Tag: Jack Webb

EP1622: Dragnet: The Big Grab

Jack Webb
Joe Friday and Ben Romero search for a kidnapped woman.

Original Air Time: June 15, 1950

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EP1598: Dragnet: The Big Fake

Jack Webb

Friday and Romero investigate an allegation of robbery by a police officer.

Original Air Date: June 1, 1950

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All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet Excerpt: Do Hard Things; Expect Others to Follow

The following is an excerpt of my newest ebook All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet  which examines the careers and histories of seven great detectives of literature, radio and film. This is the first of five lessons learned from the immortal  Joe Friday:

Do Hard Things; Expect Others to Follow

A pop culture stereotype of a recruiter for dangerous jobs is someone who slyly makes you promises about great benefits and retirement packages and never mentions the risks of the job: including the risk you may not live to enjoy the retirement benefits.

This isn’t true of the vast majority of recruiters, and it wasn’t true of Joe Friday. In the episode, “The Interrogation,” Friday and Gannon were worked out of Internal Affairs. They brought in an undercover rookie cop named Culver who’d been identified as a man who committed an armed robbery.

Culver protested his innocence, felt being pulled into internal affairs was the last straw, and threatened to quit the force. He’d already had enough grief after his fiancée left him over his decision to become a police office. After Friday found out Culver was indeed innocent, he hesitated to tell him because Culver would most likely quit.

Instead Friday decided to address Culver’s inclination to leave. Friday correctly guessed that Culver’s fiancée was disappointed because he was a college graduate and she hoped he’d get better job. This was back when a degree actually held that promise.

To address the despondent cop, Friday could have explained that the department had good job security. There will always be a need for someone to ensure public safety. He could have talked about all the opportunities to be promoted within the department to Lieutenant, Captain, or even the Chief’s office. He could have explained there were plenty of women who would respect Culver’s life choices and be supportive of him.

Instead, Friday said that perhaps the fiancée’s fears were justified and explained what it meant to be a cop. It meant having a schedule constantly subject to change, being disrespected at social functions, and being the butt of jokes. “You’re a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law. You’re the fuzz, the heat; you’re poison, you’re trouble, you’re bad news. They call you everything, but never a policeman.” He also said the job required sacrifice and frugality. “If you count pennies, you can put your kid through college, but you better plan on seeing Europe on your television set.”

Of the hazards of the job, Friday was said, “When you try to arrest a drunken prostitute in a Main St. bar, and she rips your new uniform to shreds, you’ll buy another one out of your own pocket.”

Friday also didn’t promise a job that was great for your emotional well-being and told Culver he would encounter “…underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, crying kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken-arm kids, broken-leg kids, broken-head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids. The old people nobody wants—the reliefers, the pensioners, the ones who walk the street cold, and those who tried to keep warm and died in a $3 room with an unventilated gas heater. You’ll walk your beat and try to pick up the pieces.”

He warns of boredom and promises more of the same if Culver decides to move up to detective. “You’ll do leg work until you’re sure you’ve talked to everybody in the state of California.”

In addition, Friday promised him that the job would include filling out constant paperwork and that it would mean working with difficult decisions and people he didn’t like in prosecuting crimes. “You’ll learn to live with the District Attorney, testifying in court, defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, judges, juries, witnesses. And sometimes you’re not going to be happy with the outcome.”

Why would anyone stay on the police force under those conditions?
Friday explained, “There are over five thousand men in this city who know that being a policeman is an endless, glamourless, thankless job that’s gotta be done. I know it, too, and I’m damn glad to be one of them.”

And that was enough for Culver, who said he’d call his fiancée. It’s also enough for tens of thousands of cops across America who find fulfillment in doing something that’s not always fun but is necessary and vital to the security of civilization.

Friday’s honesty about the challenges he faced was not uncommon in that time. Earlier in that decade, President John F. Kennedy, in challenging America to go to the moon declared, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

In addressing Officer Culver, Friday also avoided a key pitfall that many leaders make today. Authors Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick said that many of those trying to motivate others were “stuck in Maslow’s basement,” a reference to the famous psychologist’s hierarchy of needs, which suggested people’s basic needs—such as food, clothing, shelter, and safety—had to be first be met before they’d care about any higher level needs such as belonging or serving their fellow men. However, we make a mistake if we only seek to motivate everyone by lower-level needs.

According to the Heath brothers, most of the people they interviewed for their book were motivated by higher-level needs but assumed others were motivated only by money and related concerns. Thus many leaders fail to motivate people because they don’t understand what motivated them. Friday believed Culver had been motivated to join the police force by a desire to serve and make a difference in his community. Friday also may have reasoned that, if Culver was only interested in money, ease,and status, he didn’t belong on the police force anyway.

Not all of us are cut out to join the police force, but instead of seeking money or easy work, we can find fulfillment in helping others in whatever our work is or however we volunteer outside of work. If we do find something that motivates us because it tugs at our heart or it’ll make peoples lives better, we should also seek to motivate others to share that vision rather than hoping they’ll see some material benefit.

All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet examines the history and career of seven great fictional detectives and twenty life lessons that can be learned from them. The previous ebook All I Needed to Know I Learned from Columbo is still 

For all other e-readers, All I Needed to Know I Learned from Dragnet and   All I Needed to Know from Columbo are available at Smashwords.com

EP1442: Dragnet: The Mother-in-Law Mother

Jack Webb

It looks like Friday and Romero have an open and shut case against a woman who was having an affair for murdering her mother-in-law.

Original Air Date: November 24, 1949

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EP1346: Dragnet: Production #4 Homicide (aka: Quick Trigger Gun Men)

Jack Webb

Friday and Romero are on the trailer of three robbers who murdered a police officer.

Original Air Date: June 24, 1949

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EP1340: Dragnet: Production #3 Robbery Aka: The Werewolf

Jack Webb

Joe and Ben go searching for a criminal nicknamed the “werewolf” who is terrorizing young women in LA’s Central district

Original Air Date: June 17, 1949

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EP1336: Pat Novak: Georgie Lampson

Jack Webb
Novak is hired by an old flame and finds himself once again, in the thick of a murder investigation.

Original Air Date: June 12, 1949.

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EP1054: Amazing Mr. Malone: The Devil Finds Work for Idle Hands

Gene Raymond

A hard as nails criminal is killed inside Malone’s office and when Malone reports it, he finds the body has disappeared.

Original Air Date: January 29, 1950

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EP0697: Pete Kelly’s Blues: Zelda

Jack Webb

The ex-wife of Kelly’s record producer asks him to ask the producer for an old record.  Trouble follows.

Original Air Date: September 5, 1951

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EP0687: Pete Kelly’s Blues: Vera Brand

Jack Webb
Pete finds himself being forced into marriage with a mobster’s girl.

Original Air Date: July 11, 1951

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Movie Review: Pete Kelly’s Blues

In 1955, Jack Webb brought Pete Kelly’s Blues from radio to the big screen. In 1927, Pete Kelly (Jack Webb) and his band play at a Kansas City speakeasy. Corrupt political boss Fran McCarg(Edmond O’Brien) wants a quarter of the band’s take as it’s new agent at an attempted shakedown. The band says no with hotheaded young Joey Firestone (Martin Milner) being the most vocal opponent of signing with McCarg. The band is run off the road returning from a party and then Firestone is cut down by a mobster connected to McCarg, but supposedly acting Independently, Kelly decides to give in and the rest of the bands in Kansas City follow his lead.

McCarg then tasks Kelly with having his girlfriend Rose (Peggy Lee) sing with the band despite it not fitting with Kelly’s style. However, when McCarg continues to abuse Rose and Kelly becomes suspicious that McCarg may have truly been behind Joey Firestone’s murder, he has to decide whether to put everything at risk in order to stand up to McCarg.

Pete Kelly’s Blues works on a number of levels. First of all, there’s the music. You have performances by the great Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald along with some of the finest instrumental jazz you’ll see hear on any film.

The supporting cast is solid. Peggy Lee turns in a Oscar-nominated performance as an abused, worn out, alcoholic singer. Edmond O’Brien was made to order as the heavy. And in a really surprising bit of casting against type that worked, Andy DeVine turned in a strong dramatic performance as the honest cop with no hint of his usual comedic style and a slightly lower voice pitch.

The movie remains a minor Noirish classic. How well the movie ranks depends on what you think of Jack Webb’s performance as Pete Kelly.  This has been the one part of the movie criticized, though I think the criticism is overdone. In my opinion, Webb’s performance as Pete Kelly was for the most part solid.

Pete Kelly has one prime motivation: his desire to play his type of music with his band. That’s why he finds himself working in a speakeasy, even when he complains about the type of lowlifes such as McCarg that find their way in.

Kelly is also the leader of the band, the responsible one. When they attend a party, Kelly is the De Facto designated driver . When McCarg’s threat comes, despite Kelly’s plan to put it to a vote, indecision reigns until Kelly suggests a direction, and it’s Kelly’s decision that allows McCarg to expand his racket beyond just Kelly and his band. This sort of responsible side may be what reminds people of Joe Friday.

Kelly is hard boiled and cynical, but not quite as hard as he seems. The movie hints at this in a couple of ways. He has a pet bird. When he’s pushing Ivy Conrad (Janet Leigh) out of his apartment, she argues for being allowed to stay because Kelly allows a bird in his room. Kelly replies that’s only because if times get hard, he may have to eat the bird. More poignantly, Kelly shows his softer side with his quiet and compassionate interactions with Rose Hopkins. He said little, but his face said it all.

Despite this, Webb’s performance is constantly compared to Joe Friday. I think there are reasons for this.

First, is that Webb was probably one of the earliest victims of television typecasting. The impact of seeing, not just hearing, someone every week in your home for 39 weeks a year for 3 years linked Webb to Friday in a way that was unpredictable. Certainly, Webb wasn’t the first actor to be pigeonholed (see: Basil Rathbone), however it usually required several films to achieve the effect. But the regular recurrence of Dragnet on television presented a problem, and Webb’s previous past as a hard boiled radio eye was forgotten.  Thus his entire performance was interpreted through that lens of Joe Friday.

Second, this was not helped by Kelly having two voices for voice-overs. Kelly’s first voice, heard most frequently  during the film, was slower and more sardonic and fired off sarcastic remarks like Simon Cowell at a Karoke Bar. The second voice heard on a couple occasions sounded exactly like Joe Friday. My personal theory for this is that these other voice-overs were not initially planned for the film, but were added in post-production and that Webb recorded them at the same time he was recording Dragnet voice-overs. Whatever the case, the new voice-overs made Webb’s job harder.

The biggest problem though was the love angle. There was no real on-screen spark between Pete Kelly and Ivy Conrad. On initial viewing, I thought this was a fault in Webb’s acting, as being too stiff. In the end, the failure was more on the writing end.

Ivy Conrad is a spoiled childish selfish playgirl whose globetrotting and partying lifestyle Pete Kelly holds in contempt. Nevertheless, they get engaged on Ivy’s initiative.

I could easily see a scenario where Pete Kelly goes for Ivy in a case of opposites attract. The stressed out band leaders falls for the woman who tore “responsibility” out of the dictionary and to add to that, she looks like Janet Leight. Unfortunately, the film shows none of that.  Kelly seems to be uninterested her, but willing to go along with marrying her.

The love angle was so mishandled, I would argue that if you cut the Ivy Conrad scenes, you’d have a far better film and shorter too. Of course, this doesn’t help Webb much. The blame for the problems in the movie simply moves from the shoulders of Jack Webb, Actor to Jack Webb, Director. When you act, produce, and director, there’s nowhere to hide when it comes to blame.

Of course, overall Webb got far more right than wrong, making a picture that on its merits is above average. What’s maddening about watching Pete Kelly’s Blues, though, is that the film so easily could have been a masterpiece.

Thinking about it gives me the blues.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5.00 stars.

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EP0682: Pete Kelly’s Blues: Gus Trudeau

Jack Webb

An old friend of Kelly’s is suspected of murdering a local Kansas City mobster.

Original Air Date: July 4, 1951

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EP0207: Jeff Regan: The Lady Who Wanted to Live

Jeff Regan is hired to protect a woman from her ex-boyfriend.

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Original Air Date: October 26, 1949

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Amy: Kiss me goodbye.

Regan: No thanks lady, I got to drive.

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EP0197: Jeff Regan: The Man Who Lived by the Sea

Jack Webb

Jeff Regan is hired by a phony mind-reader to protect him from a woman he’s blackmailing, and then he’s pulled off the case without notice. 

Quote of the Show: “He looked unhappy-like someone had fed him a Vaseline Sandwich.”  

Original Air Date: December 18, 1948 

He looked unhappy-like someone had fed him a Vaseline Sandwich 
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EP0192: Jeff Regan: The Gambler and His Lady(ies)

Jack Webb

A mother calls the Lyon for help when she becomes concerned about her getting mixed up with a gambler.

Original Air Date: December 11, 1949

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Gambling house owner to Regan: There are people who come out of here with more than they came in.

Regan: Yeah, you.

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