She may have made the role of Della Street in the classy Perry Mason for nearly forty years, but Barbara Hale, who is eighty-eight years old today, is also known to noir fans for some pretty decent B-movie outings earlier in her career.
She popped up in The Falcon Out West and The Falcon in Hollywood (1944) with Tom Conway and then showed us some of her talent in The Clay Pigeon (1949) about a marine who is accused of treason. He escapes from jail to investigate the true story and discovers it leads back to a Japanese plot to flood southern California with $10 million dollars to set up a crime network. Watch out for a young Martha Hyer in a minor role. The movie was directed by Richard Fleischer.
The Window (1949), based on a Cornell Woolrich story, sees young actor Bobby Driscoll playing a kid who tells tall tales. When he sees his neighbours kill a man, no one will believe him - but the neighbours find out what he's been saying about them and they're not happy.........
Cagney steals the show in A Lion Is In The Streets (1953) about a corrupt southern politician who manipulates all those around him, including Barbara Hale, his wife. The film has to be worth seeing because it also stars Anne Francis as a swamp rat who lusts after Cagney and won't let his wife stand in her way.
Unchained (1955) with Elroy 'Crazy Legs' Hirsch was about as low budget as they come - about a convict who can't decide whether to serve out his sentence or escape to his wife's arms, but The Houston Story (1956) though made on a similar budget was much better. Directed by William Castle, it tells the tale of an oilman who gets mixed up with the local mob trying to influence the Texas oilfields. Gene Barry stars.
Luckily for Barbara, just when her career looked like bottoming out, she struck paydirt with Perry Mason.
Barbara is a member of the Bahai faith - as was Carole Lombard.