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Jack Webb Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (31) | Personal Quotes (1)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 2 April 1920Santa Monica, California, USA
Date of Death 23 December 1982West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameJohn Randolph Webb
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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 <mmeajv@earthlink.net> and Jack Backstreet

Spouse (4)

Opal Wright (30 December 1980 - 23 December 1982) (his death)
Jackie Loughery (24 June 1958 - 1964) (divorced)
Dorothy Towne (11 January 1955 - 1957) (divorced)
Julie London (19 July 1947 - 1953) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (5)

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.
His stories often dealt with complex social issues
Rapid-fire delivery of lines
Deep gravelly voice

Trivia (31)

Performed charity work related to widows and children of police officers killed in the line of 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 Los Angeles Police Department use Dragnet (1951) episodes as training films for a time, it 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 "need"] are the facts, ma'am."
Had just over 6,000 jazz albums in his private collection.
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 a close friend of Star Trek (1966) creator Gene Roddenberry.
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 infamous "Black Dahlia" murder case in Los Angeles in the 1940s--in which an aspiring actress was murdered, dismembered and left in an open field--which helped to inspire him to create Dragnet (1951).
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 #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 44ยข USA commemorative postage stamp, issued 11 August 2009, in the Early TV Memories issue honoring Dragnet (1951).
Father, with Julie London, of daughters Stacy Webb and Lisa Webb. Stacy died in a car accident in 1996.
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.
When he approached veteran western actor Robert Fuller to play the male lead role of Dr. Kelly Brackett in Emergency! (1972), Fuller politely turned down the role. Webb wouldn't take no for an answer, and told Fuller to "shut up and sit down!".
Despite his divorce from singer Julie London, the two remained close friends until Webb's death late in 1982. She was his first choice for the female lead role of nurse Dixie McCall in his series Emergency! (1972), along with her second husband Bobby Troup as Dr. Joe Early. She and Troup both accepted the roles.
He allowed Harry Morgan to show his own sense of humor when he co-starred with him on Dragnet 1967 (1967).
Always showed a lot of seriousness on Dragnet 1967 (1967).
When he approached young and unknown actor Randolph Mantooth to play the role of Johnny Gage in Emergency! (1972), Mantooth--like his future co-star Robert Fuller--also politely turned down the role. Webb also wouldn't take no for an answer, and told Mantooth what he told Fuller: "Sit down and shut up!".
Before future Emergency! (1972) co-stars Bobby Troup, Tim Donnelly, Ron Pinkard and Randolph Mantooth landed their roles in the series opposite Webb's ex-wife and best friend Julie London, they had all previously worked for him.
Best remembered by the public for his starring role as Sgt. Joe Friday on Dragnet (1951).
Met Julie London when she was singing in a jazz club in 1942, when she was age 15.
Met 34-year-old struggling actor Harry Morgan while the two were working in Dark City (1950), and they became friends until Webb's death in 1982. They also worked together in Appointment with Danger (1951)--ironically, as a team of professional killers.
Was a Republican.
It was Webb's hands that were seen dropping the hammer during the Mark VII logo sequence at the end of Dragnet (1951), Dragnet 1967 (1967), Adam-12 (1968) and other series he and is company--Mark VII Productions--produced.
Webb was named production head of Warner Bros. Television, but his tenure only lasted eight months before he was terminated and replaced by old friend William Conrad, whose background was similar to Webb's. Webb relocated his production unit at Universal.

Personal Quotes (1)

[Of Julie London]: Julie was a hell of an actress - people forget - before she became a singer.

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