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'Dragnet 1966'

‘Dragnet 1966’

March 11, 1966: Jack Webb, center, confers with cinematographer Walter Strenge, left, and crewman Ray Bensfield on the set of “Dragnet 1966.”

This photo by Nelson Tiffany was published in the March 19, 1966, Los Angeles Times. In an accompanying story, staff writer Don Page reports:

Jack Webb, the independent producer, relaxed in his comfortable bungalow on the Universal lot and let his thoughts flow nostalgically back to the glory years when his success covered television like his name.

Thumbing through a leather-bound volume, he called roll as he passed the photographs …“Ben Alexander … Raymond Burr … Jeanette Nolan … Dennis Weaver … Lee Marvin … ummm, Lee got his start on a Dragnet show.

“Two hundred and fifty episodes,” he remarked, closing the book.

Jack Webb’s Dragnet era (1952-59) was, perhaps, the most popular television habit in history. Unmistakable, from Mineola to Malibu, the citizenry knew officer Joe Friday better than the neighborhood cop. Dum-de-dum-dum was a punch line for jokes and a punctuation for all occasions, and No. 1 on the TV hit parade.

Dragnet always was a good show and now, nearly 10 years after its demise, rates as a classic compared to our serialized agony and living comic books.

The news that Webb was at work on a new version of Dragnet brought this writer to his chambers as a reporter and, admittedly, as a fan.

The production, “Dragnet 1966,” is a two-hour Project 120 for NBC, the initial venture in a series of movies for television (due in October). Webb was asked if he had any compunctions, creatively, about reverting to something old for his return.

“Not at all,” he said. “You don’t have to be original to do something good. But you don’t have to copy, either. In ‘Dragnet 1966’ we’re going deeper into the inner-workings of the department (LAPD), something we didn’t have time to do in the half-hours.

“The story concerns actual cases involving two murders, and we’ve gotten the usual wonderful cooperation from Police Chief William Parker,” he said.

Parker, in fact, assigned one of this crack homicide officers, Lt. Pierce Brooks, to function as Webb’s technical adviser. You can understand Parker’s eagerness to participate, since Webb was the best gratis public relations man the force ever had.

“Dragnet 1966” will have one major deviation, however. Ben Alexander, Webb’s actor-partner in the old series, was unavailable, having signed for another show prior to casting. Harry Morgan, one of Hollywood’s outstanding character actors, will be Friday’s new partner. …

Based on “Dragnet 1966,” NBC ordered a new series, “Dragnet 1967.” The television movie, “Dragnet 1966,” did not air until 1969.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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1 Comment

  1. December 10, 2015, 9:01 am

    Great pic – I loved watching Dragnet (1960s) as a kid.

    By: Mac Daddy

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