William Hopper was happy to play Perry Mason's main man on the series

William Hopper didn't mind being in the background as long as he was next to Raymond Burr.

The only private eye who didn't have a girl (or two) by his side was Perry Mason's Paul Drake. The only woman Drake really talked to was Della Street, Mason's legal secretary, and even then, he was only allowed to say a quick "Hello," before taking orders from Mason.

According to a 1960 interview with The Buffalo News, William Hopper, who played the role of Paul Drake for nine seasons, said Drake almost had a moment with a girl in season four. 

There was a chance for Drake to walk out with a female witness. Their flirty interchanges were filmed but then cut from the episode. He was so close.

Of all the actors playing investigators, Hopper — with the exception of Craig Stevens in Peter Gunn — appeared most likely to attract the lady viewers. However, Hopper's looks were never put to good use because he and Perry Mason were too steady in the courtroom.

Many women did find Hopper's Paul Drake to be attractive, but with a co-star like Raymond Burr, it's hard to come in first. The best part? Hopper said he didn't mind being Mason's go-to man.  

"I like playing pals with the stars," Hopper said. "If this series ever stops, I only hope I can find another series to be pals again. Let the stars do all the work."

According to the interview, many actors auditioned to play the leading role when Perry Mason was in the early stages. It boiled down to two people: Raymond Burr and William Hopper. Hopper lost out on the leading role and was offered the part of Drake.

"I turned it down," Hopper said. "I should have had my head examined, but I said no flatly. Then such a good deal was made that I had to sign. It turned out just fine. Look at the job Ray is doing with Mason. I couldn't have done it."

In a 1962 interview with The Shreveport Journal, Hopper said his character in the Erle Gardner Stanley books was entirely different than his portrayal of him.

"If they thought they were getting Paul Drake, they were mistaken," Hopper said. "Because what they got was me, nobody else. I play him my way. Now I'm amused to read Gardner's new books. Paul Drake comes out like me."

Perry Mason lasted for nine seasons, which came as a surprise for Hopper. Hopper didn't mind playing second in command to Mason — he actually preferred it — even if it meant not having a girl by his side.

"I've seen what it has done to him," Hopper said. "The poor guy has had to dedicate his life to Perry Mason. I remember in the first two years, he used to stay up until midnight every night to work out changes that would improve the script." 

"Even now he must live at the studio while we're working," Hopper said. "He has no life outside whatsoever. He has a beautiful house at the beach, but he never sees it. Luckily, he is the kind of guy who is dedicated to activity. If he has nothing to do for three weeks, he ends up in the hospital."

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29 Comments

George58 5 months ago
You're partially incorrect. When Paul greeted Della it was usually, "Hi Beautiful" or "Hello Beautiful". William Hopper was great on Perry Mason & I loved the camaraderie between Perry & Paul. Most notably brought out in The Case Of Paul Drake's Dilemma". Perry didn't even charge him. Paul just paid for dinner. The one thing I missed in those Perry Mason TV Movies was William Hopper as Paul Drake. I wish he would have still been alive when those movies were made. But when you take into account how many times you saw Paul smoking a cigarette in those episodes its no wonder his lungs gave out. He suffered a stroke and died of pneumonia on March 6, 1970 at age 55
darcyrfd 5 months ago
Hopper as Perry Mason??? no way give me Raymond Burr any day!!! the way it worked out is PERFECT!!! I Love the show I'll never be bored watching; don't ever remove the show from your line-up.
Snickers 6 months ago
Didn't William Hopper play the role of a scientist in "The Deadly Mantis"?
Jena_H 6 months ago
Honestly, I can't imagine Hopper as Perry Mason. I heard that another close contender to play Perry was William Tallman. He didn't get that lead role, but Tallman was cast as D.A. Hamilton Burger. Another case of "I can't imagine him as Perry."
And actually I think there WAS an episode which ends with Paul taking out a beautiful witness to dinner or something.
Mike Jena_H 5 months ago
You've got that sideways:
Raymond Burr was up for the part of Hamilton Burger.
He even tested for the part (the test can be found on Youtube).
Burr also tested for Mason - and Erle Stanley Gardner saw that test and called out "THAT'S Perry Mason!"
And the rest is history.
jfms99 6 months ago
One thing about William Hopper’s character Paul Drake is that Paul always got paid. I don’t think I ever saw an episode that Paul Drake didn’t get paid one way or the other. Now you take Jim Rockford on the Rockford files he hardly ever got paid. But then again, Paul Drake drove a late model sports car with a phone in it and poor Rockford was just driving the sports car.

The only other TV detective that seem to get paid and get paid well was William Conrad‘s character Cannon.
cheduff 6 months ago
We’ll go ahead and try to get people to believe William Katt is the son of Barbara Hale and William Hopper. I’m not convinced.
Mike cheduff 5 months ago
William Katt is the son of Barbara Hale and Bill WILLIAMS (who made at least four guest appearances on Perry Mason - twice as the murderer!).
LouR cheduff 3 months ago
William Hopper was the son of the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
JERRY6 LouR 25 days ago
Paul was also on the special forces UDT team had hearing problems becase of that
GOOSEYGOOSE9 6 months ago
William hopper had played Paul drake raymond burr had played perry mason Raymond burr became a household name because of success of perry mason
FLETCH GOOSEYGOOSE9 6 months ago
well said
Pacificsun 6 months ago
How many supporting characters were there in PM? IMO, it was one of the most elegantly produced long-terms TV series in history. If the producers had diverted attention from who the Series was named after, with any of those SC's side-stories, it would've turned into a Soap Opera. From a writing standpoint, for the reason that all those side-stories leave a track, which complicates the cannon. For example, suddenly Drake complicates his life with another infatuation. And it's endless. The series was also, and intentionally so, very well nuanced. Especially for the period of time in which it ran. They made no mistake about which people were doing what roles. And side-stories almost weren't even necessary.
cperrynaples Pacificsun 6 months ago
Actually it was a soap opera...on radio! It ran for 12 years and would have been remade as such if not for Gardner's objections! P&G decided to change the name to Mike Carr and it became The Edge Of Night!
Bapa1 6 months ago
Hopper was great in that role. There was a movie on this morning, Sitting Bull, Hopper was in it.
ncadams27 6 months ago
But Paul had a son, Paul Drake Jr., who appeared in The Perry Mason movies - whose real-life mom was Barbara Hale (Della). Hmmm?
cperrynaples ncadams27 6 months ago
Yes, and his name is William Katt, better remembered as The Greatest American Hero!
Runeshaper 6 months ago
William Hoppe was EXCELLENT to play Paul Drake. Loved the acting and the character!
tootsieg Runeshaper 6 months ago
Definitely!!
CaptainDunsel 6 months ago
Actually, he used the term "beautiful", as least for Della!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 6 months ago
Actually, that particular scene " S02E16 The Case of the Fraudulent Foto" he used the term "Honey." A man of many words LOL!

justjeff 6 months ago
Earle Gardner Stanley??? NOPE! Erle Stanley Gardner...
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 6 months ago
🤭 I didn’t even notice it was wrong.
Don't forget these are the guys who continue to INSIST that Gunsmoke ended in 1973 instead of 1975!
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