I decided that for my first official musing, it would be appropriate to go more in-depth on the first time I encountered Simon.
Perry Mason has long been a regular part of my life. Ever since our local PBS station started airing reruns many years ago, the familiar strains of the catchy and clever theme song, Park Avenue Beat, have echoed through both a previous and a current home nearly every night. Perry, as well as Della, Paul, Mr. Burger, and Lieutenant Tragg, are old friends of the family. I went through and out of my teenage years and into my twenties while watching them solve cases. I hope to continue visiting with them in the future.
Long ago, while randomly sitting on the living room floor perusing a book, my attention was captured by the episode The Case of the Frantic Flyer. While I often watched Perry when my mother or both parents did, I usually had my attention divided between it and a book. This time the episode gained my complete attention. In particular I found the airplane angle unique and different, as it kept the setting from being strictly in the city as it usually is. I was also interested by the criminals’ intricate plot to get away with the stolen money and play dead. I distinctly recall Howard Walters’ panicked call on his airplane radio, his descent to the ground with his parachute, and the plane crashing and bursting into flame. I also clearly remember Walters’ broken leg, the snow, and him being stranded in a cabin with a prospector for seven weeks.
That alone is all rather curious, as there are not many individual episodes I can recall such details about. But in addition, I remember that, in spite of the serious wrong that Howard did, there was something about him that I liked. When he was the one killed, I recall feeling very sad—far moreso than when most characters died in other episodes—and of course, someone dies in each one. Since the body was not shown, I kept hoping in vain that he would turn up alive again, with someone else having been killed in his place.
Isn’t it very strange, that I would feel so strongly about that particular character?
I do believe that was my first introduction to Simon Oakland. Of course, in years to come I forgot all about that. Each succeeding time I saw him in something, I didn’t remember having seen him in anything previous. I loved him in I Want to Live!; I was initially shocked by his character in West Side Story. Then, finally, when I watched Kolchak: The Night Stalker and loved him there, I looked up his other credits and was astounded. Certainly, I would never again forget something I had seen him in.
On July 29th of this year, our PBS station replayed The Case of the Frantic Flyer. Naturally, I wanted to see it again and get it recorded. Over the days leading up to its airing, I thought long and hard about the first time I saw it so very many years ago. I remembered it anew when at last I watched it again. This time around, I felt more that Howard probably deserved what he received. But at the same time, I still did feel a bit sorry for him. And in any case, I saw that special Simon Oakland charm shining through.
Perhaps it never really was Howard himself I liked, but his actor. Perhaps whatever it was that attracted me as a young teenager was what continued to attract me up to earlier this year, when at last I realized that I am a Simon Oakland fan and fangirl—and proud of it.