|"The One-Man U.S.
As Paul Drake, William Hopper was called on to be the most versatile of the principals in the "Perry Mason" cast. Whereas Burr never wavered for a moment from the granite-willed Perry Mason, nor Hale from the sexy-solid Della Street, Hopper had many parts to play. He was not only the careful investigator, the duke-it-out tough guy, the ladies' man, and the hipster, but also the fall guy, the strikeout artist, the "eating machine," and "the big kid." Hopper's Drake alone provided the comic relief for the show. And, despite being a rather late bloomer to the acting field, he played all the parts surprisingly well and believably. His appearances made fair shows good, good shows better.
As head of the Drake Detective Agency (phone number: CRestview 9-7441), Paul was always availableespecially when Perry Mason called. He was the only one to have access to the private side door to Perry's office. If he was entering through the front door, he'd deliver a "Hello, beautiful!" to Della.
He was an important third of a great team. Perry was the brains, Paul the brawn, and Della had the legs. Like a one-man U.S. cavalry, Paul's forte was to arrive in court at the last possible moment and stage whisper to Perry that he'd found the crucial evidence they'd been looking for. And more so than the lawyer, Paul was street-smart. He could play hardball with the worst of themthe petty thieves, the ex-cons, the rugged dockworkers. If friendly persuasion or a friendly bribe failed, he'd just punch 'em out. No problem, just part of the well-paid job. Paul Drake was a study in contrasts, though. He was a tough guy who had a weakness for chocolate ice cream. He was a sturdy, handsome man who never sat, only slouched, even in court. He was a braggart, but not arrogant. He was an avid ladies' man100 percent wolfbut with as many rejections as conquests. And although usually he drove a cool-daddy ragtop Thunderbird (license plate number LTZ-413), he apparently couldn't resist wearing white socks under his dapper, 1950s wardrobe.
Like Perry and Della, Paul just appeared on the scene, a man with no past. He was the private dick who "got paid to be curious." He also got paid for doing Perry's dirty work. Although unwavering in his trust for the good lawyer's judgment, Paul wasn't always sure what he was getting himself into. When he hid a fugitive client in a hotel per Perry's orders ("The Case of the Difficult Detour"), and asked the lawyer, "Am I breaking the law again?" it was with good reason. He and Perry were constantly entering houses and apartments illegally, searching for evidence that would be thrown out in a millisecond in today's courts. And, on at least one occasion (see "The Case of the Angry Mourner"), one of his confederates impersonated a police officer to get the goods on a hostile witness.
So, it comes as no surprise that Paul was also arrested more than once, as in "The Case of the Poison Pen-Pal." Hired by one Peter Gregson to plug an insider's leak that could ruin Gregson's business, Paul cased a house belonging to a woman named Karen Ross. He got hauled in by the cops for his efforts, accused of breaking and entering. But, no sooner was he released (the lady dropped the charges) than he was right back in hot water again. He was also subpoenaed many times, "The Case of the Bartered Bikini" being just one example; he was summoned to court to testify for the prosecution.
Drake never shied away from the tough cases, though. He tackled the Mob during a trip to Boston with Perry and Della in "The Case of the Stand-in Sister." Tracking down an underworld kingpin named "Big Steve," Paul put him on the business end of a revolver and pumped him for the info Perry needed for the case. Then he put the gangster where he belonged: behind bars.
He was a man of many talentsa karate expert, as he proved in "The Case of the Terrified Typist," and he played a mean game of cards, one time shrewdly bilking a professional gambler out of some IOUs that belonged to one of Perry's clients. And he was a thorough gumshoe. His operatives were everywhere. In "The Case of the Ill-fated Faker," his dogged persistence paid off when he went looking for a suspected murderer named Stan Piper, only to find that Stan was the killed, not the killer, and that the real murderer was alive and hiding out until he was pronounced legally dead. And in "The Case of the Pint-sized Client," it was Paul who knew right where to find "songbird" Eddie Merlin, a local stool pigeon who was sitting on some valuable information.
He did like to brag. When asked by Perry about the qualifications of one of his operatives, Paul boasted, "He's a good investigator. I trained him myself." Or, once "The Case of the Wintry Wife" was solved, he had the chutzpah to say: "It was all pretty obvious anyway." This was after Perry had figured out all the tough parts. ("It's all pretty obvious now!" an astonished Della reminded him.)
But he'd do anything to help Perry clear a client. In "The Case of the Angry Astronaut," Paul's investigation of why a spaceman was acting spacey got turned upside down. Literally. When Paul took a ride in a simulated space capsule, it felt too much like the real thing. He came out of the test looking for his stomach.
|The Perry Mason TV Show Book Copyright © 1987 by Brian Kelleher and Diana Merrill. All rights reserved. Presented here by permission of the copyright holder. Commercial use prohibited. Web page Copyright © 1998 D. M. Brockman. Last edited 04 Nov 2004.|