Perry Mason at the Chaplin Studio – The Case of the Homecoming Kid

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1966 – Perry Mason and Paul Drake arrive at the Chaplin Studio in The Case of the Final Fade-Out

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2005 – a matching view of the entrance. Kermit the Frog, dressed as Chaplin, welcomes guests

One of the most gratifying experiences to come from working on my Charlie Chaplin book Silent Traces was being given a private tour of the Chaplin Studios, at 1416 N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, now home to The Jim Henson Company.  My book contains an entire chapter devoted to the studio, annotated with vintage and current photos, aerial views, and maps. 

Jackie 1921 and 1966

Jackie Coogan in 1921 and 1966

The studio has a long history, and while I was aware that it was once used to film the Perry Mason television show, I was pleasantly surprised when Thomas Peters wrote to me advising that the studio exteriors appear prominently in the final episode of the series, The Case of the Final Fade-Out, which first aired May 22, 1966.  You can stream this and other episodes online HERE.  Thomas also writes that studio exteriors appear during Season 5 – Episode 29; The Case of the Promoter’s Pillbox, while at the opening of Season 6 – Episode 8; The Case of the Stand-In Sister, a character in a phone booth gives an address, 1416 N. La Brea “Boulevard,” the studio’s avenue address.

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Richard Anderson, as Lt. Steve Drumm

Moreover, one of the guest stars in the final show was Jackie Coogan, the former child superstar who had worked at the same studio 45 years earlier when filming Chaplin’s masterpiece The Kid (1921). What bittersweet memories Jackie must have had revisiting the studio after all those years.  His return must surely have been an on-set topic of conversation while filming the episode, and begs the question whether his casting was merely a coincidence, or an homage of some sorts.*  

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Three views of the studio film vault door – Chaplin’s butler (inset) retrieves Charlie’s most valuable possession from the vault, his tramp shoes.

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Dick Clark at the gate

Given that this was the concluding episode of the highly successful series, after nine years, and 271 episodes, it must have been a bittersweet moment for everyone involved.  Even the choice of the title, Final Fade-Out, suggests an awareness of the show’s own passing.

Aside from Coogan’s appearance, a young-looking Dick Clark (is that redundant?) plays a major role, as does veteran character actress Estelle Winwood.

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Erle Stanley Gardner

Erle Stanley Gardner, the prolific author of the original Perry Mason mystery novels, plays an un-credited cameo role as the last courtroom judge to appear in the series.020

The plot involves a murder that takes place at a movie studio during the filming of a scene.  Afterwards, the police briefly question a number of crew member witnesses, whose demeanor and appearance suggest they are all played by the real grips, camera operators, and other studio crew members from the show. 

The final shot of the series

The final fade-out from The Final Fade-Out; the concluding shot of the entire series

Above, the closing shot of the series, Perry Mason (Raymond Burr), Paul Drake (William Hopper), and Della Street (Barbara Hale) confer about their next big case.

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The Chaplin Studio during the Perry Mason years and originally.  When La Brea Avenue was widened in 1929, and the sidewalk was moved several feet east, the protruding architectural details of the buildings north of the entrance gate (yellow line) were trimmed flush to the new sidewalk.  The buildings south of the gate were physically moved east to preserve the details. Vintage Los Angeles

*(Oops, well, Coogan’s sentimental homecoming makes a good story, but it turns out he had appeared on the show twice before; in Season 5 – Episode 5, the Case of the Crying Comedian, and in Season 6 – Episode 28, the Case of the Witless Witness.  Maybe those were nostalgic experiences for him as well.)

There’s a brief period shot of the front of the Chaplin studios in this clip at 6:21:23:00

There’s a brief period shot of the front of the Chaplin studios in this clip at 6:21:23:00.  Thanks Skip!

All images from Chaplin films made from 1918 onwards, copyright © Roy Export Company Establishment. CHARLES CHAPLIN, CHAPLIN, and the LITTLE TRAMP, photographs from and the names of Mr. Chaplin’s films are trademarks and/or service marks of Bubbles Incorporated SA and/or Roy Export Company Establishment. Used with permission.

Perry Mason © MCMLXVI Paisano Productions All Rights Reserved.

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20 Responses to Perry Mason at the Chaplin Studio – The Case of the Homecoming Kid

  1. Carrie Pomeroy says:

    So fascinating to learn that Jackie Coogan was back at the studio to work on Perry Mason. Thanks for sharing this info!

  2. Chris Bungo says:

    Nice find – I’ll have to keep my eye out for that episode on MeTV/Antenna-TV!

  3. Robby says:

    That first screenshot is fantastic! I love the view looking from inside the studio out towards La Brea. And nice bit of trivia about Coogan. I really do wonder if that was coincidence or not?

  4. Mary Mallory says:

    Nice post, John. Have you done anything connecting the studio with the 1950 film HOLLYWOOD STORY? Unfortunately it hasn’t been released on TV/DVD, but the studio plays the studio in the film, where a director was killed in the silent days. Many spots around Hollywood are shown, Hollywood Blvd., the Owl Drug Store, Grauman’s, the Roosevelt Hotel, Hollywood and Vine, La Rue’s.

  5. Mary Mallory says:

    I don’t think it’s ever played on TCM, it’s a Universal film, and they’ve released so little to TV or DVD.

  6. Paul E. Gierucki says:

    There are a few clips from HOLLYWOOD STORY here, John and Mary: http://matineeclassics.com/movies/1951/hollywood_story/

  7. Mary Mallory says:

    In the movie, you see them come and go through the front gate, walk and run through the studio, etc. There’s a shot from the bungalow at night looking north, and you can see the Roosevelt Hotel sign lit up in the distance. Conte stands on the street corner across from the Roosevelt looking across the street at the Chinese and the Santa Claus Lane Christmas decorations.

  8. Skip says:

    There’s a brief period shot of the front of the Chaplin studios in this clip at 6:21:23:00 http://www.producerslibrary.com/displayProduct1.do?product_id=18468&product_name=V-0205_010

  9. TEX says:

    Really cool !

  10. billlabrie says:

    I love this! Great to see the multiple windows through time. Thank you!

  11. What an interesting story that was! It’s amazing how many threads wove themselves into it.

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