It’s unusual to see Lyle Bettger on the right side of the law. He made it at last on television’s “The Court of Last Resort” which ran for 26 half hour episodes in 1957/58.
The show has an interesting history, being based on an actual organisation which Erle Stanley Gardner founded in the 1950s, to look into court cases where an innocent person might have been convicted in error.

Stemming  from a true crime column Gardner wrote in ARGOSY MAGAZINE from 1948., the board of investigation was made up of experts in law and criminology.

Despite some research, I haven’t been able to discover if the group ever had a conviction overturned.
By 1960, Erle Stanley Gardner had retired and the group came to an end.


Lyle Bettger.

“Court  of Last Resort” is a great title for a show and Gardner’s Paisano Productions, after the success of “Perry Mason”, initiated a television series based on his own investigations.

Lyle Bettger plays the Last Resort’s  investigator. The police and courts are very cooperative with him ( even though his job is to reinvestigate cases).

Carleton G. Young played one of the Court’s team. Paul Birch plays  Erle Stanley Gardner.
Bettger’s character updates the court members from time to time, seeks their advise and expertise.

From time to time, the real members of Gardner’s board of investigation are seen at the end of an episode.

Lots of well known faces in the cast – Denver Pyle, Paul Fix, Robert Wilke, Roy Bancroft, Clem Bevans.


Carleton G. Young

Not to be confused with  Carleton Young.

Carleton Young


Tony Young

Side note; Tony Young, (son of Carleton G.Young) was the star of the 1961 series, “Gunslinger “.


There are a few episodes on You Tube. I wish the whole series was available.
One interesting episode involved a girl asking for help for her brother on death row. She is convinced of his innocence, but Bettger proves he is actually guilty.



Erle Stanley Gardner


Paul Birch as Erle Stanley Gardner.


Lyle Bettger subsequently played a similar role in the series Grand Jury (1959-60) which ran for 40 episodes. Bettger and Harold J. Stone play investigators for the State Grand Jury.



Harold J. Stone, Lyle Bettger.


Douglas Dumbrille

Douglas Dumbrille is the head of the Grand Jury and Richard Travis is the Grand Jury lawyer.

Again, lots of good support from  John Hoyt, Charles Lane,Marsha Hunt, June Vincent, Otto Kruger, Anthony Caruso.
I could only find a brief clip from the show on Y.T.

I love the comment about this show on mystery from David Vineyard in 2015 :

Bettger, Stone and Dumbrille were the heroes? That must have confused viewers…I would have been waiting for one of them to murder someone every episode!” has released a dvd of 4 episodes of “The Court of Last Resort.”




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