Jack Webb was born on April 2, 1920 in Santa Monica, California. He died at the age of 62 on December 23, 1982 in West Hollywood California.
His father left home before Webb was born and he never knew his dad. He joined the Army Air Force but asked for a hardship discharge after not making the grade in flight training.
Acted in Old Time Radio
Webb starred in an ABC radio comedy the Jack Webb Show in 1946. He then starred in several detective themed old-time radio shows. Pat Novak For Hire, Johnny Modero, Pier 23 and Jeff Regan, Investigator which were his best known radio programs prior to Dragnet.
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 televising 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.
Webb loved jazz and starred in Pete Kelly’s Blues which on radio for less than two months, but would be the predecessor to the film version, of Pete Kelly’s Blues released in 1955. Then Pete Kelly’s Blues was also shown on television in 1959, but only 13 episodes were aired, before it was cancelled.
Dragnet also had a presence in radio, television and movies and it was successful in all three forms of media. A new television version of the original Dragnet named Dragnet 1967 ran till 1970 with Harry Morgan portraying Officer Bill Gannon.
Webb became so involved in production, that he wasn’t seen on the television screen often. He created Adam 12 which ran from 1968-1975 and Ohara, U.S. Treasury which was shown from 1971-1972.
Jack Webb showed he had no animosity toward his former wife Julie London, by hiring her and her husband to appear in his Emergency television program. They appeared in but two of the 133 episodes that were aired.
Webb was married to Julie London from 1947-1953. He then married Dorothy Towne from 1955-1957, Jackie Loughery from 1958-1964. He widowed his last wife who he was married to from 1980-1982.
Jack Webb was working on a third television version of Dragnet with Kent McCord from Adam 12 lined up to be his partner, but died of a heart attack at 62.
Chief Daryl Gates of the Los Angeles Police Department retired Badge 714 after his death and Mayor Tom Bradley ordered all flags to flown at half-mast in his honor. He would be buried with a replica Badge 714.
Jack Webb’s tombstone is typical of Webb. There is no huge ornamental tombstone, but a plain tombstone, with his name and his life span.
This article written by Ben Alexander, gives us a better idea of what the real Jack Webb was like. This paragraph tells me all I need to know about Jack Webb. I am inserting it here for those who may not have time to read the article:
Look at Victor Rodman. He had been disabled in an accident, and one of Jack’s joys about creating “Noah’s Ark” was the chance it gave him to employ Victor in a role that didn’t require walking around. Jack was thrilled with “Noah’s Ark” because it gave Victor a chance to prove what a fine actor he is. And a big reason Jack is eager to revive the show is that Victor will be working again.
The Internet Movie Database biography includes some interesting trivia about Jack Webb:
Was buried with full honors befitting a LAPD detective, including a 17-gun salute.
Had just over 6,000 jazz albums in his private collection.
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.”
Was a huge baseball fan, and chose badge number 714 for Sgt. Friday because it was the number of home runs Babe Ruth hit.
Jack Webb has created a lot of shows since Dragnet, but will always remember him, telling us what department he was working out of in the police department.
The color version of Dragnet was good, but there was something special, about the black and white version of the 50’s. Those shows seemed to be more simple. Who can ever forget the show, about the boy who got a rifle for Christmas and accidentally shoots his friend? This is the three-part The Big .22 Rifle For Christmas episode. Part 3 is very emotional as the father talks to his dead son, telling him what he would have received for Christmas. Then to make it even more emotional, the father of the boy killed,then gives the presents for his son, to the boy who shot his son.