Lieutenant Tragg

Recently my bride and I have been watching season one, first aired in 1956, of the Perry Mason television series.  It has been decades since I last watched the show, although I watched it endlessly growing up in the Sixties, when it was a staple in re-runs.  When the show first aired, I didn’t get to see it until the last few seasons, the show coming on after my bedtime.  I do recall the haunting Perry Mason theme music as some of my earliest childhood memories.  As far as I am concerned the episodes are new now, as over the past half century since I was last watching them they have faded from my memory.

I will have other posts about the show, since it is fascinating for any number of reasons, but in this post I wanted to focus on the character of Lieutenant Arthur Tragg.  Portrayed by veteran actor Ray Collins, Tragg is the main nemesis of Mason in the episodes I have watched thus far, not District Attorney Hamilton Burger.  The courtroom sequences usually occurred in the last quarter of the show, and before that it would be Tragg and Mason engaging in verbal duels as the police conducted their homicide investigation and Mason scampered to get the evidence to establish the innocence of his client, they were always innocent, and uncover the real murderer, who would usually confess in court.  (Ah, if both only were typical of real criminal cases!)

Tragg is portrayed as tough, but fair.  In verbal prowess he is the equal of Mason.  The two men obviously respect each other, as a worthy adversary is always, at least in memory, someone to be appreciated.  Sadly largely forgotten today, Collins was an actor of preternatural ability and I look forward to his appearances in each of the episodes.  The video above is the screen test of actor William Hopper, who tried out for the role of Mason before being cast as Mason’s private investigator Paul Drake.  Hopper was one of the first of the Navy frog men, the precursors of the Seals of today, during World War II, and he will be the subject of another post.  The video clip gives a good taste of the electricity when Tragg was on screen.

Ray Collins gave a bravura performance as Tragg, even more bravura due to the fact that during the filming his health was giving way and his memory fading.  He had to be replaced in October 1963 after the filming of “The Case of the Capering Camera”.  In retirement he watched the show each week, and his name was kept in the opening credits.  He passed away at age 75 on July 11, 1965.

Published in: on November 5, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lieutenant Tragg  
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