The Perry Mason TV Show Book
Perry Mason Returns: The New TV-Movies

The "Whydoit"
Together againPerry and Della are reunited after nearly twenty years. When the secretary is accused of murdering her boss, Perry, now a judge, resigns his position and takes up her defense. Copyright 1986 NBC photo/courtesy Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Material Store

In the film, Della, played once again by Barbara Hale, works for the birthday boy, Arthur Gordon (played by Patrick O'Neal). He is head of his own corporation; she's his executive secretary. Della hasn't lost her touch. When her boss asks her, "Did anyone ever tell you you're too efficient?" Della replies, "Certainly not you."

Arthur feels Della is the only one competent and deserving enough to look after his company when he is gone. Therefore he plans to leave the bulk of his fortune in her control. Unusual? Yes. Doesn't this hint of a little romance between them? Maybe. But not any more than we saw between Perry and Della all those years.

Gordon's relatives don't buy it. They are convinced that Della schemed her way into his will. The birthday party ends on a downer. Later, someone dressed up in Della's clothing gives Gordon a birthday present he could have done without--a knife through the chest.

It is here that "Perry Mason Returns" veers from the tried and true formula of the original series. For the first time, we, the viewers, actually see the murderer, know his identity, see his escape. The new approach is not so much "whodunit," but why.

Because the image of the killer, dressed as Della, is captured on the mansion's security cameras--and because he leaves pieces of her wardrobe scattered along his getaway trail--Della is the number one suspect in Gordon's killing. She is questioned and eventually arrested for the murder. The evidence against her appears overwhelming. Shocked that she finds herself on the other side of justice after all these years, she is booked and bail is set. Clearly, she needs a good lawyer.

Enter Perry for the defense. He's bigger than we remember him. He's now a judge, white-haired and bearded. But his reputation has aged well. People still talk of him in hushed tones. He is still a formidable presence.

Perry sees that Della hasn't changed. She'd older, but still attractive. When he arrives to bail her out, there's an authentically touching scene between them. They haven't seen each other in years. There's an awkward moment or two at first. Then, they embrace. She cries in his arms. It makes you wonder, how did these two live without each other all this time? (If fans notice that many of Barbara Hale's scenes show her sitting down, it's because she was recovering from a broken hip during most of the shooting. A stand-in was used to do many of her walking scenes.)

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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.