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.
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.
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.*
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.
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.
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.
*(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.)
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.