Della Street

You all know I’m a big fan of Perry Mason, particularly the two tv series with Raymond Burr.  I’ve seen them all and YA will tell you I’ve seen them all repeatedly.  Mea culpa. 

With the big storm on Sunday/Monday, I spent the day inside, watching another of my favorite old shows – Columbo.  When watching episodes back to back, I noticed something in Columbo that I have always been bothered by in Perry Mason.  Secretaries are portrayed as a bad lot.  Either they are in love with their bosses and will lie (and kill) for them or they are sexpots either having affairs with their bosses or vying for those affairs, always with the aim of blackmail of some sort. 

Except Della Street, of course.  Intelligent, resourceful, extremely loyal, kind and completely devoted to her job.  Early mornings, late nights, weekends…. she is ALWAYS working.  She goes to nice restaurants with the boss, gala affairs on occasion, holiday weekends in Mexico, an overnight on a boat with the boss to check some bit of evidence.  She even goes to the boss’ house to take care of him when he is sick.  But no canoodling of any kind, although the later series does lean a little over the line in terms of their relationship.  (And we’re not going to discuss a movie made in the late 30s in which Perry and Della get married!)

I did secretarial work for my father’s law firm for a couple of summers and winter breaks in college and I never met another secretary that fit any of the secretarial visions that Hollywood has dreamed up – no killer gals in love with the boss, no sexpots aiming to entrap the boss and no Della Streets.  Not a one.

In your opinion, what else does Hollywood always mess up?

57 thoughts on “Della Street”

  1. Back when we were first married, Robin worked for a couple of years as a legal secretary. One of the other secretaries did have an affair with one of the lawyers.

    This is probably more television sit-com than Hollywood, but whenever some hapless homeowner goes under the kitchen sink to fix something, he takes a pipe wrench, which implies he’s going to work on the drain, which has no water in it except for the trap and is under no pressure. Predictably, water will at some point shoot up from the sink. Where are the plumbing technical advisors?

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  2. Television again- Why does every amateur sleuth have as his or her nemesis a stupid police chief who dismisses everything they discover and jumps to wrong conclusions?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Me and Gene Siskel always noticed this: people leave doors open all the time.
    My wife was a secretary, high ranking position in publishing in St. Paul before we moved. Before north. Before that she was head secretary of a department in u of M hospital. In both places she had several people for whom she worked. She was never treat with anything but respect, No one ever made a pass at her, but she was aware of 3-4 people who were having affairs with people outside the workplace. Later she worked in a library, another cliched job.
    Educators take a beating in movies and TV. Cops are portrayed as idiots or tyrannical, but then what has been proven about that? Children are usually smarter than their parents. Big city dwellers, especially in NY, have apartments way beyond their means. New Yorkers must ask “Where are all these big apartments?” Unknown writers mail their manuscript to be published and get published. (No published accepts mail in manuscripts. Or very very few do.)

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Last addition: people with dementia are an easy cliched plot driver. When Sandy and I watch on Amazon and Netflix, so often we see this device. She often leaves the room. And you never know when it will pop up.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dads in many TV sitcoms are such inept idiots – or at least they used to be (I haven’t seen the more recent ones).

    I had a temp. job in San Francisco one summer where the secretary was putting the moves on one handsome (and funny!) accountant – I wasn’t there long enough to know the outcome, but he talked lovingly about his wife and little kids at home, so I hoped he didn’t succumb.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. How many shows are there, especially detective shows, where one of the main characters is somewhere on the autistic spectrum— socially awkward and literal but brilliant?

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Sherlock in Elementary, although you could blame this on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and not Hollywood.

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  7. Do cartoons qualify as “Hollywood?” Probably not. My development as a scientist was doomed by learning the laws of physics from cartoons. Someone posted a document on the internet called “Cartoon Laws of Physics.”

    Here, for example, is the first law: “Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation. Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.”

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  8. If you are alone in the house and a vampire, werewolf or insane killer is on the loose, be sure to open your bedroom windows before you go to bed.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. My pet peeve is the time compression most shows use (by necessity, of course), to fit into the time slot allowed. Viewers subconsciously get the message that all crimes are solved within an hour. Procedures, tests, interviews, etc., take 1/100th of the time they take in real life; flying across country is a 15-second view of a jet taking off from JFK in winter and landing at LAX with palm trees all around.

    I get it, of course, but I feel it greatly contributes to our society’s growing insistence and desire for instant gratification.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Last fall a crime show, “Unbelievable” with Merit Weaver and Toni Collete, portrayed the passage of time in an improved manner. I like the show a lot (except for the first episode which was miserably done). Weaver and Collette were good cop partners together, from different departments, trying solve serial rapes. It was on either Hulu or Netflix. They also portrayed cops as human and one cop even apologized for attitude and malfeasance.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    The process of writing and producing often falls into “formula” which is production-speak for lazy habits that put something up on the screen but ignores quality. More than anything, that trips up Hollywood productions. I have noticed this has improved, however, with the luxury of streaming TV available now. Those shows are so much less rushed. When they have a season of 10 or 13 shows that we can watch whenever, I think it improves the quality. The writers seem less bored, as well, given the quality of dialogue and plots. That said, I just went through several weeks in which I did not care what the offerings were, I wanted to sit on the front patio or the back porch and listen to birds and watch the neighbors.

    Re: Secretaries. I filled a few secretarial jobs back in the day, not because I had any clerical competence but because I was cute. I was the world’s worst secretary, key punch operator, typist… because I have poor visual discrimination skills. I saw flirting, affairs, an office manager in love with her gay boss, and on and on. Della Street was the exception.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. PS. I also learned that when there is a Della Street quality secretary in the business, Never, Ever offend her. That is the person who can make your job there tolerable or ruin you.

      OT. I had to have an ultrasound this morning after having pain under my right rib cage for the last few days. My Dr. says it is probably my gallbladder, but I of course am sure I have a fatal disease and my days are numbered. Mayo health website describes my symptoms precisely as those of gallbladder. Because of COVID I cannot even entertain myself with fantasies of a large memorial services with thousands mourning my demise. COVID is really ruining a lot of stuff, including my fantasy funeral.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Don’t worry; in your fantasy funeral, we’ll all be there.

        Good luck with gallbladder. My dad had his out back in the day when they made a big cut and he hurt all summer. It’s done much easier these days.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Hans had his gallbladder removed a two or three years ago, nothing to it. He had been in excruciating pain prior to its removal, but once it was cut out he was fine.

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      2. I had mine out when I was 22. I still can’t do much fried food, but my, did I feel better after it was out. I remember have an acute attack at a family gathering, and all the adult female relatives who were there immediately diagnosed it. It runs in the family and they had all been through the surgery.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The surgeon hoped to take out my appendix at the same time, but I was too long waisted, and he would have had to make a really enormous incision to reach it. As it is, I have a lovely scar from the surgery. This was before the days of laprascopic surgery.

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      3. FANTASY MEMORIAL IS OFF. STOP. NO DREAD DISEASE. NO GALLSTONES EITHER. STOP. MAY NEED FURTHER TESTING FOR OBSCURE GALLBLADDER PROBLEM SIMILAR TO WHAT MY MOTHER EXPERIENCED. STOP.

        PHEW.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. Damn, and here I was, looking forward the fantasy wake, where we would all have a chance to tell you what a great human being you are while you could still enjoy it. I probably will not be around for the real one, so let me say it here, you’re pretty damn special, Jacque. Love your sense of humor and no-nonsense approach to life.

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  11. Hospital and medical shows – particularly nurses!!! Shenanigans between nurses and doctors while in the hospital, patients wearing an oxygen mask while a ventilator cycles next to them, people in a coma without any IV fluids running, inappropriate use or nonuse of PPE, anyone who has been in the ICU for any length of time gets better and walks out of the hospital in a day or two without any side effects, etc., etc., etc. This list just goes on and on and on…….I can’t watch them anymore.

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  12. I don’t think we ever watched Raymond Burr / Ironsides / Perry Mason. I remember watching Adam-12.
    Later on Kelly and I would watch Hill Street Blues, Homicide, and NYPD Blue.
    Movies always get farming wrong; of course that’s what I would focus on.

    I’ve said before how young and sheltered I was when I started in theater. The Tech Director showing up at the theater one night with a woman volunteer not his wife was kind of a shock to me.
    Don’t think I’ve known any secretaries having affairs.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. When we were in Scotland in 1990, we stayed one night in the town of Killin with the Mudds. He had been a civil servant in India and she a nurse and that’s where they met. Their house was fairly ancient, with stone walls three feet thick. In the evening, the Mudds invited us to watch television with them and we happily agreed. There we sat, chatting and snacking on tea and biscuits, watching Perry Mason on their TV. I remember thinking even then that Perry Mason was kind of an antique show.

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  14. Secretaries were a 1950s and 1960s phenomenon. No more. Even the name has been changed now.

    The TV show that did the most with secretaries was Mad Men. Don Draper had so many infidelities with secretaries that his business partners assigned him an ultimately unattractive and obnoxious old woman, Ida Blankenship, who later died sitting at her typewriter. Others included Megan Calvert, Peggy Olson and Joan Harris. The central theme of Mad Men was the rapidly evolving role of women in business.

    There is a scene in Mad Men when Peggy Olson takes down her arrogant boss, Roger. Some think this is the best single scene in the show.

    One of the great films for capturing 1960s business culture was The Apartment. The plot was driven effectively by the spiteful secretary Miss Olsen.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. A couple of years ago we built a set for a Mayo Clinic movie. It was a story about children in the Mayo family keeping goats in the house and how mom and dad didn’t know about it. (Whether it’s factual or not is still not clear, but it makes a good story.) As we designed this I said to the director there should be straw on the floor because if the goats had been there for a week it would be messy. He said with tongue firmly in his cheek, “This is the movies, we don’t do messes.”

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  15. i also am a perry mason fan
    watched all of them many times
    della is the ideal woman

    recently i heard something that i hadn’t thought about until now
    it was a thing talking about all the “ideal men” on tv and in the movies who were gay
    troy donahue and rock hudson are old stuff. i had heard the guy who played paul drake the handsome man about town on perry mason was gay but the recent revelation was that raymond burr was too.
    now if you plug that into the equation it is perfect.
    never hit on, never trying to put the make on them going to fine dinners and flying to lavish resorts with the two men is a different scenario if this is taken into account .

    the movies get lots of stuff wrong and it’s usually in the story line. the treatment of women and blacks is almost always wrong

    i can’t believe they have been showing the step and fetchit movies with the mammys and black face with no objections til now
    i recently heard gone with the wind is never going to be shown again because of its premise

    so many stories don’t add up. i am a film buff and watch lots of old tv
    today’s shows all take the easy laugh instead of acting and characters being developed

    dustin hoffman al pachino robert redford tom hanks still act but no new guys come to mind

    leonardo? brad? will smith? sort of
    not much else
    kids like action and can’t stand stories
    could be end of an era

    sherlock and perry are the best
    hope to see more
    i love it

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, it’s on HBO. Matthew Rhys plays Mason and I believe Della is played by Tatiana Maslany? I started watching it last week but had to turn it off because it’s too dark. We’ll see whether I ever get the stomach for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I just finally remembered the plot element that irritates me—forgetting cell phone, lost cellphone, uncharged cell phone, so protagonist is stranded in danger. Not too swift.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. A classic example of this is the part in Silence of the Lambs where Jodie Foster follows the killer into the basement without calling for backup or letting anyone know where she’s going.

      Liked by 2 people

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