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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

Dragnet: 1952

Dragnet: 1952

Los Angeles, 1952. Just the facts: "Actor/director Jack Webb on the set of the television show Dragnet." Photo by John Vachon for the Look magazine article "For Dragnet's Jack Webb, Crime Pays Off." View full size.

Limited dialogue

Years ago I ran across a Jack Webb directed movie from the 50s showing on TV that had Dennis Weaver in it.I don't recall the movie's title or plot but I do remember laughing hysterically at everyone in the movie reciting their lines in the same clipped way that Jack Webb did.

[That was the 1954 Dragnet feature motion picture. -tterrace]

Sunset Blvd.

If you've ever seen Sunset Blvd, a great movie by the way, Jack Webb plays a very gregarious guy named Artie Green who throws a raucous New Years eve party. It is the antithesis of Joe Friday. He's loud and laughing and drunk. It always made watching the movie more fun for me because he seemed so out of character compared to when I watched him on Dragnet as a kid.

Jack Webb sense of humor

The guy was pretty funny. His radio show "Pat Novak for hire" was over-the-top bordering on camp with the hard-boiled detective lingo. It was clearly intended to be funny at times.

Walking on the wild side

Mr Serious, Jack Webb, liked Argyll socks...who would have thought! Naturally, they were below the what the camera saw.

[The unusual fashion appurtenance which does frequently show up on-screen, in Dragnet and otherwise, and throughout his career, is his chain bracelet. It's visible in our photo. -tterrace]

The Copper Clapper Caper

He Smiled Quite a Bit

Jack didn't laugh much on his shows, but on the later Dragnet with Harry Morgan, he smiled and chuckled quite a bit. I don't have but a few episodes of the old B/W show, but do have the complete 4 seasons of the later as well as all the Adam-12 series. We're looking at buying the Emergency series as well. Jack had a great sense of humor and to hear what is told by co-stars and employees, he was a very generous and helpful person, though he did expect everyone to pull their weight and do their best when working on one of his shows. He reminded me of my Dad in many ways. I also have recordings of some of his movies, "The Last Time I Saw Archie", "The DI" and "30". All three are topnotch and I recommend them to Webb fans. And if you've never seen him doing the "Just the facts" shtick with Johnny Carson, you've missed out and need to look it up on the internet. It's a classic bit with Webb and Carson on the verge of cracking each other up.

Good old Ben

Ben Alexander was a child star in early films as well, appearing in scores of movies and working with directors like Griffith and de Mille. His auto business had a branch in either San Francisco or Oakland, and perhaps elsewhere as well. It's probably safe to say that his "Dragnet" salary went straight into his grandchildren's trust fund.

Who's gonna blink first?

Both actors seem to be indulging in an on-screen staring contest.

Kid cynicism

Dragnet was the first show I noticed that every plot was the same, as a kid.

Disney

I was going to comment that they had borrowed some equipment from the Disney Studios but it turns out it was acttually filmed at Walt Disney Studios:

"Constructed from 1947 and opening in April 1949, Stage 2 is the second oldest soundstage on the Walt Disney Studios lot, and at 31,000 feet (9,400 m), one of the largest in Los Angeles. It was built and financed between a joint agreement between Walt Disney and director Jack Webb, who used the stage for the filming of the television series Dragnet."

Ma'am

Is Jack Webb smiling? Not the way I remember him, though in 1952 he was married to Julie London, which could explain it.

Understated Talent

The man seated in the chair is Ben Alexander, who portrayed Jack Webb's partner on radio and TV, after the death of Barton Yarbrough in December 1951.

Ben played Frank Smith, the jovial married cop opposite Joe Friday, the serious single cop. This successful formula would be repeated in Dragnet 1967, Adam-12 and Emergency; all Jack Webb produced shows.

The photo you are about to see is true

Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

And Partner

First partner, Ben Alexander (seated in the foreground), who owned a cash machine in the form of a car dealership in old L.A. at the time.

Never did two actors make so much money saying so few words.

"My partner's Frank Smith"

In the right foreground is Ben Alexander, who played Joe Friday's partner Frank Smith on both radio and television.

With

Ben Alexander, I believe.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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