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)