John (Jack) Randolph Webb's father left home before he was born; Webb would never know him. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother in dire poverty that preceded the Depression. Making things worse, Webb suffered from acute asthma from age six until adulthood, somewhat surprising for a man whose cigarette intake reached three packs a day at its peak. Webb's great love was movies, and his dream was to direct them. He began in radio, first as a disc jockey then as host of a comedy show (Believe It or Not!), finally as "Pat Novak, Private Eye", his first true success. A small role in the film noir classic He Walked by Night (1948) led to the creation of "Dragnet". During production, Webb befriended a LAPD police consultant assigned to the film and became fascinated with the cases he heard told. He successfully pitched the idea of a radio series to NBC using stories drawn from actual LAPD files. "Dragnet" first aired over NBC radio on June 3, 1949, and came to TV ("Dragnet" (1951)) on December 16, 1951. The show was one of the monster hits of early TV and was honored with satirizations by comic and even Bugs Bunny (!) during it's run, which lasted until September, 1959. The series' popularity could have ensured it's continuation indefinitely but, by then, Webb had become a film director and would helm (and star in) five features: Dragnet (1954), Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), The D.I. (1957), -30- (1959) and The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961). The last two were box office flops, and Webb returned to TV in 1962. In February, 1963, he became Head of Production for Warner Bros. Television, a job he was fired from that December when his revision of "77 Sunset Strip" (1958) sent its ratings into a death spiral. After two years of unemployment, a new opportunity arose, the made-for-TV film, of which Universal was then sole supplier. Coincidentally, they owned the rights to "Dragnet" (1951) and invited Webb to do a new "Dragnet" as a TV movie. It turned out so well in industry previews (oddly not broadcast until 1969) that NBC and Universal persuaded him to do a new "Dragnet 1967" (1967) TV series, which lasted three-and-a-half seasons and went on to smash success in syndicated reruns. This later incarnation (co-starring Harry Morgan as "Officer Bill Gannon") is probably what Webb is best known for and unlike the 50's version, it was produced in color and increasingly focused on his personal conservative social agenda. Over the next five seasons, he regularly blasted marijuana, LSD (which was legal at the time of the revamped series debut), hippies, juvenile delinquency and disrespect for law enforcement. To be fair, the series was equally intolerant of police corruption and went to great lengths to show LAPD's self-disciplinary process as it was at the time. Webb was known as an extremely economical TV producer: his Mark VII productions routinely used minimal sets, even more minimal wardrobes (Friday and Gannon seem to wear the same suits over entire seasons, which minimized continuity issues) and maintained a relatively tight-knit stock company that consisted of scale-paid regulars who routinely appeared as irate crime victims, policewomen, miscreants and clueless parents of misguided youth. While the passing decades haven't been kind to all of the episodes--- several now seem camp, the manpower expended investigating some seemingly minor crimes is laughable and the outcome of many of the trials would be vastly different today--- they remain entertaining while representing somewhat fictionalized docudramas 1960's police operations. With renewed wealth and industry status, Webb was also determined not to repeat his past debacle as a producer/studio boss. He parlayed Dragnet's renewed popularity into a second hit series, "Adam-12" (1968), and scored an even bigger hit with _"Emergency!" (1971)_ (casting his ex-wife, Julie London and her husband Bobby Troup), a show that inspired thousands of kids to become EMT/paramedics for generations, perhaps Webb's greatest legacy. During the production of "Dragnet 1967" (1967), he maintained a rigorous daily work schedule while ignoring his health. He loved chili dogs and cigarettes, enjoyed late nights playing cards and drinking with cast members who were amazed to find him fully alert at 7a.m. the next day, expecting the same from them. The combined effect of this lifestyle made him appear older than he actually was by the late 60's. Unbeknownst to fans, he possessed a healthy sense of humor (his 1968 "Copper Clapper" appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962) remains a classic) and he was a jazz fanatic, amassing one of the world's greatest collections. Webb's sense of humor didn't extend to his self-image, however. In 1977, director John Landis approached him with an offer to appear as "Dean Wormer" in Animal House (1978) and recalled Webb sitting stone-faced and unimpressed at the offer. Sadly, he rejected it as being too counter to his public persona. Webb managed to keep his company solvent until his untimely, yet not unexpected, death from a massive heart attack on December 23, 1982 at age 62. Webb was married four times: to Julie London (1947-54), Dorothy Towne (1955-1957), Jackie Loughery (1958-64), and to Opal Wright (1980-death). He had two daughters by London: 'Stacey Webb' (1950-96) and 'Lisa Webb' (born 1952).IMDb Mini Biography By: Michael J. Hayde <email@example.com>
|Opal Wright||(30 December 1980 - 23 December 1982) (his death)|
|Jackie Loughery||(24 June 1958 - March 1964) (divorced)|
|Dorothy Towne||(11 January 1955 - June 1957) (divorced)|
|Julie London||(19 July 1947 - November 1953) (divorced) 2 children|
Best known for his realistic television series featuring supremely professional civil servants such as police officers, police detectives and firefighters.
A buzzsaw flattop haircut. He first wore it for the title role of The D.I. (1957) and kept it for the rest of his career.
Stories often dealt with complex Social issues
Rapid Fire delivery
Performed charity work related to widows and orphans of police officers killed in duty.
Upon his death, the badge number 714, used by his character Joe Friday in the "Dragnet" TV shows, was officially retired by the Los Angeles Police Department. The badge belonged to Lt. Dan Cooke, his close friend.
Was buried with full honors befitting an LAPD detective, including a 17-gun salute.
Not only did the LAPD use "Dragnet" episodes as training films for a time, they also named a police academy auditorium after Webb.
Contrary to popular belief, his character, Joe Friday, never said, "Just the facts, ma'am" in any episode of "Dragnet". The actual line was, "All we want [or "need"] are the facts, ma'am."
Starred as the title character on ABC Radio's "Pat Novak for Hire" (1946 and 1949).
Had just over 6,000 jazz albums in his private collection.
Portrayed the title character (AKA The Lion's Eye) on CBS Radio's "Jeff Regan, Investigator" (1948).
Portrayed the title character on NBC Radio's "Pete Kelly's Blues" (1951).
He turned down the role of the Dean in Animal House (1978) because he felt it would be poking fun at his straight-laced, law-and-order image; he was closely identified with law and order, in particular police officers, and he felt that the film would be making fun of that, although he claimed he was willing to poke fun at himself - and, in fact, did just that in a famous skit on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (1962).
Was the basis for the "Brett Chase" character in L.A. Confidential (1997).
At the height of "Dragnet's" popularity, people would actually call the LAPD wanting to speak to Webb's character, Sgt. Joe Friday. The Department eventually came up with a stock answer to the large volume of calls: "Sorry, it's Joe's day off."
Was part of the investigation of the Black Dahlia which was in turn some of his inspiration for "Dragnet".
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 851-853. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Was a huge baseball fan, and chose badge number 714 for Sgt. Friday because it was the number of home runs Babe Ruth hit.
Featured in "Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir" by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (McFarland, 2003).
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Radio at 7040 Hollywood Boulevard and for Television at 6728 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Appears as Sergeant Joe Friday on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp, issued 11 August 2009, in the Early TV Memories issue honoring "Dragnet" (1951).
Despite being unhappy with an article Jack Jones had written about "Dragnet", Webb insisted on paying for Barbara Stewart's wedding to Jones after she told Webb that she had just returned from performing for the military in Europe.
Was best friends with ex-wife: Julie London, Bobby Troup, Harry Morgan, Robert A. Cinader, Robert Conrad, John Smith, Randolph Mantooth, Kevin Tighe, Tim Donnelly, Marco Lopez, Ron Pinkard, Virginia Gregg, Clark Howat, John Nolan, Martin Milner and Kent McCord.
When he approached veteran Western actor Robert Fuller to play the male lead role of Dr. Kelly Brackett in "Emergency!" (1972), he politely turned down the role, but Webb couldn't take no for an answer, hence, he told Fuller to 'shut up, and sit down!'.
Despite the divorce of singer Julie London, the two remained close friends (until Webb's own death late in 1982) and immediately cast her for the female lead role of Dixie McCall on "Emergency!" (1972), along with her second husband Bobby Troup as Dr. Joe Early. She and Troup both accepted their own roles.
Always showed a lot of seriousness on "Dragnet 1967" (1967).
When he approached unfamiliar actor Randolph Mantooth to play the role of Johnny Gage in "Emergency!" (1972), like his future co-star Robert Fuller, he too turn down the role, very politely, when Webb couldn't take no for an answer, hence, he told Mantooth the same phrase he told Fuller, before.
Before future "Emergency!" (1972) co-stars, Bobby Troup, Tim Donnelly, Ron Pinkard and Randolph Mantooth, would all land their own roles, opposite his ex-wife and best friend Julie London, in the series, they all worked for him.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Sgt. Joe Friday on "Dragnet" (1951).
Met Julie London at a jazz club, at the time, she was age 15 in 1942.
Was a Republican.
|You may report errors and omissions on this page to the IMDb database managers. They will be examined and if approved will be included in a future update. Clicking the 'Edit page' button will take you through a step-by-step process.|
|With our Resume service you can add photos and build a complete resume to help you achieve the best possible presentation on the IMDb.|
Click here to add your resume and/or your photos to IMDb.