Thursday, May 21, 2015

Double Birthday Post!

I wanted to post this on one of the in-between days so it would seem more evenly balanced, but it didn’t work out that way. Ah, work. So, Happy Birthday to Raymond Burr and Lee Miller!

I still find it fascinating and intriguing that they were born the same year, only three days apart: Lee on the 18th, Raymond on the 21st. They had such a lasting connection through the years, with Lee serving as Raymond’s stand-in for both Perry and Ironside and appearing on-screen in both series as well as in the first Perry movie. They must have had a very special friendship. That’s an angle I wish we knew more about.

Apparently they must have met even before Perry, since Lee appeared in Raymond’s film Please Murder Me. I wonder if that was their first meeting or if they knew each other before that as well?

I watched The Candy Queen several weeks ago and somehow mistakenly got it in my head that Sergeant Brice was the one who snapped at the apartment manager about getting towels. I was surprised to think of it being him, as he’s such a quiet sort. Watching the episode again tonight, I saw that it wasn’t him, but the uniformed officer bending over Wanda. That made more sense.

Of course, had it been Brice, he would have just been worried about Wanda’s condition, as the other officer was. But I think out of all the main police characters, Brice is the only one who actually never so much as snapped or lost his temper. He’s always easy-going and observant, the quiet one in the background.

Naturally, now I’ve talked myself into the idea of a story where Brice is pushed to losing his temper. That would be a very frightening and heartbreaking thing, as it would take something extremely serious to make Brice snap, perhaps one of the other policemen being hurt right in front of him by a heartless criminal. Everything would be alright in the end, but what a ride to get there.

I haven’t forgotten my idea of wanting to do a story to show more Brice and Della interaction, either. And I think it would be fun to also have more Brice and Perry interaction. I love the scenes they have together, which are more plentiful in the later seasons. Brice is open with information where he can be and would probably say more if not for his superiors’ objections.

It’s interesting, too, to see them standing next to each other. You can definitely see the similarities in build and how easy it must have been for Lee to serve as Raymond’s stand-in. I wonder what scenes he was in instead of Raymond? I suppose that information is down somewhere or some fan has spent time observing things closely enough to tell when it’s Lee.

I also wonder what prompted them to decide to let the police lieutenants have a steady partner instead of continually having different ones. It’s certainly more logical for there to be a steady one. And I wonder how Lee got chosen? Perhaps because he was already on the payroll and they didn’t feel they could hire someone else at that point, and then his portrayal was so great that they left it at that, even if they could have hired someone else later.

It’s always nice to see Sergeant Brice accompany the lieutenant, whichever one it is. Even as they change, Brice is always there, a bit of lasting familiarity.

And of course, Perry is the perfect leading man for the series. Another great decision by Erle Stanley Gardner was to cast Raymond as Perry, especially after Raymond had actually auditioned for Hamilton’s part! It’s almost impossible for me to imagine the roles reversed, but I would really love to see footage from those auditions. I wish they had included those screen tests on the anniversary set.

I’ve delivered a great deal of praise for Raymond’s portrayal of Perry in past posts, so it’s a bit difficult to think of something new. But the series certainly would have been something much different without Raymond at the helm. I wonder if it even would have been anywhere as successful. There are many brilliant actors who could have attempted to carry the show, but Raymond was just so ideal as Perry. And not only that, but he helped to make the set such a happy place, including everyone and considering them part of the Perry family. Not every actor would have done that.

One of the things Richard mentions in his book is a failed pilot for a series that he and Raymond would have both appeared in. It’s a pity the pilot didn’t get picked up, although on the other hand, I believe he said it was right around the time that CBS was putting together the Perry series. If the pilot had been picked up, I wonder where that would have left Perry? Interesting, how things turn out.

So here’s to Raymond and Lee, and to their special friendship. They both made the series so memorable in their own, unique ways.

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