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A very nervous man named Cartwright comes into Perry's office to have the neighbor arrested for his howling dog. He states that the howling is a sign that there is a death in the neighborhood. He also wants a will written giving his estate to the lady living at the neighbors house. It is all very mysterious and by the next day, his will is changed and Cartwright is missing, as is the lady of the house next door. Perry has a will and a retainer and must find out whether he has a client or a beneficiary. Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
First time the character Perry Mason ever appeared on film. See more »
Perry Mason makes mention of a howling police dog after bringing in a psychiatrist to observe Arthur Cartwright, yet at no time did Arthur Cartwright ever state that the howling dog was a police dog. See more »
Earle Stanly Garden wrote his first Perry Mason book in 1933, and his fourth in 1934. The latter, "The Case of the Howling Dog," would become the first made into a movie. So, this film introduced the super lawyer- detective-sleuth to movie audiences. And, Warner Brothers couldn't have chosen a better lead than Warren William to play the part.
William was cast in the first four Perry Mason movies, and all did very well. Only he among the cast remained constant. His secretary, Della Street, was the only other constant character in the first four films, but she was played by three different actresses. Gardner wrote 82 Perry Mason mystery novels in all from 1933 through 1969. The last two were published after his death. Two other early films were made in the mid- 1930s, with Ricardo Cortez and Donald Woods in the lead role. But those two were sufficient reason for Hollywood to take a break from Perry Mason films.
That is, until author Gardner hooked up with NBC for the 1957-1966 TV series, "Perry Mason." Raymond Burr had risen slowly as an actor, but this role ensured his success for life. Besides the TV series, Burr was to star in the whole new batch of full-length films made for TV. From 1985 to 1993, NBC aired 26 Perry Mason movies that starred Burr, with a cast of regular characters from the TV series that seldom changed from film to film.
The TV series and later movies had a completely different Mason. Not only in the character but in his routines. Most people today will remember the Mason played by Burr on TV and film. He was a clever attorney with the mind of a detective, who solved baffling cases usually with some brilliant discovery brought out in the courtroom. That is quite a different character than appeared in the first four films that starred Warren William.
In those, Perry Mason had varying degrees of an office staff, with other attorneys and with his own detectives. But his character was humorous with any number of eccentricities. He drank too much, loved gourmet cooking and did some of that himself. And, knew his way around. He was as at home on the streets as he was in the courtroom. He would push the envelope at times and walk the thin line between legal and illegal methods. And, this Mason was as much or more a detective than he was a lawyer. These cases weren't solved in courtrooms but in other dramatic venues before they went to court.
The scripts were excellent as well. Genuine humor dotted all the scenes. William carried this off beautifully without detracting from the seriousness of the crimes. But the entertainment in these early films was a splendid mix of humor, mystery, cleverness and wit of the leads and the many other characters. The exchanges between Mason and Street were always crisp and often very funny; and the various sidekicks were also adept at humor.
While neither William nor Burr fit the persona of the Mason in the early novels, Gardner explained that he was evolving the character over time. He came to favor the dramatic courtroom scenes for exposing the solutions to the crimes. Thus, the Perry Mason that most people today remember from TV and the 1980s and on movies.
The screenplays in the first four films were masterfully done to bring out the first Perry Mason character as played by William. Having watched the TV programs for years, and all of the later movies, I find these earlier films especially entertaining. "The Case of the Howling Dog" is the best of these four, but all are quite good. At one point in this film, Dells says to Perry: "You're a cross between a saint and a devil." Perry replies: "Mmm, hmm. How do you like it?"
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