Mary Astor... as Bessie Foley
Allen Jenkins... as Sgt. Holcomb
Grant Mitchell... as District Attorney Claude Drumm
Helen Trenholme... as Della Street, Mason's loyal secretary
Helen Lowell... as Elizabeth Walker
Dorothy Tree... as Lucy Benton
Gordon Westcott... as Arthur Cartwright
In THE CASE OF THE HOWLING DOG (1934), our mystery begins with (yup, you guessed it) a howling dog, a neighbor's window and a rather unnerved man plus his wild story that the barking dog is an omen of a death. He pleads for Mason to write his will, making the lady next door his beneficiary. Perry Mason takes the case as he's intrigued by all the odd facets of this encounter. In short time, both the mysterious man and his beneficiary are missing- now Perry Mason must unravel the clues including a humdinger of a identification mix-up.
This is the first time we see Perry Mason on screen which is a real treat for several reasons.. for one, the novels do not go into great detail to describe the Mason character in physical form so we get to experience him without any prejudice. For another, we also see a new side of actor Warren William. This straight-laced, all-business character is rather unlike his Lone Wolf or Philo Vance characters. And it goes without saying, watching Warren William in a flick is always a real treat!
By now, THE THIN MAN (1934) had launched to great success and it's influence was apparent. Instead of the completely straight and serious Perry Mason translation as in the first film, this one injected a more comedic and lighter tone that was also reflected in the supporting cast roles. Now Warren William was transitioning with a confidence that would continue into his next films.
Warren William...as Perry Mason
Margaret Lindsay... as Rhoda Montaine
Donald Woods... as Carl Montaine
Claire Dodd... as Della Street, still Mason's secretary
Allen Jenkins... as Spudsy Drake, Mason's whacky sidekick (note the big difference from the last film)
Phillip Reed... as Dr. Claude Millbeck
Barton MacLane... as Chief Detective Joe Lucas
Wini Shaw... as Doris Pender
Warren Hymer... as Oscar Pender
Olin Howland... as Coroner Wilbur Strong
Charles Richman... as C. Phillip Montaine
*Errol Flynn... as Gregory Moxley
*This film is notable as Errol Flynn's first American film appearance. He's seen twice: once as a non-speaking part of a corpse and then again as a more animated role as a flashback to this character.
Genevieve Tobin... as Della Street, Mason's secretary yet again with a new actress
Patricia Ellis... as Margie
Lyle Talbot... as Dr. Doray
Allen Jenkins... as Spudsy Drake, and his goofiest version yet
Barton Maclane... as Bisonette
Peggy Shannon... as Thelma Bell
Porter Hall... as Col. Bradbury
Anita Kerry... as Eva Lamont
Craig Rynolds... as Frank Patton
Henry O'Neill... as District Attorney Manchester
Charles C. Wilson... as Police Officer Ricker
Joseph Crehan... as Detective Johnson
Olin Howland... as Dr. Crocker
Warren William's final cinematic take on the Perry Mason character is William Clemens' THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS (1936). This one is unique because we see Perry Mason marry his long-time secretary, Della. But in true Perry Mason form, even their honeymoon is not complete with a mystery and a dead body to mix it up. Mason finds himself taking the case at gunpoint. And after the dead body shows up, it's he himself who is entangled as a suspect. While this storyline is weaker, the snappy one-liners are fun and Warren William always delivers a charming performance.
Claire Dodd... returning as Della Street, Mason's secretary and now "the Mrs."
Wini Shaw... as Eva Belter
Bill Elliott... as Carl Griffin
Joe King... as George C. Belter
Addison Richards... as Frank Locke
Eddie Acuff... as Spudsy Drake (note the change-up)
Olin Howland... as Wilbur Strong
It's interesting to watch the evolution of this Perry Mason characterization in the four films under Warren Williams' masterful craft. No doubt it is often more of a manifestation of its times than a strict reflection of Gardner's writings. Guaranteed, this is a Perry Mason unlike the Raymond Burr of more recent history. But if you're a fan of Warren William as I am (if you're not familiar with his talent- by all means, check him out!) and if you're unfamiliar with his Perry Mason roles, any of these films in this series is worth a viewing.
This was my contribution the Sleuthathon Blogathon hosted by the talented blogger Fritzi at Movies Silently. Please read all creative talents that are participating in this fun blogathon.