DRAGNET – America Learned What It Meant To Be A Cop
John Rudolph “Jack” Webb became fascinated by the intricate, behind-the-scenes details of police investigations while working on the 1948 film-noir He Walked by Night. The movie was based on a real-life murder case, and Webb was cast as a crime lab technician. The quasi-documentary style of the film gave him an idea for a police drama series with a similar feel. With the cooperation of Chief William H. Parker of the LAPD, he created Dragnet and its protagonist, Sergeant Joe Friday.
DRAGNET Aired On The NBC Radio And Television Network
NBC Radio City At Sunset And Vine In Hollywood. Radio And Television West Coast Headquarters
A young Jack Webb in his 20s
Jack Webb was born John Rudolph “Jack” Webb on April 2, 1920 in Santa Monica, California. His big break came when Dragnet was first broadcast on radio in 1949, then would run till 1954. Webb portrayed Sgt. Joe Friday as a no-nonsense detective, who didn’t mince words. The television version of Dragnet began in 1952 with Ben Alexander cast as Detective Frank Smith, concurrently with the radio version till 1954, when the radio series ended. The televised version would remain on the air till 1959. There was a radio or television version of Dragnet being heard or seen for ten continuous years. Jack had a great love, respect and appreciation for police work and always tried to portray the LAPD in a positive, authentic manner.
Webb became fascinated by the intricate, behind-the-scenes details of police investigations while working on the 1948 film-noir He Walked by Night. The movie was based on a real-life murder case, and Webb was cast as a crime lab technician. The quasi-documentary style of the film gave him an idea for a police drama series with a similar feel. With the cooperation of Chief William H. Parker of the LAPD, he created Dragnet and its protagonist, Sergeant Joe Friday.
1951 – NBC Studios at Sunset and Vine where the DRAGNET radio show was produced. (L-R) L.A. Mayor Fletcher Bowren, LAPD Chief William H. Parker And A Young Jack Webb.
The DRAGNET Radio Show On The NBC Radio Network
DRAGNET PROMO Sponsored By Chesterfield Cigarettes On NBC TV & Radio
Jack Webb directing an early episode of Dragnet. 1953 LOOK Television Award with replica badge.
Joe Friday’s first authentic LAPD issued ID card
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.
Jack Webb and Barton Yarborough
Lieutenant Joe Friday And Officer Frank Smith (Friday’s Partner Before Harry Morgan) Flash Their New LAPD Badges. Webb Chose To Revert Back To The Rank of Sergeant (no explanation was given) Because He Felt The Audience Would not relate to him in the rank of Lieutenant. He wanted to portray his character as a regular “working cop.” Webb’s Real LAPD Lieutenant Badge Would End Up With Adam-12 Technical Adviser Dan Cook From The LAPD When He Achieved The Rank Of Lieutenant and after Webb had passed away.
Jack Webb and Harry Morgan film a scene in their sound stage at Universal Studios
On the set: Webb & Morgan – Sgt. Friday and Officer Gannon
Authentic LAPD issued shields and IDs for Joe Friday and Bill Gannon
Close-up of the actual ID cards used on DRAGNET
Webb was known to be a tough boss on the set. But after filming, he would hit the bars until they closed, then would end up at his private apartment. He rarely went home to his wife. Most fans are surprised to find out his love was not police work, but jazz music. At the time, he owned one the most elaborate sound systems available, so he could listen to his favorite artists as if they were in the room. Fact is other than DRAGNET, Webb relied on others to create successful television series with him taking half the credit, since it was his company. ADAM-12 and EMERGENCY! were really created by Robert (R.A.) Cinader.
Webb Directing An Episode Of DRAGNET. He spent more time behind the camera than on screen