'Della Street' On Perry Mason's Sole Loss

Minnesota's junior Sen. Al Franken stumped Judge Sonia Sotomayor at her Senate confirmation hearing. Both are fans of Perry Mason and Franken asked the Supreme Court nominee to name the only case Perry Mason lost. She couldn't. Barbara Hale, who played Della Street in the long-running TV show, talks about Perry Mason's loss.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Let's get serious now - what was that one case that Perry Mason lost? We have a little conflicting information. From the Web, we hear it was this one: "The Case of the Deadly Verdict."

(Soundbite of TV show, "Perry Mason")

Unidentified Man #1: We the jury in the above entitled cause fix the punishment as death for the crime of murder as charged in the indictment dated August 24th.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: You wish to have the jury polled, Mr. Mason?

Mr. RAYMOND BURR (Actor): (As Perry Mason) No, your honor, that won't be necessary.

SIEGEL: Why wasn't it necessary? And what about "The Case of the Witless Witness," not to mention, "The Case of the Terrified Typist"? Didn't the verdicts go against Perry in those episodes, too? We're going to ask somebody who really knows, because she was there.

Perry Mason's incredibly capable assistant all those years, Della Street, was played by the Emmy award-winning actress Barbara Hale, who joins us now from her home in Sherman Oaks, California. Welcome to the program, Ms. Hale. How many cases did Perry Mason lose?

Ms. BARBARA HALE (Actress): Robert, of course only one. You must realize that Perry never lost cases and with the one that he lost, it was claimed a mistrial. As far as the show was concerned, he never lost the case.

SIEGEL: Ah-ha.

Ms. HALE: But of course, you don't realize the other cases that were tried during the week, when we weren't on television.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: I see. So there were really umpteen thousands of cases that we just never saw.

Ms. HALE: That's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Uh-huh. But I've read on a Web site called "The Perry Mason TV Show Book" that in "The Case of the Witless Witness," that begins with a judgment being handed down against Perry - doesn't count?

Ms. HALE: Oh no.

SIEGEL: No, I see.

Ms. HALE: You see, those things were claimed mistrials.

SIEGEL: I see.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Whenever Perry Mason lost, it was eventually a mistrial.

Ms. HALE: Oh, absolutely.

SIEGEL: In "The Case of the Terrified Typist," a jury returns - I'm reading this from the Web site - returns a guilty verdict against Perry's client, but Perry is still able to clear the defendant. I see, so he always…

Ms. HALE: Oh, absolutely.

SIEGEL: He always would win in the end.

Ms. HALE: There was only one Perry Mason. You know, Robert, we did - let's see - about 330 shows and believe me, my dear, it's very hard to think back and try to remember those things.

SIEGEL: Yes. You and your colleagues provided a great many of us with a great many memorable moments - evidently, including a very likely member of the Supreme Court.

Ms. HALE: That's very sweet, Robert, thank you.

SIEGEL: Well, it's our pleasure. And Barbara Hale, thank you very much for talking with us today.

Ms. HALE: Well, you're just lovely. It was grand talking to you.

SIEGEL: Barbara Hale, who played the character Della Street in all those episodes of "Perry Mason," and only one of which, she says, he lost the case.

(Soundbite of "Perry Mason" theme song)

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