The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse
Q: What is the common thread that ties together those three iconic 1950s figures to an exotic performer?
A: Judy Tyler.
Judy first came to national attention in 1952 as the character Princess Summerfall Winterspring on The Howdy Doody Show, a program for children, broadcast on NBC:
Judy was popular with audiences and the Howdy Doody staff; it was obvious that she was headed for greater things when she left the show for a role on Broadway and was featured on a Life Magazine cover. Judy also did modeling and pin-up work, and went to Hollywood where she starred as Elvis’ love interest in the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock:
While in Hollywood, Judy filmed a pilot for the then-new Perry Mason television drama series: The Case of the Fan Dancer’s Horse. An interesting curio, in it Judy’s character is a fan-dancer performing as “Chi-Chi”. She does a very provocative routine (pictured above) for Perry and Della. After the dance (and she has put some clothes on) she kisses Perry on the lips!
And the horse? One doesn’t watch Perry Mason for its animal husbandry (although another episode did feature a burro—as a witness!) or its legal issues.
Alas, in real life Judy Tyler’s story had a tragic ending. On July 3, 1957, she died in a car crash in Wyoming, having never seen any of her films or this Perry Mason episode.
After she died, Elvis could never bring himself to watch Jailhouse Rock again.