Born:   April 2, 1920 
Birthplace:  Santa Monica, CA
Died:  December 23, 1982 (I hear rumors that he was buried with full honors by LAPD.)
Other Webpages:  
Internet Movie Database, Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, David's Adam-12 Page, The Dragnet Webb Site


     quotes from jack webb

    jack webb was born in santa monica, california, on april 2, 1920. his parents were samuel chester webb and margaret webb. " i never knew my father.... i never had any real curiosity about my father…"

    as a boy, he suffered from asthma. "perhaps this is what kept me from joining a street gang… i had a buster brown hair cut, which the tougher boys… considered a sissy labile… fans are curious about the crew haircut i have now… this is a rebellion against the long bangs i had as a boy."

    as a student jack was talked into taking part in a variety show the school was putting on. as a result the unpopular kid was elected class president over the captain of the football team "if i live to be a hundred, make a million dollars and win an academy award, i will never be as proud as i was after that victory."

    he didn't always want to be an actor, however, his first interest was drawing. he and a few friends once drew a few comic strips "about a handsome swashbuckler named clark collins… we didn't have the nerve to submit it to a syndicate." jack got a scholarship at the chouinard art institute in los angeles. "i was a bit cocky about my drawings, and i was convince that walt disney was combing the country for a fellow like me." he sent a portfolio of ink drawings and watercolors, but never heard back on them. years later when webb leased studios at disney to film dragnet, "i had lunch with walt and told him of my frustrated boyhood dreams, and said i wanted my drawings back…"

    jack got a job at "silverwoods, a men's clothing store in los angeles. "i was a third rate salesman…" after five years and becoming an assistant manager, jack was in a small time play called " the light keeper's daughter". his other theatrical experience was in "hiawatha". "it was easy. i stuck some feathers into a headband, took a bath in body make-up and played a cigar store indian. years later, reviewing my role in pete kelly's blues, time magazine said i played that part like a cigar store indian, and if they were right, i can blame it on hiawatha."

    during wwII, webb worked "a swing shift at the byron jackson steel mill " as an electric hacksaw operator. he eventually joined the air force. " i spent three and a half years as a pilot trainee… " but he never got his wings. newspapers somehow got the idea he was a war hero, and later was blamed of faking stories of glory, but he never claimed to see any more war action than "the saturday night crap game at the post".

    after being discharge, he got a job as a radio announcer "at station kog in san francisco". "my early radio career was as romantic as playing 'post office' in an old maids' club. i got to the station every day at 4:30 a.m.... pushed a button and said 'and now back to new york' ".

    webb met a writer named dick breen came up with a radio show called "pat novak for hire" about a wise cracking detective. "i got the lead role and played it for twenty-three weeks" dick breen then took novak to hollywood and jack followed "for eight or nine weeks i was everybody's hot cake. i played cops, gangsters, burglars and assorted villains on all the major radio shows… the future looked so good that i married julie london" they were separated nine months later as jack was suddenly forgotten by hollywood. "we stayed apart for a year, then went back together for five years and had two children. and it still wouldn't work."

    after a "drought" of no work, jack got the role of lt. lee jones in the excellent film : he walked by night. after filming one day, sgt. marty wynn, a technical adviser for the film, came to jack offering him access to all the cases in the police files. jack turned his down saying there were enough radio shows about police cases and wynn pointed out how they were all overly dramatized… it was months later until webb realized what a good idea a realistic detective show was… it was to be his most remembered work : dragnet.

    columbia broadcasting turned jack down saying people would loose interest since they did not even see the crime committed, and that there was not enough action. webb then went to nbc who let him go for four weeks and then let him continue, but they could pull the show at any time since it had no sponsor. after eighteen weeks, they got a sponsor that stayed with him for seven years (the liggett & myers tobacco company).

    eventual the radio program made it's way to television. "on our second show, i rewrote the plot so that officer ben roomer ( sergeant friday's partner through all of the radio shows and in the first television show) died of a heart attack.... the fact is that barton yarborough… died of a heart attack just as we began filming the story…" jack allowed no make up on any of the actors besides normal face make up to add to the realism of the radio program and painfully put together realistic sets, walking around police stations listing to the way the policemen talked and collecting things such as ash try contents for the sets.

    the show became a frenzy all over the country. the theme song was being sold in great quantities on records. (jack owned the rights to it- he paid walter schumann to write it- and used the money he made from it to fill in gaps left from the show's small budget from time to time). "lawyers were using some of joe friday's monologs in their closing arguments, high schools and colleges (used the scripts)… in sociology classes." the show spanned merchandising: a toy gun, squad car, finger print kit and board game. (there were also many other items i have found such as a small 714 badge and a dragnet whistle i have, but i am not sure if they were give aways or what…)

    jack earned a bad reputation as a result of refusing to hire a press agent and not commenting to the press when a rumor appeared about him. no doubt this is why he could be so popular at one point and then be so looked down upon today. once jack was eating in a restraint when a reporter sat down net to him. "after some aimless chit chat, o'brain suddenly said, 'jack are you going to mary this girl?' " jack didn't know he was a reporter and joked "yeah, just as soon as my divorce is final". he hardly knew the girl and the next day the story was in the papers. such things happened to him all the time… he had horrid luck in the press and never tried to fix it. funny thing is that webb married dorthy towne, the woman he was with that night, soon after. the fact he called the emmy show "amateur night at the local high school" didn't help his image either.

    jack started the production studio, "mark VII limited" and made four films: dragnet, pete kelly's blues, the d.i. and -30- . he later went on to produce television shows in the 60's and 70's such as emergency, adam 12, escape, chase, hec ramsey, mobile one and the d.a.'s man as well as what most people today know him for, dragnet 1970, a revamp of the old show.

    webb and dorthy towne were divorced and in 1958 he married jack loughery, who he met while filming -30-.

    there have been a hell of a lot of misprinted information on jack webb, so i am hesitant to go on (my information in his own words ends here) such as a gun magazine once saying how jack had a huge gun collection. in fact, he collected jazz records (he had well over 6000). the truth is, he gave talks condemning guns and only used them a few times in dragnet.

    here's a good quote: "hollywood is full of guys who are experts at riding on your back and putting their hands in your pockets." no wonder he was later black listed in hollywood.

    in my opinion jack webb was the best director i have ever seen. his quick camera changes and fast paced dialog are excellently excited and would seem pathetic if not filmed right, and they were. as an actor i can't deny he had a strange, cold meth of acting, but this appeals to me as well. there is something about the power in it.

 © 1996 arton this is written by me and it took over a year of research. please don't steal anything.

We'd like to thank Arton for allowing us to use his biography. 

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