Erle Stanley Gardner's most famous creation was lawyer Perry Mason, but many readers preferred the private eye team of big, brassy, bulldozing Bertha Cool and her partner, the diminutive, cagey ex-lawyer Donald Lam. Mason, of course, was also featured in movies, a long-running television series, a short-running television series, a long list of television movies, comic books, and a radio show (which eventually morphed into the soap opera The Edge of Night). And poor Donald and Bertha? A mere 29 books, one episode in a radio program in 1946 (featuring Frank Sinatra [!] as Donald Lam), one 1955 episode of the television anthology series Climax! (With Art Carney and Jane Darwell as Donald Lam and Bertha Cool), and the item below, a pilot for a television series that never came to fruition.
Cool and Lam was a 1958 joint production between CBS and Gardner's Paisano Production. I don't know if it ever aired -- at least, I can't find a air date. Gardner evidently had high hopes for this one; he inserted himself into the opening, telling the audience how proud he was of this production and how he felt the stars were just perfect for the roles. The executive producer was Gail Patrick Jackson, who was the executive producer of the Perry Mason series. The director was none other than Jaques Tourneur (alas, beyond his glory days). The teleplay was by Edmund Hartmann, longtime script writer for Bob Hope. And the actors?
Oh, yes. The actors.
Well, Donald Lam was played by 5' 2" thoroughbred jockey Billy Pearson in one of his (thankfully) very few acting jobs. The only worst piece of casting would have been to place Glenn Strange in the role, IMHO. Pearson capped off his brief acting career in a Perry Mason episode. playing -- what else? -- a jockey.
Also miscast was the talented Benay Venuta as Bertha Cool. At least she towered over Billy Pearson. Venuta may be best known as the person who replaced Ethel Merman in the original Broadway production of Anything Goes. (She later rejoined Merman in a production of Annie Get Your Gun.)
Also in the cast are Maggie Mahoney (a.k.a., Margaret Field, Sally's mother), Don Megowan (who also appeared in "The Bigger They Come" -- the Cool and Lam episode of Climax!), Sheila Bromley (a former Miss California who had a habit of often changing her name during her long acting career), Judith Bess Jones (who never acted again -- at least, as far as IMDB is concerned), the single-named Movita (better known as Movita Castenada; she played Ana in Knott's Landing), Allison Hayes (THE 50-Foot Woman [!]), actor-stuntman Alex Sharp, and John Mitchum, Robert's brother an a regular on Riverboat and F Troop). Not surprisingly, many of the actors did a number of appearances on Perry Mason.
Without further ado, from 1958, the (failed) pilot episode of Cool and Lam:
I don't remember this one. But I always meant to try the books.ReplyDelete