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Introduction to Golden Age Radio Research
This isn't a Television feature. Let's repeat that--This isn't a Television feature. This is not a page of veteran Television actors--at least not at this chronological point in their respective careers. That many of the actors catalogued here went on to extraordinary Television careers in their own right is not the point of this page.

This is a Golden Age Radio feature--for Golden Age Radio fans. These pages highlight the hundreds of Golden Age Radio actors with an extensive Radio background that made up the lion's share of the casts of the Perry Mason television programs from 1957 through 1966. Therefore, we've titled this feature "The Case of the Too-Long-Forgotten Radio Stars." We hope you find these pages a useful resource in placing a face with hundreds of unsung Golden Age Radio personalities you won't see memorialized anywhere else.
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The Case of the Too-Long-Forgotten Radio Stars
Why The Perry Mason TV Connection?

Perry Mason Title Screen

Much of the research we engage in is in pursuit of biographical information about one or more of the more prominent or key members of the cast of a Golden Age Radio program we're logging.

We found this aspect of documenting the Golden Age of Radio to be utterly frustrating when we first undertook these articles. The absolute dearth of readily available information on hundreds of the most important contributors to The Golden Age of Radio were almost completely unavailable on the Internet--let alone from the thousands of 'OTR' sites purporting to be 'tribute' sites to one particular radio celebrity or another. Wikipedia was even less helpful in most instances.

When we did find scarce snippets of information here and there, we quickly discovered that there were also virtually no photographs or images of the vast majority of these great actors, artists, or writers available on the internet. We naturally fell back on our tried and true newspaper morgues for whatever images we could obtain there, but soon discovered an even richer and far more legible source of stills for fully 80% of the Golden Age Radio actors still working between 1957 and 1966.

That invaluable resource is the original series of 271 Perry Mason Television programs that ran from 1957 through 1966. We soon discovered that among the 240 Perry Mason television programs we'd already collected were represented virtually every single significant Radio personality of note from the twenty-five to thirty-five years previous to the program itself. In other words, a readily available resource of tens of thousands of still frames capturing the finest Radio actors of the 20th Century all within one amazing, early television resource.

Raymond Burr's Amazing Legacy

Raymond Burr credit screen
Raymond Burr was arguably one of Radio History's most loyal, generous, and history-conscious stars of the 20th Century. We know this from the absolutely extraordinary array of Golden Age Radio talent that Burr went out of his way to keep employed during The Golden Age of Television. Another obvious example is Jack Webb and every Television program he played a role in. But Raymond Burr's 271 episodes of Perry Mason have to rival any surviving television program of the era for the sheer numbers of amazing Golden Age Radio actors it employed.

This wasn't simply a novelty of Burr or Webb's Television productions. It traces well back to both actors' early careers in the San Francisco area. Both actors came up the same way, and both actors performed in each other's productions over the years. Burr, especially appeared in virtually every radio program Jack Webb was ever a party to. Indeed, until the amazing success of Perry Mason, Webb's loyalty to Burr--and vice versa--extended to Television as well.

This fact was clearly not lost on Burr when it came time for him to lead a major, highly successful Television program of his own. And so it was, that with the success of Perry Mason, almost from its inception, Burr called upon his own twenty years of loyalty to--and respect for--his talented West Coast friends.

West Coast being the operative phrase here. The competition between East Coast and West Coast Television productions was even more ruthless than the similar Radio competition that preceeded it for twenty-five years. New York long fancied itself the epicenter of serious dramatic productions via any performing arts medium. Television was no exception. During the 1950s, especially, the ease of simply hopping back and forth between Los Angeles' Television studios and New York's Television studios wasn't quite the lucrative experience it had been during the heyday of Radio.

Golden Age Radio performers could travel back and forth from Coast to Coast during the 1930s and 1940s with every expectation of obtaining steady employment on either coast. Indeed, until the waning days of The Golden Age of Radio, such gypsy-like movements by steadily employed Radio actors were not only considered the norm, but essential to a successful career.

With the decline of Radio and the advance of Television, the opportunities for steady employment on Television weren't nearly as readily available as the opportunities in Radio had been. To further complicate matters, Radio performers still locked into long-running Radio obligations weren't as free to hop onto the nearest Television production when it presented itself--not like they'd been able to do in Radio, in any case.

The first half of the 1950s in particular were a period of great compromises--and gambles--by otherwise successful Radio actors. Did they stay put on one coast or the other and attempt to hop into local Television productions while still maintaining their Radio gigs? . . . or risk commuting back and forth between L.A., Chicago, Detroit, and New York to best position themselves for the remaining Radio work of the era?

Did they gamble on L.A. or New York? Which Television center would produce the next mega-hit? How best to position themselves for the next great Television success during the fast-paced early days of The Golden Age of Television and its audiences' insatiable demand for new programming.

Enter Dragnet and it's unparalleled West Coast success. Jack Webb and Dragnet answered that question for hundreds of previously successful Radio performers. As did Suspense for Television and other hits such as The Life of Riley, Our Miss Brooks and The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. It should come as no surprise that Television's early successes were based on equally popular, long-running Radio programs. Jack Webb and Jack Benny were two of the first Radio performers to prove the viability of both Radio and Television programs running concurrently. Others soon followed.

When it came time to premiere Perry Mason, several East Coast productions had begun to capture the attention of national audiences. The West Coast needed another big hit or literally hundreds of otherwise successful former Radio performers would be faced with the agonizing decision to either relocate to the East Coast or take their chances with fewer opportunities while straddling both coasts.

Perry Mason was an overnight sensation. And it's obvious potential for further success made for far more choices for the 600-800 former West Coast Radio actors, technicians, and creative personnel during the last years of the 1950s. After only two seasons of Perry Mason, the writing was on the wall: a good former west coast Radio actor could remain comfortably employed on whichever coast best suited his or her career and family needs--on both Radio and Television.

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