Jeff Regan, like Pat Novak and Johnny Madero began with Jack Webb in the lead role and so it’s easy to relate Jack Webb’s third detective series to the first two. However, if Novak and Madero are clones, and Pete Kelly is their Uncle from Kansas City, Jeff Regan isn’t even in the family.
Outside of the actor who played the role, there’s no connection between Regan and the other two Webb detective vehicles. While Novak and Madero were waterfront muscle , Jeff Regan was a fully bonded licensed private investigator. While Johnny Madero and Pat Novak used similies with wreckless abandon, Regan was only a little more likely to engage in the verbal practice than other radio detectives.
Regan could best be understood as a poor man’s Philip Marlowe, particularly as his show appeared on a network where they orignally wanted to make Gunsmoke as a Western Philip Marlowe. Like Marlowe, Regan had been to college. Marlowe charged his clients $25 a day plus expenses, Regan was paid $10 a day plus expenses. In 2009 dollars, that’s $95.02. Even assuming an 8-hour day-a pretty poor assumption given what we know of Regan, he’d be earning less than $12 an hour in 2009 money. Regan was a working stiff.
Regan isn’t as idealistic as Gerald Mohr’s Marlowe is, but unlike Novak and Madero, he seems to possess a firmer moral compass that leads him to try and do justice despite his clients. Regan is interesting among private detectives in that he’s employee. While Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, George Valentine, and a host of other radio detectives work for themselves, Regan is notable in being in the employee of Anthony J. Lyon (played Wilms Herbert and later Frank Nelson), head of the International Detective Bureau.
The Digital Deli’s description of Lyon is apt:
Lyon, a defrocked ambulance-chasing lawyer, assumed the lofty title of President of the International Detective Bureau in an effort to attract more upscale clients. The International in the title of the firm was simply more pretentious window-dressing. As far as we’re aware, no operative of the firm ever left the U.S., with the possible exception of a brief excursion across the Mexico border to Tijuana.
Particularly with Webb in the role of Regan, Lyon would become a foil for Regan, as Regan would have to go toe-to-toe with the boss in addition to the dangerous criminals he had to face down. In fact, Regan may invite far more sympathy than other private investigators because he doesn’t usually choose his clients, and the worst of Regan’s troubles come because Lyon put Regan on a case against Regan’s better judgment.
The 1948 run featured several guest appearances by Barton Yarborough in the role of Joe Canto, a fellow employee of the Lyon. Yarborough, a long time veteran of radio is best remembered as Webb’s first partner on Dragnet. This show marked at least the third time the two men had appeared in the same production. They first appeared in a 1947 episode of Escape, “Three Good Witnesses.” Later, Webb, Yarborough, and Elliot Lewis would record a failed pilot for a radio show, “Three for Adventure.”
As Digital Deli points out, the first episode of the series was actually called Joe Canto Private Eye. As we don’t have the original audio of that performance, we can only speculate. It could be that Yarborough originally played the lead the first week and they chose to put Webb in the lead, or it could be that the show’s producers designed to rename the character (a slightly less drastic alteration occurred with Barrie Craig), or it could be that yet a third actor played the lead, was fired, and then Webb hired and the show was retitled.
E. Jack Neuman helped to create many of the shows most memorable scripts. Years later, when helping to create the memorable Yours Truly Johnny Dollar fifteen minute serials, Neuman reused at least four of his Jeff Regan scripts and fleshed them out over the generous time provided by CBS.
More information will be added to this log on the 1949 run of the show featuring Frank Graham when we get to that point in the podcast.
About the Stars:
Jack Webb: Webb began his radio career at station KGO in San Francisco when radio afforded many opportunities to experiment and experiment he did. Webb tried a Comedy Show (The Jack Webb Show), he tried a news satire show (One Out of Seven) until hitting pay dirt as Pat Novak, a hardboiled unlicensed private detectives . After leaving KGO in 1947 along with Novak writer Richard Breen, after Breen had a falling out with KGO management, Webb went to Hollywood. Along with playing Johnny Modero on the Mutual Broadcasting System in the Summer of 1947, and Jeff Regan Investigator on CBS in 1948, between his two stints on Pat Novak, Webb played bit parts in several radio dramas including Suspense, The Whistler, and Escape. In many of these appearances, he played underworld figures or bit parts.
Webb also began to take on a few movie roles and it was on the set of He Walked by Night that a police officer acting as technical advisor to the film let Webb have it over the lack of realism in Detective Shows, including Novak and suggesting a show that portrayed was policework was really like. This eventually led to the creation of Dragnet on radio and later on television.
Both on radio and television, Webb’s realism drove the success of the program. On radio, Dragnet provided not only a realism about the way police operate that had been missing, but Webb enhanced the radio experience with a five-person sound effects staff that made listeners feel as if they were riding along with Joe Friday and his partner.
Dragnet became a top-rated show on television, making the jump to TV in December, 1951. Dragnet spawned a Movie, a Comic Strip, and even a board game.
Dragnet ran out of gas in 1959 after more than 300 episodes and other Webb efforts met with mediocre success at best. After a failed tenure at Warner Brothers Television in the early 1960s, many thought was done for, but in 1967, Dragnet came back with gusto for a four year run that has often been described as campy. The show dealth frequently with the risks of drugs, with Friday pushing back against hard against the counter culture.
While he was making Dragnet, Webb launched two other series that would be remembered as TV Classics: Adam 12, which realistically portrayed patrol officers in the same Dragnet had detectives and Emergency, which focused on the work of paramedics.
When Webb died in 1982, the police badge number 714 of Joe Friday was retired. The Los Angeles Police Historical Society created the Jack Webb Awards in 1994 to honor lifelong committment to law enforcement.
Frank Graham (1914-50): Frank Graham is a forgotten pioneer of radio, having created several shows including Cosmo Jones and Satan’s Waitin’. He was a well-heeled announcer on a variety of shows. He was also known for his ability to do all the voices in a radio program as he did in Nightcap Yarns and Yarns for Yanks. This voice flexibility gave him the reptuation as “The Man of a Thousand Voices” and radio’s one man theater.
Wilms Herbert was a veteran radio character actor who also played the part of Sergeant Otis on Richard Diamond. Scant biographical information is available on Herbert. I’ll add some when I find it.
Herb Butterfield was the second actor to play Anthony J. Lyons. He was a veteran character actor in television and radio appearing in a wide variety of programs, across a wide array of genres. His best known role was as the commissioner in, “Dangerous Assignment.”
Frank Nelson (1911-1986): Was a veteran character actor who found work on a variety of radio shows including The Great Gildersleeve and Fibber McGee and Molly. He transitioned to television with appearance on a variety of shows including Jack Benny and I Love Lucy. He also did voice acting on a variety of cartoons including both The Jetsons and The Flinstones.
Jack Webb Episodes
- The Prodical Daughter (Original Air Date: July 17, 1948)
- The Lonesome Lady (Original Air Date: July 24, 1948)
- The Lady with the Golden Hair (Original Air Date: July 31, 1948)
- The Man Who Liked Mountains (Original Air Date: August 7, 1948)
- The Diamond Quartet (Original Air Date: August 14, 1948)
- The Man Who Came Back (Original Air Date: August 21, 1948)
- The Man in the Door (Original Air Date: August 28, 1948)
- The House by the Sea (Original Air Date: September 4, 1948)
- The Story of Abel and Cain and the Santa Maria (Original Air Date: September 18, 1948)
- The Lady With No Name (Original Air Date: September 25, 1948)
- The Man With the Key (Original Air Date: October 2, 1948)
- Too Many Mrs. Rogers’ (Original Air Date: October 9, 1948)
- The Lost Lady (Original Air Date: October 16, 1948)
- The Lady With Too Much Hair (Original Air Date: November 6, 1948)
- The Guy from Gower Gulch (Original Air Date: November 13, 1948)
- The Pilgrim’s Progress (Original Air Date: November 20, 1948)
- The Man Who Fought Back (Original Air Date: November 27, 1948)
- The Lawyer and the Lady (Original Air Date: December 4, 1948)
- The Gambler and His Lad(ies) (Original Air Date: December 11, 1948)
- The Man Who Lived by the Sea (Original Air Date: December 18, 1948)
Frank Graham Episodes
- The Lady from Brazil (Original Air Date: October 19, 1949)
- The Lady Who Wanted to Live (Original Air Date: October 26, 1949)
- Man in the Black Suit (Rehersal of Show that Aired November 2, 1949)
- The Little Man’s Lament (Original Air Date: November 9, 1949)
- The Two Little Sisters (Original Air Date: November 16, 1949)
- Some Enchanted Carhop (Original Air Date: December 21, 1949)
- It All Comes Back to Me Now (Original Air Date: April 26, 1950) (Paul Dubov)
- There’s More Than Coffee in Brazil (Original Air Date: June 18, 1950)
- No Sad Clowns for Me (Original Air Date: June 25, 1950)
- She’s Lovely, She’s Engaged, She Eats Soybeans (Original Air Date: July 9, 1950)
- A Fire for Romano (Original Air Date: July 30, 1950)
- There’s Nothing Like a Porkchop When Supper Rolls Around (Original Air Date: August 6, 1950)
- Gentlemen Prefer Horses (Original Air Date: August 27, 1950)
- Log information and header courtesy of Digital Deli.