THE CASE OF THE RESTLESS REDHEAD By Erle Stanley Gardner



On September 21, 1957 the first episode of Perry Mason aired on CBS. And that initial episode was “The Case of the Restless Redhead” based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s mystery published in 1954. Aspiring redhead actress Evelyn Bagby finds a .38 caliber pistol in her hotel room. She calls Perry Mason who tells her to bring the gun to him. On the secluded road to Mason’s office, a man with a hood over his head tries to drive Evelyn Bagby’s car off the road. Evelyn reaches into her purse and fires two wild shots at the hooded man and his car and speeds on.

Evelyn finally reaches Perry Mason’s office when the police arrive. On that secluded road, there’s a crashed car and a hooded man with a hole in his head. Perry Mason has to deal with the questions of Evelyn’s past and which gun actually killed the hooded man.

The main differences in the TV episode (which follows Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Restless Redhead fairly closely) and the novel are a reduction of subplots and fewer red herrings. All in all, Perry Mason starts its long run on CBS with a clever episode. Do you have a favorite Perry Mason novel or TV episode? GRADE: B+ (for both the book and the TV epsiode)

26 thoughts on “THE CASE OF THE RESTLESS REDHEAD By Erle Stanley Gardner

  1. wolf

    I couldn’t ressit looking this up:
    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0673372/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl

    Perry Mason was on German tv too, I must have watched many episodes – but don’t remember anything, just that there usually was a court scene which looked very strange to the eyes of a German.

    But generally life in the USA in the 1950s and 60s was really foreign to us – like seeing so many cars!
    My parents bought their first car, a beetle of course in 1962 …
    And I got my driver’s licence then and “had to drive” them everywhere because my father had problems (he was shot in the head in WW2) and realised it was better not to drive after a little accident – nobody was hurt, but …
    Guns were especially foreign to us, only policemen and hunters had them -and criminals of course.
    The idea of a woman shooting would have looked preposterous here!

    Reply
    1. Jeff Meyerson

      Who can remember one from the other? I read at least the first half of the Mason books, plus a bunch of the later ones. I did like the early, more hardboiled ones, but they all sort of blend together in my mind. I watched the television show for years. I liked Paul Drake, the cynical investigator.

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      1. george Post author

        Jeff, I know what you mean. Erle Stanley Gardner developed a PERRY MASON template and once he had his winning formula, the mysteries started to become very much “cookie cutter.”

    2. george Post author

      Wolf, I watched PERRY MASON on our old black & white TV in the 1950s. I was just a kid so I’m sure much of what happened on the screen went over my head. But there was something compelling about the show. Years later, I watched the PERRY MASON reruns and enjoyed them. I even have the series on DVD now.

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      1. Dan

        George, Make sure you watch a complete version of the TV show. When it aired in reruns on the Family Channel, they cut some of the spicy(?) bits out.

      2. george Post author

        Dan, I bought a complete DVD set of PERRY MASON for a pittance. It’s great to watch episodes without commercials!

  2. Michael Padgett

    I absolutely loved the tv series, which I watched from the time it started until I went off to college five years later. Eventually I tried a couple of the novels, but don’t remember which ones. They were probably from the 60s, after the series had peaked, and I wasn’t particularly impressed. But I did discover the A. A. Fair novels and really preferred them to the Masons.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Michael, like you I was a big fan of the PERRY MASON TV series. I dutifully collected all the Perry Mason paperbacks with the intention of reading them all in order some day. I did read about a dozen Perry Mason mysteries over the years but stalled out. Now, I’m considering watching the PERRY MASON TV episodes in order and reading the ESG novels they were based on. I’m fond of the Cool/Lam series, too!

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  3. Deb

    I like some of the tv episodes (I’ve only read a few of the books). I remember one from the early 1960s where the judge was played by a black actor—which I thought was pretty progressive for the times and wondered how that got past the network’s standards & practices review! One of the things that makes the shows (and, I assume, the books) so “samey” is that—despite the byzantine nature of the plots—is that the villain is almost always a bookkeeper, accountant, or someone else with access to financial records…or perhaps it just seems that way in my mind.

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  4. Jerry House

    I was a big fan of Perry Mason and read every book until the early sixties. I also loved the television series, especially those written by Jonathan Latimer, who wrote 32 of the original 271 episodes — even back then I paid attention to the credits!

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Jerry, I’m planning on working my way through both the PERRY MASON TV episodes–all 271!–and all 80 novels. The Perry Mason series ranks third in the top ten best selling book series, with sales of 300 million. R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series is ranked second, with 350 million; J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is first, with 450 million.

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      1. Jeff Meyerson

        When I was working in the Village in the early 1970s, there were still a couple of the big old used bookshops left on Fourth Avenue and I used to go there at lunchtime. Between the Pageant and the Strand, I picked up a bunch of old Gardner books – some were early Morrow editions, others were Triangle reprints and the like – very cheaply. They were not only Masons – Terry Clane, Gramps Wiggins, and non-series titles were in the mix too. I also got a lot of the old Pocket Book editions. In the mid-‘seventies I read a lot of them, sometimes two (or even three!) in a day. I think I burned out about halfway through.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, I used to binge back in the Sixties and Seventies on writers like Erle Stanley Gardner, John D. MacDonald, and Ed McBain. I found cheap paperbacks by the dozen and, like you, read 2 or 3 of them a day. Now, I prefer more variety in my reading.

  5. Cap'n Bob

    Each night from Mon-Fri I watch a Perry Mason episode on METV! I enjoy them but the egregious cuts made for extra commercials (or plugs for other METV shows, which is really annoying) make following the investigation impossible! I accept that and just lie back and let it happen! Several things have jumped out at me, however! For one, very few of the shows have a courtroom trial; they’re mostly preliminary hearings! Without Paul Drake, Perry would lose 99% of his cases! Della Street was a real dish!

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Bob, you’re right about the preliminary hearings. I noticed that most of Perry Mason’s TV cases rarely make it to trial. Love Della Street!

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  6. tracybham

    My husband and I are watching the Perry Mason series on DVD. We have watched through Season 3 now. I do love Della especially. I read tons of Perry Mason novels as a teenager (long time ago) and have read a few in the last few years, plus some in the Cool / Lam series.

    Reply
    1. george Post author

      Tracy, I bought a complete set of PERRY MASON DVDs. I’m considering watching them all in order–271 episodes!–along with reading the Erle Stanley Gardner novels some of the episodes are based on. But, that’s going to take some planning.

      Reply

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