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Subject: Archive: Jack Webb, Dec. 23, 1982


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Actor- director- producer
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Date Posted: Monday, December 24, 10:05:56am

December 24, 1982,

Jack Webb, the stone-faced actor who achieved national reknown in the early days of television for his portrayal of Sgt. Joe Friday on the ''Dragnet'' series, died at his home in Los Angeles yesterday, apparently of a heart attack. He was 62 years old.

Mr. Webb created his most famous role as the monosyllabic Los Angeles detective for a 1949 radio show, also called ''Dragnet.'' In 1952, he created a television version of the series, which enjoyed wide popularity for the next seven years.

With its clipped dialogue and spare style, ''Dragnet'' was a major influence in television in the early and mid-1950's. It's distinct, four-note musical theme, dum-te-dum-dum, and Mr. Webb's best-known line: ''Just the facts, ma'am,'' were grist for the mills of a generation of parodists.

Despite his success, Mr. Webb never thought of himself as a major actor. He once told an interviewer that he never saw himself as competition for Gregory Peck or Jack Lemmon. ''I was not enamored of acting,'' he said. ''I inherited it.'' In Debut for Brando





In fact, he created several powerful, if minor roles, in films of the 1950's and was singled out for ''excellence'' by Bosley Crowther of The New York Times for his part as a paraplegic in Stanley Kramer's 1950 picture, ''The Men,'' the film in which Marlon Brando made his screen debut.
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He also played parts in ''Sunset Boulevard,'' ''The Halls of Montezuma,'' and starring roles in a number of films he produced himself: ''Dragnet,'' ''Pete Kelly's Blues,'' ''The D.I.,'' which was about a Marine Corps drill instructor, and ''30,'' a journalism melodrama.

Jack Webb was born in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1920. By the time he was 18, he was supporting his family by working in a clothing store. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 and after his discharge in 1945 began his career as a radio announcer in San Francisco.

He drifted into radio drama and, in 1948, conceived the Dragnet concept, based on actual police files. The National Broadcasting Company bought the show and permitted it to run 18 weeks before the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company agreed to be the only sponsor. Liggett & Myers remained the only sponsor for the seven years the program remained on the air.

For three years, from 1952 to 1955, there were separate ''Dragnet'' shows simultaneously on radio and television. At the height of its popularity the television ''Dragnet'' had an estimated 38 million viewers each week. Mr. Webb was proud of the fact that he did the show with a minimum of violence. In the first 60 episodes, he once noted, only 15 shots were fired and there were just three fights.

Mr. Webb was amused by viewers who considered Sergeant Friday a portrait of him. ''He's actually a neutral character,'' he once said. ''He has no religion, he's had no childhood, no educational background, no war record, no personal side at all.'' Almost as well-known to viewers on the show was Webb's fictional sidekick, Detective Frank Smith, played by the late Ben Alexander. Major Television Producer

Mr. Webb dominated ''Dragnet.'' When he brought it back to television in 1967 for four more seasons, he was the star, the director, the producer and the executive producer. Over the years he parlayed the show's success into a major role for himself in television production.

By 1973, he was producing five different series at one time: ''Adam-12,'' ''Emergency,'' ''Escape,'' ''Chase'' and ''Hec Ramsey.'' Other shows produced by his company, Mark VII Ltd., included ''Mobile One'' and ''The D.A.'s Man.''

With Mr. Webb when he died was his fourth wife, Olga. He was first married to the actress-singer Julie London. They had two daughters, Stacy and Lisa. He later married and divorced both Dorothy Towne and Jackie Loughery, who was Miss U.S.A. of 1952.





Most of Mr. Webb's police-oriented series were produced in close collaboration with the Los Angeles Police Department. The department yesterday ordered flags at its headquarters and substations to be flown at half-staff.

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A heavy smoker who was a workaholic and liked his booze (NT)No surprise he only lasted to 62Monday, December 24, 04:08:12pm


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