In the context of Carole Lombard, we know Gail Patrick best as an on-screen rival in 1936's "My Man Godfrey," but off-screen they were friends, working together in "Rumba" the year before "Godfrey." Patrick, more often than not the "other woman" in movies -- think of "My Favorite Wife" or "Love Crazy" -- was able to do something fate denied Lombard...be an entertainment producer. However, Patrick's field wasn't film, but TV, specifically the best-known screen adaptation of a top-selling character.
We're referring to Perry Mason, the crusading, unbeatable defense attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner in about 80 novels. Patrick, now Gail Patrick Jackson, was executive producer of the TV series, which began in 1957 and ran for nine seasons. (From left are Patrick; Gardner; Jean Bethell, Gardner's executive secretary and later his second wife; Erd Brandt, editor of the Saturday Evening Post; and Raymond Burr, who played Mason on TV.)
One wonders how Patrick and Gardner would react if they knew that later this month, his famed character was being brought back -- not as a reboot, but as a prequel of sorts.
The eight-part series, starring Matthew Rhys ("The Americans") begins at 9 p.m. June 21 on HBO. Toss out everything you recall from the Burr TV series (later redone with Monte Markham as Mason), or the six Warners movie versions in the '30s, films Gardner cared little for (https://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/218641.html), or even his books. The author, a real-life attorney, did little backstory for Mason, so the producers -- including Robert Downey Jr., who initially was to play Perry -- created one.
Set in 1932 Los Angeles (about the time of the first Mason book, "The Case Of The Velvet Claws"), it opens with Mason not a defense attorney but a rough-hewn private investigator, a former World War I veteran still haunted by the conflict. A case comes up, a kidnapped baby along the lines of the gruesome fate suffered by the infant son of Charles Lindbergh.
In 1932, many in the film industry were frightened of potential kidnappers, as noted that July on the Lombard-featured cover of Picture Play:
You'll see familiar characters from the novels and other adaptations, including secretary Della Street (Juliet Rylance), P.I. Paul Drake (Chris Chalk) and Mason's new mentor, E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow). Much of the series was shot in downtown LA as well as San Pedro.
It's good to have Perry back on TV, albeit in drastically different form. But don't worry -- the Burr episodes of "Mason" (at least one of which featured my late Facebook friend Francine York) remain available on outlets such as MeTV.
Learn more about the new Mason at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/arts/television/matthew-rhys-perry-mason.html, https://www.tvinsider.com/843053/perry-mason-prequel-hbo-2020-matthew-rhys/ and https://www.hbo.com/perry-mason.