Barbara Hale began researching law after she was cast on Perry Mason
Hale had done her homework.
Image: Everett Collection
If you're a real fan of legal dramas, it's easy to feel like you've consumed enough Law and Order, Perry Mason, and Matlock that you might think that you could hold your own in a courtroom. While the cases depicted in legal dramas are mostly fictional, they're grounded in a reality that exists in our legal system every day. Albeit the day-to-day cases of someone like Perry Mason are more dramatized than the reality, but at its core, the show is about law and order, the same sort of thing that real criminal defense lawyers deal with every day.
This is why it was key for someone like Barbara Hale to do her research while she was playing Della Street. Obviously, as Mason's legal secretary, Street was less involved in the action than Mason was, but she still had her part to play. In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hale revealed that she had begun to study law in her spare time in order to give her a better understanding of the character and the series.
She said, "I'm starting to study law. Well, not to practice, naturally — I'd hardly have time for that. But I bought a book called Law Made Simple and if you think I don't know torts and briefs and all those things, you've very much mistaken."
Hale also spent time studying secretarial work firsthand to help prepare her for the series. She said, "I did a lot of research into the lives of secretaries." Hale explained that she had spoken with the women who worked for Paisano Productions, which produced Perry Mason, and even witnessed the ladies in action.
Hale said, "I sat in their offices and watched them answer phones, type letters from diction — I have to admit that I can't write or read a word of shorthand. But I make the most Freudian scribbles when 'Perry' gives me diction. Heaven knows what a psychiatrist would make of them. Probably that I'm happy in my work and having the time of my life."