcon, Knute Rockne, and Yankee Doodle Dandy! I knew about his later role in Rebel Without a Cause, but I was unaware of these earlier roles. I am excited. It’s been years since I’ve seen The Maltese Falcon; it looks like it’s time I saw it again. And on the B-movie circuit, he was in two of the Bonita Granville Nancy Drew movies. While I did not care for her version of the character, I would definitely be interested in seeing those films to see William H.

I still find it interesting that William H. originally auditioned for the role of Perry Mason himself when they started putting the show together. I really enjoyed his screen test when I saw it on the 50th Anniversary DVD set, but he just didn’t give off a Perry vibe to me. I guess the producers agreed, since they determined he would be the perfect Paul Drake instead. That was definitely a bit of casting genius!

While I’ll admit that I didn’t think Albert Stratton in The New Perry Mason did a poor job as Paul, it will always be William Hopper’s Paul who is the iconic version of the character. He’s ideal! Smooth, intelligent, always with an eye for a beautiful lady and bewilderment over some of Perry’s desires (“A couple of dozen flies?!”), William H.’s Paul delivers many classic lines and hilarious expressions. And of course, he often brings in the evidence Perry needs to cinch a case just in time.

I love whenever the show devotes a bit more time to showing Paul operating, instead of just having Paul tell Perry things about the investigation after the fact. Every now and then the show would allow some spotlighting of Paul’s work, something that became more prominent later on as Raymond Burr grew tired of always carrying the majority of the show. Mid-series episodes such as The Barefaced Witness, The Impatient Partner, and The Glamorous Ghost are excellent Paul investigation vehicles. Later ventures such as The Bullied Bowler, The Feather Cloak, and The Carefree Coronary also involve Paul as a particularly key figure.

When out-of-town investigating needs doing, Perry often sends Paul instead of going himself. Sometimes Paul’s adventures are off-screen; other times, we see him in assorted locales such as New Orleans, Boston, and Mexico. It would make a good post just to focus on Paul’s travels sometime. I’ll have to start collecting information for such a post.

Paul is such a ladies’ man that another good post subject would be all the times he’s mentioned having dates, shows interest in particular ladies, or is actually shown on dates. Then again, that could take volumes. Paul has an interesting social life, when given the chance to have it.

Paul always adds so much spice to the show. I always enjoy seeing more of his investigations and would have liked to have seen more. There could never be too many private-eye series! Lately I’ve been enjoying a lot of Darren McGavin’s private-eye vehicle Mike Hammer, and it occurs to me how much fun it would have been had there been a series focusing more on Paul’s investigations than on the legal elements. But I love Perry Mason for what it is, and I love Paul for being a part of what it is. There is certainly a big, lonely gap in the reunion movies where Paul should be. No actor could quite fill it.

Happy belated birthday to a wonderful actor and a wonderful man, William Hopper! 100 years of being aware of his existence in the world is a milestone indeed.

And now for a bit of news. I probably shouldn’t have this in the same post, but I’d like to get it out here before any more time goes by. I still wish that there was a Perry video or computer game with all the latest graphics. It would be so fun to see the cast rendered in 3D, possibly even controllable for levels. Imagine playing out investigation levels as Paul! Going to court as Perry and Hamilton! Playing mini puzzle games with Della or Tragg, Andy, and Steve sorting through information! There are so many possibilities.

The old DOS text-based computer game remains the one time Perry ventured into such media. There may be some nice pictures of Paul in that; I’m unsure, as I’ve only seen the first 16 minutes of game play. All I recall is some nice renditions of Hamilton and Tragg. However, for anyone who understands how to work a text-based DOS game, it is now possible to find out the answers to this and any other questions revolving around said game! The Internet Archive has been adding old DOS games to be legally played online for free, and the 1985 Perry game The Mandarin Murder is among them! My friend Crystal Rose (who runs the Simon Oakland blog with me) discovered it here:

https://archive.org/details/msdos_Perry_Mason_-_The_Case_of_the_Mandarin_Murder_1986

I’m looking forward to giving it a try, although I don’t know how handy I’ll be at playing a text-based game.

Also, I do have what appears to be news on the Perry movie front. There is a promo running for MeTV’s current Mystery Movie feature on weeknights, and Perry as he appears in the 1980s and 1990s movies is part of that promo. It looks like at some point, MeTV will indeed air some of the Perry movies as part of their line-up. They seem to rotate each week, so we should get a whole week of Perry movies sometime soon. That should be interesting: a late-night Perry episode followed by a Perry movie.

10 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday, Bill Hopper! Nice, Ladybug.

    By the way, your mention of Stars and Stripes Forever led me to see if it was on Youtube. It is, in pieces and in whole if someone wants to download it.

    Thought you'd be interested in some trivia. Raymond's brother spent almost two decades as a policeman with the LAPD, and during his time there he also conducted the LAPD band. Come to find out, he also did some once in a while work as an extra in a few shows and was a band member in the film about Souza.

    Here is a youtube post of part of the movie. The man with the heavy sideburns in the far right of the frame at 1:10. playing the trumpet is Edmond, Ray's brother. (Given name, James Edmond).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU4A_qJ33pM

    Anon 2

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    1. Oh, thanks! That's very interesting. How cool that he's in that! Ahh, in that close-up, he looks like he has a similar look in his eyes, too.

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  2. Also, at 1:59 you get a close up of him--heavy brows like his brother's.

    Anon 2

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  3. @Ladybug: I just saw some news about the mystery movie via UVerse search. There are two listed, one is TCOT Notorious Nun and the second being TCOT Murdered Madam (I think? -- I couldn't read the full title). There are no dates for them set yet. But I'll be checking MeTv's site for the heck of it.

    Here's to hoping that they aren't just filler and that MeTv will actually show them.

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    1. Thanks for looking into it! MeTV's website lists the 16th as the week of Perry Mason movies. :) I'll make a post about it soon; later today, maybe. Or maybe I'll wait until every day's schedule for that week is revealed and post the gathered list of them all. That will probably be the end of the week.

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  4. Found out that they're airing them at 12:30am in the morning O_o. So I guess I'll be dvr'ing them most likely. That's pretty late at night.

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    1. Yeah, because that's when the Mystery Movies air, right after the nighttime Perry. ;) I guess I'd better remind people of the time in my post, too....

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  5. Yea but it's still awfully late lol.

    Yep. Hope it gets a good audience. And people drink enough caffeine to stay up.

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  6. Thanks for adding the link to this game! I tried it out, and it's fun, at least after I managed to find a list of the words you are allowed to use: http://www.textfiles.com/apple/DOCUMENTATION/perry.mason.txt
    The only problem is that there is no chance to save the game, you have to get through it all at once. But apart from that it's great to poke around at the crime scene,send Paul investigating, and, best of all, object to Burger in court!!!

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    1. Wonderful! Thanks for the list; I'll definitely need that!

      Ugh, how annoying. Yeah, I don't think any of the games available there have a Save option. But we take what we can get.

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