Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Secretaries for Street

Eve Arden once remarked how teachers loved her character on Our Miss Brooks. They liked how Connie Brooks was smart, witty, independent and how Arden never made fun of the teaching profession.

The same can be said for Barbara Hale on Perry Mason. Hale’s Della Street was intelligent and loyal, competent and independent. She was cool under pressure and in control. I suspect secretaries, legal and otherwise, were happy to see one of their television kin who wasn’t dependent or behave like an airhead.

Here are a couple of stories from United Press International about Hale’s relationship with real-life secretaries. First up is a story from July 18, 1960 followed by one from September 1, 1961. Since someone will mention it if I don’t, the “Billy” in the second column is known today as actor William Katt.

Hale’s portrayal won her an Emmy in 1959. She was brought back every time Perry Mason was revived in TV specials. She was 94 when she died in 2017.

Barbara Hale Gives Tips For Hopeful Secretaries
Editor's Note: UPI Hollywood correspondent Joe Finnigan is on vacation. Writing for him today is Barbara Hale, Perry Mason's TV secretary, who has become a heroine to the nation's stenographers.
HOLLYWOOD, July 17 (UPI)— I may not get the most fan mail in Hollywood, but of this fact I'm sure: I get the neatest letters of anybody in the industry.
THE REASON is that they are mostly from secretaries. Secretaries seem to like "Della Street," the character I've been portraying for three years on "Perry Mason" and are generous enough to tell us so. I thought, therefore, that the reasons why they do would be of interest to others who also like Della but who haven't paused to analyze her virtues.
Every conscientious girl who plans a secretarial career has, I'm sure, a preconceived notion of the ideal secretary. Schools and friends in business help to form this notion. National Secretarial Association publicity contributes.
DELLA SEEMS to exemplify the best, according to the research I've done on the letters of appreciation which have come my way. Following are the three factors I find most often:
She is loyal to her employer, but above all she is loyal to the job. In Della's case, she is a devotee of liberty and justice, and helping Perry Mason is the best way she knows how to advance her cause.
She never loses sight of the fact that she is her employer's secretary. She never presumes upon her friendship for him or his friendship for her. She dresses smartly and always in good taste.
CREDIT FOR DELLA STREET of course, goes to her creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, who has written 100 "Perry Mason" novels and who, every season, reminds the television production company of the "musts" he has established in portraying his principal characters.
And does he know what he's talking about? He hired his secretary more than 25 years ago and he still has her.
And her rewards? Among many is partnership in Paisano Productions, which not only produces "Perry Mason" but will produce eventually the many other Erle Stanley Gardner properties.

Barbara Hale Rates As A Celebrity To Legal Secretaries

UPI Hollywood Writer
Hollywood — (UPI) — It isn't often that an actress becomes a celebrity in the legal profession—but Barbara Hale, the perfect secretary of the Perry Mason TV show, is breaking new ground.
Miss Hale, who plays Della Street on the CBS series, is in constant demand at meeting of legal secretaries' associations—just as her video boss, Raymond Burr, often addresses lawyers' gatherings.
"Not long ago," said the shapely, dark-haired actress at a restaurant here, "I drove to a meeting of the National Association of Legal Secretaries in Monterey, Calif. and the gals told me the thing they liked best about me on the show is that I don't say much . . . yet I'm always around when needed.
"They also criticized me a little.
"They kidded me for sitting at the counsel table in court, because it's not legal."
Miss Hale, who was born in DeKalb, Ill., 39 years ago, and Burr, who plays Erle Stanley Gardner's famed fictional lawyer-detective on the program, team up off the screen too by going to an occasional legal gathering together.
Miss Hale, who is married to actor Bill Williams, said she has a tremendous personal admiration for Burr — "and from a strictly professional viewpoint, I think he has fantastic sex appeal, too."
"I've played opposite guys like Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra in the movies," she said, "but I've never seen such female reaction to an actor as I have for Ray.
"He's a knight-on-a-white-horse type, and women of all ages that I've met seem affected by him that way. I have a constant flood of mail from girls to old women who always ask me about him—you know, 'woman to woman.' They want to know what it's like working for him.
"And there's no question about it, he seems to get better looking. In addition to which he's a great cook and a real gourmet."
Miss Hale, who also has attended meetings of legal secretaries in Los Angeles and San Diego, Cal., said her five-year contract on the show runs out in another year — and although she'd like to stay on, "I'm tiring, and there are my three children to take care of. If the show goes on and on and on . . . well, I just don't know about staying.
"The hours kill me, and make it tough on family life, which comes first. The long days on a weekly hour-long show take their toll. At the end of our first year, all of us — including Ray — nearly collapsed."
The deep-voiced actress said, however, she's been particularly fortunate on the show because "the sexy, movie type" of star seems to take second place to less glamorous, more homey style women on TV.
"Don't forget, TV's right in your living room, with the kids," she said.
She said she was convinced of her success when her 7-year-old son, Billy, was asked on his first day of school, what his mother did, and he replied: "Mom's a secretary."
"That's when I knew I had arrived," she said.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, I grew up on the series first, also saw a few of the movies with Warren William in the Mason role, and Claire Dodd and others as Della. But going back later and reading most of the novels, Barbara Hale WAS Della Street. She played the role with class.Intelligent, nobody's fool, plus I loved the dynamic between,Perry, Paul Drake, and Barbara Hale's Della. You would have thought they really cared for each other.