Joe Friday quotes the dress code to Pep at the beginning of the film pretty accurately. Section 3/605, paragraph .10 covers the need for a neat, professional appearance. Paragraphs .20 through .26 cover hair. Paragraph .50 allows normal civilian clothing if appropriate to the assignment. Paragraph .70 refers to ornamentation, such as rings. Paragraph .80, which covers appropriate attire for court, is the only one that mentions the specific items of clothing Friday quotes.
When Pep Streebeck (Tom Hanks) sees Connie Swail's house, he mockingly asks, "Can the Beaver come out and play?" However, in the movie The 'Burbs (1989), this same structure was used as the home of Ray Peterson - who was played by Tom Hanks.
In real life, Dan Aykroyd is a huge fan of Jack Webb, the original Joe Friday, and as a tribute to him, Aykroyd gives many of his characters the ability to spit out complex technical jargon the way Joe Friday recites laws and police procedures. Examples are in Ghostbusters (1984) (when Ray Stanz "orders" the demi-god Zuul to leave New York City), The Blues Brothers (1980) (when Elwood describes the specifications of the "Bluesmobile"), and 1941 (1979) (when he explains the function of the anti-aircraft gun to Ned Beatty).
Dan Aykroyd's character talks about Los Angeles and how could things be permitted in the same city in which they recorded "We are the World". Aykroyd sang with the other performers on "We are the World".
The make and model of the handgun that LAPD Detective Sergeant Joe Friday (Dan Aykroyd) regularly carried was a Smith and Wesson Model 10 HB .38 Special Revolver. The make and model of the handgun that LAPD Detective Pep Streebeck (Tom Hanks) regularly carried was a chrome Colt Python .357 Magnum with a 6 inch barrel.
Of the Joe Friday character, Dan Aykroyd has said: "I've had a fascination with Joe Friday since I was a kid. Next to Clouseau, he's the most famous cop in the world. I've studied his speech inflections, his mannerisms, his walk. During filming, I'd listen to tapes of the old shows. I even started dreaming in character. If there was ever a character I'd always wanted to play, it was this . . . "I'm a huge fan of (Jack) Webb's. I basically just love everything he did. Dragnet was something I'd always wanted to do, but I never thought the opportunity would come up, because I didn't know who owned the rights to the idea. When Universal called and said they were interested in doing it, I think I made a deal to write the script the next week".
When Joe Friday first sits down at his desk, a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes is on top of the newspaper. Chesterfield sponsored the Dragnet radio series and Jack Webb, the original Joe Friday, used to participate in Chesterfield ads during the live radio broadcasts.
Dan Aykroyd has said of this movie: "I believe that good comedy should have a base in realism. I think that's part of why the Dragnet show lends itself so well to a comedic interpretation. It also had a very recognizable style. So, we've got more here than simply my doing the character of Joe Friday".
Near the end of the picture, when the Reverend Whirley is being taken away on the airport runway, Joe Friday sees his true love standing there beaming on the tarmac. For a brief moment an old, four piston engine aircraft is in the background behind the actress. This aircraft is a Lockheed Constellation, which is affectionately known as a "Connie", the same first name as the Virgin Connie Swail.
Harry Morgan reprized his role as Bill Gannon, which he had played twice before in "Dragnet" shows, in the television-movie Dragnet 1966 (1969), and in the second "Dragnet" television series, Dragnet 1967 (1967).
Links to the two classic television series include a cameo by Harry Morgan, and a photo of Jack Webb is visible in one scene. Morgan was originally going to be in one scene only, but asked for a bigger part, so he was made the Captain. As well as the closing credits theme of the original series played towards the end of the film.
When Joe Friday is doing his opening narrations as he sits down at his desk, he says "My partner is Frank Smith..." Frank Smith was Friday's original partner on the 1950s Dragnet series and the radio show.
Dabney Coleman describes the accent he used in this movie as South-eastern ala "Tennessee Williams" which he also used in the movie Modern Problems. Dabney remarks for his character in Dragnet, he added a lisp.
This theatrical feature film is the fifth of seven film and television installments of "Dragnet" after its original appearance on NBC Radio in 1949. Previously, there had been two television series, one in the 1950s, Dragnet (1951) and one in the 1960s and 1970s, Dragnet 1967 (1967), and two features, one a 1950s cinema movie, Dragnet (1954), and the other a 1960s television-movie, Dragnet 1966 (1969). After this 1987 cinema movie, Dragnet (1987), there have been two more television series, one in the 1980s and 1990s, Dragnet (1989), and one in the 2000s, Dragnet (2003).
The famous "Dragnet" catch-phrase "Just the Facts" was used as a promotional blurb/tagline for the picture. So was the pun and more generalized expression, "Thank God It's Friday", itself having been the title of a Hollywood movie about nine year's earlier (See: Thank God It's Friday (1978)).
Reverend Whirley escapes in a Learjet 24A, S/N 24A-096, owned by Clay Lacy Aviation. It is the same plane supposedly flown by Charlton Heston flew the same plane to catch the 747 in Airport 1975 (1974). I doubt it is the same plane flown in Airport 1975, as its date of manufacture is December 17, 1975. It wasn't built at the time of filming Airport 1975.
The spot where Joe parks his blue Ford police car in the beginning of the movie, is the 200 block of N. Spring Street. It is the West entrance to Los Angeles city hall. The exact spot where he parked is now a bus stop as of 2015. The street is one way south except for a north bound bus only lane.
Near the end of the film, dump trucks bearing the name Sosna Dumping Company are seen. David Sosna is the first assistant director for the film, as well as for the other Dan Aykroyd films The Blues Brothers (1980) and Trading Places (1983).
During the scene where the Pagans throw the virgin into the snake pit, a real snake is not used, rather a dummy snake was manipulated by the cast and crew to create the illusion that they were wrestling a real snake.
Kathleen Freeman played the Nun in The Blues Brothers (1980) that beat John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd with a ruler for using foul language. In Dragnet, the name of Freeman's character is "Enid Borden". Therefore, her initials are E.B. Those are also the initials of Dan Aykroyd's character in The Blues Brothers (1980): Elwood Blues.
Bait magazine is most likely a reference to either "jail bait" or masterbaite (possibly both). Tom Hanks pantomimes this activity or makes a "wanking" gesture when he first is seen in his acceptable police attire, having just changed and shaved after being told his appearance was against regulation.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The "police" aircraft used to force down the Reverend's jet and rescue Connie is a 1963 American supersonic Northrop/Thornton T-38A jet trainer, Construction Number 5518, tail number N638TC, owned (as of October 2010) by the Thornton Aircraft Corporation of San Marino, California. It was the world's first and most produced supersonic jet trainer. It remains in service as of 2010 in air forces throughout the world. It is one of the few T-38 jet aircraft in private ownership.