Sunday, August 2nd, 2020
We were talking about the life of Erle Stanley Gardner in the context of Perry Mason, the new version that’s currently running on HBO.
I was surprised to hear that in this new one Mason was a veteran of World War I and that much of the action is taking place in 1932. Maybe it’s my consumption of season after season of Perry Mason episodes (the CBS version) that fixed Mason in my head as an artifact of the late 1950s and 1960s America.
But sure enough, Gardner published the first Mason story in 1933. And Gardner himself lived from 1889 to 1970. Sammy said “that’s my grandmother’s lifespan.” And I was thinking how filled with change a time it was, with wars and pandemics and depression and so on.
We don’t get to pick when we’re born, and the changes in technology, politics and all the ways we live are very much calibrated in our memories by how old we were when we experienced this, or that, or the other thing. We live our lives out in between the brackets of our birth and demise.
For me, CBS Perry is a record of the beginning of my life—it began airing way before I was old enough to even look at a TV, but the last couple of seasons were definitely on in their orignal airings at our house.
Depression-era Perry is something else entirely. I’ll have to see what they make of that.
I might have to read some old Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason stories with a sharper sense of when they were written and when they became popular. It’s a lot earlier than Raymond Burr, a 1957 Thunderbird, and a Los Angeles growing into the 1960s.