Jack Webb was born April 2, 1920 to a working class family in Santa Monica, California. His father left his family soon after he was born and his single mom raised him in a rooming house in Bunker Hill slum section of Los Angeles. In the rooming house in which his family lived, a musician gave the young Webb a jazz album. This impressed Jack Webb and begun his life long love of jazz music (over 6,000 jazz albums in his private collection) and a dedicated stance against racial bigotry.
After serving in the Air Force in WWII, Jack Webb started his career in classic old time radio as a disc jockey in a comedy radio show called The Jack Webb Show written by Dick Breen. When Breen scripted a new detective show, Pat Novak for Hire Jack Webb landed the gig on the radio show.
In 1948, Jack Webb starred in the film 'He Walked by Night' based on the real-life murder of a California Highway Patrolman. The film was greatly assisted by the technical advice/assistance provided by Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). It was this film that inspired Webb with the idea for Dragnet and he worked with Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn in the development of the show. The investigation of the horrifying Black Dalia murder also inspired Jack Webb to do a documentary style of police dramatic programming based on true crimes.
Dragnet's success fueled Webb's career as a producer and director of both television and feature films. Webb's Mark VII Limited production company produced Dragnet throughout its run on television as well as other shows included a UFO show called Project UFO.
His career was developed as a smart talking detective and a buzz haircut. His performance of Joe Friday has greatly affected popular culture and has been parodied on television and film. He greatly admired police officers for their service to the community. The admiration was mutual, as the LAPD used Dragnet videos for training new hires and named an auditorium after the actor. A life long smoker, Jack Webb died of a heart attack December 23, 1982 at the untimely age of 62. As an homage to Jack Webb dedication to the police, Joe Friday's fictional badge "714" was retired by the LAPD when he died.
Jack Webb Show (1946)
a madcap comedy-variety show. It was one of
Jack Webb's earliest efforts. The routines
were packed with absurd one-liners and nonstop
silliness as well as traditional jazz in roaring
Dixieland backup by Phil Bovero and "eight
retards known as the Raggedaires." *
Pat Novak: For Hire (1946-47)
written by Dick Breen who also wrote the scripts
for the Jack Webb Show. It Jack
Webb's first significant radio crime drama.
It was also the vanguard of radio hard-edge, hard-boiled as to be high camp in its own time.
The show was rich with hilarious pessimism,
rippling with ridiculous metaphors. "The
street was as deserted as a warm bottle of
beer," Novak would say. "The car
started up down the street and the old man
couldn't have made it with a pocketful of aces.
I caught a glimpse of the license plate in
a dull, surprised way, the way you grab a feather
out of an angel's wing." * Please note
after spring 1949, Ben Morris took over the
roll of "Pat Novak". For more Pat Novak, see also Pat Novack for Hire. *
Jeff Regan, Investigator (1948-1950)
followed Pat Novak: For Hire and by
this time, Jack Webb had almost a cult following,
and Regan was the transition show away from Novak and
It lacked the originality and flavor of Novak and
also the humor. * Please note the last 5 episodes
(in 1949), Jack Webb was replaced by Frank
Graham who played the part of Regan.*
One Out of Seven (1946), documentary
drama, is one of Jack Webb's earliest series
which took an uncompromising stand against
racial prejudice. Aired from San Francisco,
the stories were often tough attacks against
bigotry and hate.*
Pete Kelly's Blues (1951) Pete Kelly (Jack Webb) fronts the house band, the Big Seven, at a speakeasy in the roaring '20s is a world of jazz, gangsters, gun molls, g-men, bad booze and desperate people trying to save their skins
Weekend Sound Flights (1963) Radio and Television fans remember Jack Webb for his hard-bitten, no nonsense roles like Dragnet, but Jack Webb was a huge Jazz offinando.
Other episodes are from guest appearances
in the series Escape, Suspense and
appearances on the Bob Hope Show and Martin
and Lewis. This collection also contains
a number of episodes of the legendary crime
series, Dragnet. See also Johnny Modero.
* SOURCE: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio, John Dunning
Volume 2 through 5 of this collection is the same as Dragnet Volume 1 -4. See also: Hardboiled Detectives.