"Perry Mason" The Case of the Screaming Woman (TV Episode 1958) Poster

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Hamilton Burger is played like a nice violin
kfo949419 October 2011
This episode has nearly all thing that makes "Perry Mason" such a good show to watch. Interesting characters, great storyline, seemingly good acting and courtroom decorum which all leads to a great watch.

The case involves a doctor that breaks the law by going around the adoption process. People that want to adopt- but cannot pass the strict code- are patients of the doctor. The only problem is that he keeps a record of all the baby transactions.

Enter a unstable newspaper gossip columnist Mary Davis (Marian Seldes) that steals the records and is going to blackmail the doctor into giving her a baby. This alone could have been a good mystery for the show. But throw in some tricky evidence and an upset district attorney and it makes the show enjoyable.

Most of the actors in the episode do a great job. Ruta Lee, that plays secretary to Ms Davis, does a good job and looks great during the show. The doctor's nurse (Josephine Hutchison) has that face that makes a person care about her. And then Marian Seldes, that played the columnist, her performance as the bad witch makes you glad that she did not make it to the credits.

Another actor in the show was Don Garner, who played Bob Shroeder on this episode (the love interest of Rudy Lee). His performance was hard to watch. His acting was poorly done and seemed to be uncomfortable in front of the camera.

Della has a large part in this show. She is placed in a dead women's apartment, she is in the same room with a person with a gun, leaves with evidence and placed on the witness stand by Mr Burger. NOTE- look at Della's gloves when she first goes into the apartment -that is some funky stuff.

Hamilton Burger gets rough off screen when he is played by Perry. Plus Lt Tragg is also Perry'ed but can laugh it all off in the end.

Which makes this a must see for Perry viewers.
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Justifiable Homicide
zsenorsock16 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Never have I ever been so glad to see a Perry Mason victim get murdered as much as I was glad to see Mary K. Davis (Marian Seldes) get killed. Abrasive and irritating from moment one, I found her performance nails on a chalkboard annoying. Davis is a powerful gossip columnist (not too dissimilar to William Hopper's mom, columnist Hedda Hopper!) who doesn't hesitate to ruin lives to do a story or get what she wants. What she wants this time is a baby. It's the only thing she feels will keep her marriage with her state department husband (Phil Ober) alive. So she tries to blackmail kindly Dr. Barnes (Arthur Shields) into getting her one. See, Dr. Barnes has been acting as an illegal baby broker--matching up young girls who are "in trouble" and pregnant with desperate couples who want to have a baby but either won't or can't go through normal adoption channels. When Davis is found dead, the doctor's loyal nurse, Leona Walsh (Josephine Hutchinson) confesses to the crime so none of the secrets will come out. Perry has to try and prove she didn't murder Davis (though whoever did should have gotten a medal!)

Along the way, Perry actually conceals evidence and helps the doctor destroy a book that has all his baby broker transactions written down (the doctor didn't charge any fee for this nevertheless illegal action). If only Berger could prove what Mason did in this episode, Perry would have been doing seasons two and three from behind bars.

The episode ends with one of the most wild, over the top confessions by the real killer ever seen in this or any other series, as Perry uses another lawyer trick to get find out the true killer. If it didn't work, he certainly would have looked stupid at the very least.

The lesson of this episode once again is never, ever, ever confess. Just sit there, say nothing and the chances are you'll walk. And in this case, it was definitely justifiable homicide.
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Ruta Lee...one of my favorites
Dick2412 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Ruta Lee makes the first of her five appearances on PM in "The Case of the Screaming Woman" and even though she doesn't look as stunning as she does in her later episodes she's still quite lovely here. She plays a young woman who is the assistant to the female gossip columnist who is the murder victim in this Erle Stanley Gardner story.

Two things that make this episode memorable apart from the beautiful Ms. Lee:

1. The victim in this story is probably in the top ten of all PM victims in terms of needing to be killed. In a way it's hard to believe her death was followed by a trial instead of a medal ceremony.

2. A great scene of Mason completely frustrating and flustering Burger over the DA's direct examination of Della Street. The judge sustains every single one of Perry's objections and by the end of the scene one half expects Hamilton to physically assault the attorney for the defense. As a side note, Barbara Hale (Della), who I think was an extremely beautiful woman, looks particularly great in this episode.

There's also some great trickery by Mason to get Lt. Tragg to confiscate some Dictaphone recordings. Burger unwittingly carries out Perry's plan further by introducing into evidence these recordings, the playing of which elicits the courtroom confession of the real killer---and what a confession it is! Over the top even by PM standards.

Other notable appearances are made by Perry Mason vets Berry Kroeger (first of seven PM guest appearances) and Philip Ober (first of five). These two give credible performances as the victim's attorney (Kroeger) and husband (Ober). Morris Ankrum plays the judge in the fourth of his twenty-three appearance behind the bench and helps the episode along with some reasonable explanations of the technicalities being argued by Mason and Burger.
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Melodramatic Confession
bkoganbing28 June 2012
Perry Mason never flirted with disbarment more than in this episode of the television series. It also has a terrific array of red herrings introduced to us. Including one actor who has played so many slimy villains that he's always the bad guy. He might be here, I won't mention his name, but you'll know him.

Marian Seldes plays a gossip columnist, married to a high ranking State Department official who is Philip Ober here. She loves destroying lives and her latest crusade is a doctor played by Arthur Shields who ran an illegal baby adoption racket. He's kept a book and she's obtained it.

When this Cruela DeVille columnist is murdered, suspects are popping out of the wood work. Raymond Burr's client is the doctor's nurse. But she confessed in fact to protect someone else.

There's a beautiful scene in this one where Burr outmaneuvers William Talman in court where he's illegally obtained the book and is flirting with a withholding evidence charge in which Barbara Hale is also complicit. And in another scene he tricks Talman into introducing the evidence that flushes out the murderer.

By the way the confession is one of the most melodramatic ever shown on Perry Mason. It alone is worth seeing the episode.
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Wonderful... one of the best episodes
grizzledgeezer28 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The Perry Mason of the novels was more likely to engage in legally questionable practices (including tampering with evidence) than TV's Perry Mason. But the latter grew more-ethical only over a period of time. This early episode (based on an ESG novel published just a year earlier) has Mason destroying critical evidence, and Della nearly being shot.

When Della is called as a witness, Mason raises objections to every Berger question ("Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial!"). Then he tricks Berger into presenting phony "evidence" that elicits a confession from the real killer. The comic (to us) interplay among the characters is delightful. In fact, the episode is wickedly amusing throughout.

Highly recommended.
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Great Epilogue
Jake Blake10 May 2013
It's true.

Viewers will want screaming Mary K. Davis, a scandalous, newspaper gossip columnist to die, in Perry Mason's, "The Case of The Screaming Woman".

And she does! Blackmailers almost always do on this series.

Mary K needs to have a baby to preserve her failing marriage. She believes that is the only thing to prevent her husband from divorcing her, and possibly ruining her career. She decides to upset the best intentions of Dr. Barnes illegitimate adoption process of finding suitable parents for illegitimate children, by blackmailing him with exposure of the unwed mothers who used his service, unless he reconsiders not giving her a child. If only Dr. Barnes hadn't kept a written record of the whole process, Mary K wouldn't have gotten her hands on it.

The other reviews here are adequate. The only thing I wish to add is that this episode of Perry Mason has one of the best epilogues : Deadpan Lt. Tragg and his envelope of shattered dictating cylinders provides the perfect comic relief at the end of this most severe, melodramatic and perhaps best episode of Perry Mason's nine-season run.
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I just don't believe it! The whole idea is insane!
sol121814 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** WoW! One of the best Perry Mason, Raymond Burr, episodes ever broadcast with Perry not only breaking a dicta-phone recording cylinder but the law as well and getting away with it. That in him tricking the prosecuting D.A Hamilton "Ham" Burger, William Talman, to enter a fake recording, with Perry using an actress to do the voice over, to trap the real killer of hated, she's a real witch, gossip reporter Mary K.Davis, Marian Seldes. There's also the Bigger then life Eternal Colonel himself Morris Ankrum as the judge presiding on the murder case. Ankrum or the Colonel not only gets more then his share of lines to move the story along but a name besides Judge in the episode's ending credits: Judge Cameron.

It was the nasty and vindictive Mary Davis who was to expose the sweet and kindly Dr.George Barnes, played by Actor Barry Fitzgerald's brother Arthur shields, adoption racket out of his Seaside Hospital that lead to her being murdered. The reason that Mary had it in for Dr. Bearns is not in what he was doing it was in what he didn't! That in him not allowing her to get a child under the table with a fake birth certificate from him for adoption. Dr. Barnes realized what a terrible childhood that child would have in having her as a mother. Right away Dr Barns' secretary Leona Walsh, Josephine Hutchinson, willingly takes the rap for Mary's murder. Even though it happened almost at the very time she was seeing Perry in his office, some 10 to 15 miles away, about Mary blackmailing her boss Dr. Barns! Still she's put on trial for murder by the D.A's office with Perry, despite her sworn confession in Mary's murder, defending her!

****SPOILERS**** It's at a critical point in the trial that Perry decides to bend the law a bit in order to not only get his client Leona Welsh off but trick D.A Hamilton "Ham" Burger to admit into evidence a number of recording cylinders that would break the case wide open in his and his client's favor. Sure enough Burger, sensing he's finally going to win a case, falls for it only to end up falling flat on his face. The episode ends with one of the most shrill ear splitting and surprising confession, by Mary Davis' murderer, in both motion picture as well television history!
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A favorite episode
Marc Perroquet25 May 2015
Overall, this episode certainly had its flaws but ended up being one my favorite episodes for several reasons, two of which were Marian Seldes as Mary K. Davis and Ray Collins as Lt. Tragg. This may be the episode where I really began to admire Ray Collins and his expert portrayal of the lieutenant whose dry,spot-on wit often went unnoticed. It also became clear that Mason and Tragg had a mutual respect for one another, understood and appreciated each other's job, and enjoyed their ongoing cat-and-mouse game. It was here that I first began to feel that even when Tragg seemed angry towards Mason, he wasn't necessarily expressing his own sentiments, but carefully working within the system to deliver a warning of what to expect from Hamilton Burger.

We also got to see Della Street on the witness stand and watch Mason's pit-bull-protection of her. This was in stark contrast to "The Case of the Crimson Kiss" where Street was also called to testify. In that episode she kept looking at Mason for objection or direction but got nothing. However, when Mason's client tried to whisper something in his ear, he quickly hushed her up as he continued to doodle on a notepad, never looking up and not cross examining.

Going back to the character of Mary K. Davis, she was certainly an unlikable person but was played to such perfection by Seldes, I hated to see her killed off. With psychotic coldness she delivers the unforgettable line, "There's no use appealing to my better nature, Miss Walsh. I don't have one." There was also her earlier vicious, pistol- toting threat to the good doctor, after which she calmly turns, smiles at Miss Walsh and says, "Goodnight, Miss Walsh. It was so nice seeing you again."

I agree with previous reviews of Don Garner. His acting bordered on laughable but was also made worse on at least one occasion by Burr whose timed reaction was way off. I believe Garner's line was something like, "You don't know anything," whereupon he steps towards Mason in a somewhat threatening manner. Burr needed to respond quickly to that gesture but he did not. His pause, probably intended to make himself look brave, created a very awkward moment that made them both look foolish. Ruta Lee's performance went from good to a bit over the top, but I'm not sure that anything less than over the top would have worked better.

So, what did I like about this episode? I loved Marian Seldes and I thought Ray Collins was in top form. Also, Barbara Hale was finally given a little more to do. Not that her character got any credit for her contributions--She never did. In fact, there were numerous times when Mason took full credit for an important clue that was originally noticed by Della.

There was one legal point that still bothers me. When Burger asks Street if she accepted a special delivery package, Mason immediately insists that he be more specific about the package. To me, that seems like a flaw in Mason's line of defense that Burger missed. What would Mason have done if Burger had proceeded to be more specific? Namely, if he had asked Street if she had accepted a package addressed to Mary K. Davis, aka her maiden name (whatever it was). But, instead of doing that, for no productive reason he introduces the mailman.

How could Mason have objected to Burger doing exactly what Mason himself requested? The next question would be what Street did with said package? Of course, Mason was trying to get discussion about the package dismissed because its relevance to the trial had not been established. But, wasn't it a misstep to ask Burger to be more specific? Also, wasn't there just as much reason to suspect the package contained important evidence as there was to believe the disks contained evidence?
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That's not Barry Fitzgerald?
pensman30 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
As I began watching this episode I was stunned to see Barry Fitzgerald in the opening scene. I zipped over to IMDb to confirm and was shocked to learn it wasn't Barry Fitzgerald but his younger brother, Arthur Shields. Now I sort of pride myself on knowing actors from the 30's through the 70's but how did I miss Shields. Worse, turns out he played the Reverend Dr. Playfair in The Quiet Man, a film I must have watched 30 times or more. Oh well, never too old to to learn something new. And an interesting episode with Perry coming in after the first 15 minutes. The story revolves around a really hateful woman Mary K. Davis, played by Marian Seldes, who has so many enemies it is no surprise she is murdered. Also Philip Ober (won't know the name but you will recognize him as the perennial crooked businessman/politician in many shows/movies) plays Mary K's husband. And really Hamilton, do you really believe you can trip up Mason, Perry Mason?
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Another poor adaptation of a good Perry Mason book
jabboreid18 March 2018
I watched this one again a few nights ago and did not enjoy it. Again the writers changed everything. The book's defendant and killer are not even mentioned in this version. The book's victim is the doctor and has been changed from making money illegally to being a goody two shoes. The show's victim and defendant are not mentioned in the book. I know that Earle Stanley Gardner fought against CBS's earlier daytime version because they wanted to give Perry a love interest. He should have fought them over their adaptations of his great books.
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Cruella Herself
darbski19 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** Yup, I'm giving it a 10 for the reasons other reviewers liked it. bkkoganbing said it "Cruella Deville" so long, Mary K. Also, pensman pointed out Arthur Shields instead of Barry Fitzgerald. I confess, I never heard of the man; boy, he sure had bad teeth in this episode, didn't he? I'm gonna compliment Ruta Lee for her performance (even if her character was foolish, as was the nurse's), and yes, she's very pretty. The great Ray Collins has a strong part in this show, and one of the very best ending lines ... you've gotta get this episode and see it for yourself.

Beautiful Della has a full part in this one, and I forgive her (how many people know what to do when there is a gun involved)? Did she see the shadow of the gun as did the audience?

I love it when the obvious shyster says he would prefer to confer in private (without Della taking notes), and Perry saying THAT'S precisely why he'd insist on Della being there. Anyone who's read my opinion of Della's notes knows how I feel.

Now, how did Mary K. Davis know about the book in the first place?

Why did Connie have a gun in Mary K.'s apartment?

Could Perry have defended Connie on insanity charges without incriminating himself? Remember, the stuff that happened AFTER the murder would be inadmissible, wouldn't it?

This series is available from Amazon, and I recommend it completely.
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Where I wish Mr. Burger had won....
Felicitas Zoch9 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I will not go into a lengthy description of this episode,others have done that. There is one point I'd like to make: I do not disagree with Perrys having that book destroyed. It should not have been read. But throughout the whole episode I felt his behavior towards Mr. Burger, who basically just did his job, was fairly disgusting. I'm usually quite a fan of Perry's courtroom tricks and I enjoy seeing him wind up Mr. Burger, but his behavior towards the D.A. had me wishing he'd loose. After all he had been guilty of withholding and manipulating and destroying evidence so it would for once have been nice if that very same fact caused him to loose, so showing that justice can not be served by committing dubious acts bordering on crimes. Perry tricked Mr. Burger, he played him, he manipulated him and he riled him up way beyond what could have been considered reasonable until I was firmly on Mr. Burgers side. In this episode, and in others like it, I must say I carry a great torch for the hapless Distric Attorney Hamilton Burger who is actually a rather decent man and in my mind equally dedicated to justice as Perry is. And on that note I must say I loved the end scene where Lt. Tragg tells Perry and his lot that Mr. Burger has a terrible aim when angry. It is utterly rude for then to gossip behind his back like that but it was in my mind one of the best scenes of this episode.
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Hated Mason's client
carrie4515 April 2014
This is one case where I wished Perry's client would have been convicted. I love Raymond Burr and Perry Mason, but these 1950's women are irritating. I grew up in the 50's and know how horrible it was for unwed mothers. Everybody commented about how awful the murder victim was and she was no peach, but I could gladly see Perry's client walk the green mile. Perry's client is so stupid she confesses to a murder she didn't commit. She's such a loyal employee, she made this viewer gag. Even so, I recommend this episode as good viewing. I love to see Ethel's (Vivian Vance) husband in these roles. He's never likable. Ruta Lee is also attractive and good, but did she have to be so dumb? Better than most programs on today even with the women's roles being so dated.
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