The Johnny Madero, Pier 23 Radio Program
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May 3 1947 Billboard Magazine article describing a possible Film deal in the offing for Johnny Madero.
May 17 1947 Billboard Magazine article describing alleged plagiarism in the Johnny Madero concept.
Jack Webb and Richard Breen were masters of entirely unique dialogue. Here's a few examples from the Johnny Madero Pier 23 canon:
"He didn't say anything for a minute, and you noticed his eyes were as soft as the inside of a woman's arm. He had one of those faraway looks you couldn't follow with a roadmap."
"There was a sign outside that said 'Modern Cabins' but you knew Abe Lincoln did better in Illinois. The 'cabins' were the size of an upper berth, with enough holes to start a punchboard. That didn't leave much privacy. You had more chance keeping a secret from Mata Hari. "
"His eyes were the color of Saturday Night on a week-old jag--and he was so chunky you figured he'd be harder to move than an icebox through a basement window."
"A brunette was draped over the couch like she'd paid the first installment on it. She was about 25, with a pair of legs that would have made a silkworm turn over and write a fan letter. She wore a tan business suit and you knew the way it was rumpled, business hours were over. When she saw me she started to vibrate like an alarm clock at six in the morning."
"When she swayed out you wondered how much night practice she'd given that rhumba."
"Warchek stood there for a second wiping his teeth with his tongue. If he'd done it on the outside, it woulda been a contract job."
"I felt about as safe as an alligator walking through a handbag factory."
"I drove down to Eddie Street and parked near the Jade Club. Oh it's not a bad place--but on a slow night, even the winos are afraid to go in."
"She had red hair--about this side of 98 degrees. She wore a black evening gown that was held up by one snap and prayer. She was the kind of girl that could wear a 'mother Hubbard' and make it look like a negligee. And when she sang, it came out low enough to strike oil."
"Inside, he had a little trouble getting started--like a big family leaving on a picnic."
"You couldn't clear your own throat in an empty tunnel."
"My stomach felt as empty as a horse-laugh at a funeral."
"I had about as much chance selling it to Warchek as a pair of short pants at Reform School."
"She was wearing a pair of rose-colored lounging pajamas--and I've seen baked potatoes with looser jackets."
"Are you pausing or posing, Madero?" "I'm looking for trap doors."
"Warchek had only one question; 'How can a guy forget his own name?' I don't know. A lot of hotels'd like to know that too."
"I noticed a girl standing up against the wall. She was wearing dark-green sunglasses--but the rest of her was just about as secret as a plow on the bathroom floor. Her hair was the color of half-past midnight--and her dress was made of the kinda goods you buy from spiders. "
"Some days you're not gonna make out any better than an ice cube at a cocktail party. When Dunlap hit me, I folded up and my head got the size of a social worker's heart."
"Once Warchek sticks to you, you might as well try to pull a mustard plaster off a throw rug."
"I looked up the only good guy I know--a waterfront priest named Father Leahy. He knows most of the bad boys around the piers and he's heard enough sins to start an Art Colony."
"Up until now it was like selling a toupee to a bald-headed eagle."
Johnny Madero--or either Johnny 'Log' or Johnny 'Timber' [surname translated]--was the second in a series of inspired gumshoe characters from the collaboration of Jack Webb and Richard L. Breen. Webb and Breen had been roommates in San Francisco during the mid-1940s after both had returned home from World War II. Jack Webb had been a B-26 Marauder crewmember in the Army Air Forces and Breen had served his hitch in the Navy. Jack Webb had been born and raised in Depression-era Santa Monica, California; Breen was born and raised in Depression-era Chicago. Both were 20-somethings trying to make their break into Bay Area Radio--Webb as a performer and writer, Breen as a writer and director.
Their chronology in the Bay Area was as follows:
- 1946 (February) One Out of Seven (Webb as Narrator and performer; written by Jim Moser)
- 1946 (March) Great Caesar's Ghost [Audition] (Webb as Announcer)
- 1946 (March) The Jack Webb Show (Starring Jack Webb; written and directed by Dick Breen)
- 1946 (August) Pat Novak . . . for Hire for Gallenkamp Shoes (Jack Webb as Pat Novak)
Webb and Breen's various efforts in the Bay Area were admitedly all over the map, considering the array of Radio genres they attempted together. One Out of Seven had been a docudrama anthology, markedly political in nature. Great Caesar's Ghost was to be a situation comedy. The Jack Webb Show was a sketch/variety program along the lines of the later Steve Allen programs.
It was Pat Novak . . . for Hire that established the pair as a viable creative force in Radio. Pat Novak . . . for Hire was an entirely new and highly stylistic, satirical take on the radio noir wave of gumshoe dramas of the era. Leveraging the colorful, Chandleresque dialogue that had marked the film noir sensations of the era, Webb and Breen wove a satirical tapestry of such dialogue, backchat, and interplay between the series' characters, which carried on after their February 1947 departure from the initial 1946-1947 run. Needless to say, Pat Novak had created a sensation during its initial run. The buzz it created carried forward for over three years--and beyond.
Breen and Webb left the Bay Area for the greener palm tree pastures of Hollywood over creative differences between Breen and KGO/ABC management back in San Francisco. Webb plied his trade seeking acting and writing roles and Breen landed on his feet writing for Paramount Studios. Breen's first big hit was a writing credit for the screenplay of A Foreign Affair (1948). Webb bounced around the studios until landing a role in ABC Radio's Murder and Mr. Malone (1947), starring Frank Lovejoy.
Webb and Breen's initial chronology in Hollywood was as follows:
- 1947 (January) Murder and Mr. Malone for Guild Wine (Webb as ensemble performer)
- 1947 (April) Johnny Madero, Pier 23 (Jack Webb as Johnny Madero; Breen as writing consultant)
- 1948 (July) Jeff Regan, Investigator (Jack Webb as Jeff Regan)
- 1949 (February) Pat Novak . . . for Hire (Jack Webb as Jeff Regan; Richard Breen as writing consultant)
- 1949 Three for Adventure [Audition] (Jack Webb, Barton Yarborough, and Elliot Lewis)
- 1949 (June) Dragnet (Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday)
- 1951 (July) Pete Kelly's Blues (Jack Webb as Pete Kelly; Richard Breen as writer)
We provide their overlapping chronologies to frame the sequence of events and controversy that surrounded the Johnny Madero, Pier 23 production from the outset.
Johnny Madero, Pier 23 premieres in controversy
The buzz that Pat Novak . . . for Hire had created throughout the entertainment industry was reaching its peak during 1947 and 1948. During the Spring of 1947 Don Lee-Mutual's Ken Dolan and Walter Lurie had secured the rights to Webb and Breen's Johnny Madero, Pier 23 package for the Mutual Broadcasting System. Before the series even aired, a picture deal was hinted at--to be based on the first episode, concerning some sort of blackmail scheme. The announcement of a potential picture deal caught the attention of ABC, who still owned the rights to Pat Novak . . . for Hire, and indeed were still airing the series from San Francisco with Ben Morris in the lead.
To say that Johnny Madero, Pier 23 was to be similar to Pat Novak . . . for Hire put it mildly. The location setting was the same, the lead would be the same, the supporting characters would be transparent renditions of those from Pat Novak, and of course the dialogue and feel of the production would be almost identical to that of Pat Novak . . . for Hire:
- Pat Novak's setting was cited near Pier 19 on the San Francisco waterfront, while Johnny Madero's setting was clearly to be Pier 23 on the San Francisco waterfront.
- Pat Novak's erstwhile profession was renting out his boat, but he was clearly available for all manner of adventurous, money-making schemes. Johnny Madero owned a boats hop adjacent to Pier 23, and clearly made his money undertaking all manner of investigations or bodyguard activities.
- Pat Novak's 'conscience' in the series was Jocko Madigan, an ex-physician with a drinking problem. Johnny Madero's 'conscience' was a waterfront priest named Father Leahy with connections to both the waterfront underworld and the SFPD. Johnny Madero's original 'conscience/sidekick' was to be a character named Dipso, but the character was abandoned after the first episode as part of a format restructuring agreement with ABC.
- Pat Novak's legal nemesis was Inspector Helmann of the SFPD's Homicide Squad. Johnny Madero's legal nemesis was Inspector Warchek of the SFPD's Homicide Squad.
Clearly, ABC had a valid beef with MBS. They settled it by requiring MBS to change the opening and dispense with the 'Dipso' character--a clone of Jocko Madigan. The changes apparently met with reserved approval by ABC, their plagiarism suit was abandoned, and the series continued with the required changes. Gale Gordon was brought in as Johnny Madero's 'conscience--critic--advisor', Father Leahy, the waterfront priest with connections to both waterfront denizens and members of the SFPD. The remainder of the basic ensemble cast remained the same, including Webb as Johnny Madero and William Conrad as Inspector Warchek.
The series continued to create a buzz as a virtual clone of Pat Novak . . . for Hire, though Johnny Madero, Pier 23 ran for only twenty of its twenty-six ordered installments. Indeed it was probably the popularity of Johnny Madero, Pier 23 that persuaded ABC to coax Jack Webb back into the fold with an offer of a revival of Pat Novak . . . for Hire in 1949. In the interim, Jack Webb had married lovely jazz songstress and budding starlet, Julie London with the money he earned from Johnny Madero, Pier 23. CBS inaugurated a somewhat softer clone of both Pat Novak and Johnny Madero with their Jeff Regan, Investigator series in 1948 with Jack Webb in the lead, supported by Wilms Herbert as Jeff Regan's boss, Anthony J. Lyon.
Webb's release from Jeff Regan, Investigator after its first season allowed him to revive Pat Novak . . . for Hire for another twenty installments and, upon completing the last season of Pat Novak, Webb launched his history-making Dragnet production over Radio with Barton Yarborough as his sidekick.
Johnny Madero, Pier 23, was very much still a clone of Pat Novak . . . for Hire which, irrespective of the kerfuffle between MBS and ABC, allowed Webb's loyal fans to enjoy almost four years of Pat Novak-like characterizations. Webb's growing body of fans didn't much care whether their antihero was named Pat Novak or Johnny Madero--or even Jeff Regan. What they craved--and received--from Webb's characterizations was an entirely new and rivetting brand of Radio dialogue during the waning years of The Golden Age of Radio. Jack Webb, Richard Breen, William P. Rousseau, and Jim Moser had brought an entirely new brand of radio noir to popular Radio. Their early collaborations ultimately spun off a series of highly influential Radio programming of the era.
The two Johnny Madero, Pier 23 episodes that survive were broadcast at the mid-point of the run. The characters had grown into their roles, the writing was into a polished groove, the dialogue had acquired its own flavor and both script and music direction were crisp and complementary.
Of the two circulating episodes, Episode No. 9, anecdotally titled Find Pete Sutro, remains the most remarkable in several respects. Most notably, the episode has Film sensation, John Garfield, as the guest star in the role of 'Nat' Findlay, an apparent amnesia victim obsessed with the name 'Pete Sutro,' the only name he can remember. Joan Banks portrays Findlay's scheming wife. Findlay had offered Madero $50 a day and a $200 bonus to find Pete Sutro, while Findlay's wife gave Madero $500 to forget the whole investigation--Johnny Madero naturally took both checks. We won't spoil the twist for you, but it's a compelling and entertaining puzzler.
The second circulating recording, Episode No. 10, anecdotally titled, Fatal Auction, concerns a locked black case purchased at a waterfront auction house. An attractive brunette, Claire Underwood, hires Madero to bid on the case at the auction, eventually driving the price up to $1000. The case contains a saxaphone and a gross of reeds. Needless to say, the saxaphone and reeds disappear almost as soon as Madero gets them back to his apartment.
There's every reason to expect that a few more missing episodes of Johnny Madero, Pier 23 will eventually surface. Don Lee-Mutual had been transcribing each episode for airing on Thursdays from Mutual's flagship station, WOR, for the east coast. Personal recording equipment was, by 1947, readily available--and affordable--to America's middle class. Johnny Madero, Pier 23 was as popular for its short run as Pat Novak . . . for Hire and Jeff Regan, Investigator had been. When more exemplars surface, we'll have even more reason to marvel at the creative talents that produced them.
Following Johnny Madero, Pier 23, Jack Webb took the lead for CBS' Jeff Regan, Investigator with his new sidekick, Barton Yarborough, as Joe Canto in the series. Webb subsequently tackled another season of Pat Novak . . . for Hire in 1949. 1949 also found Webb, Yarborough and Elliott Lewis auditioning an I Love Adventure type of format titled, Three for Adventure, with Jack Webb as Duke Kalitta, Barton Yarborough as 'Jex' Waco, and Elliott Lewis as McCullough Jonathan 'Mac' Cornell. Spun as three adventurous fortune seekers in search of next big prize, the format was never picked up. Webb and Yarborough launched Webb's legendary Dragnet series in June of 1949 and the rest was both literally and figuratively, Radio history.
Throughout late 1947 and much of 1948, Billboard magazine continued to tease stories reporting two possible returns of Johnny Madero, Pier 23, but neither bid came to fruition. When it came time for Webb to launch a new favored pet project, Pete Kelly's Blues, it was the Spring of 1951. Dragnet had enjoyed two seasons of rave reviews of the concept and both Jack Webb in the role of Sgt. Joe Friday and Barton Yarborough in the role of Sgt. Ben Romero. Yarborough also became a regular in the summer run of Pete Kelly's Blues and upon completing Pete Kelly's Blues, the pair later launched the Television version of Dragnet together, portraying the same roles for Television. Tragically, Yarborough suffered a massive heart attack in his home the evening following completion of the second production episode of Television's Dragnet.
The loss of Barton Yarborough hit Webb particularly hard. The two--and their respective families--had enjoyed four years of successful collaboration together and had every expectation of riding the crest of their Dragnet success through years of Radio and Television episodes on top of the 133 episodes of the Radio version of Dragnet that they'd already completed.
On December 27, 1951, eight days after Yarborough's death, Jack Webb remembered his friend and partner in a Dragnet radio episode he dedicated to Barton Yarborough. The Big Sorrow has Joe Friday working Homicide when he gets the news that his partner, Ben Romero, has died at his home from a heart attack--a poignant memorial to one of Radio's giants and a fitting example of Jack Webb, the man.
|Pat Novak . . . for Hire
||Anthology of Golden Age Radio Crime Dramas
||Don Lee--Mutual; MBS [Transcribed for Thursday airing over WOR]
||Audition Date(s) and Title(s):
||Premiere Date(s) and Title(s):
||47-04-23 01 Title Unknown
||Run Dates(s)/ Time(s):
||47-04-23 to 47-09-03; Don Lee--MBS; Twenty, 30-minute programs; Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. [Transcribed for Thursday airing over WOR]
Ken Dolan [Creator/Producer]
||Jack Webb, Gale Gordon, William Conrad, Harry Bushman, Betty Lou Gerson, John Garfield, Joan Banks, Jean Rogers, Herb Butterfield, Helene Burke, Bob Holden, Herb Rollinson
||Johnny Madero (Jack Webb), a boat shop owner and adventurer for hire; Father Leahy (Gale Gordon), a waterfront priest; Inspector Warchek (William Conrad) of the San Francisco Homicide Squad.
||Herb Margolis and Lou Morheim
Richard L. Breen [script consultatant]
||Harry Zimmerman Orchestra [Composer/Conductor]
||"I Cover the Waterfront" by John Waldo Green and "Eddie" Heyman
||Tony Lofrano [Don Lee--Mutual's Chief Announcer]
||Estimated Scripts or
||Episodes in Circulation:
||Total Episodes in Collection:
Billboard Magazine article announcing debut of Johnny Madero on April 30 1947
Billboard Magazine review of Johnny Madero from May 10 1947
Billboard Magazine article announcing the abrupt cancellation of Johnny Madero from August 30 1947
Billboard announcement of the 'return' of Johnny 'Modero' from July 31 1948
|RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide.
Notes on Provenances:
The most helpful provenances were the log of the radioGOLDINdex and newspaper listings.
We invite you to compare our fully provenanced research with the '1,500 expert researchers' at the OTRR and their Johnny Madero [sic] log, which the OTRR claims to be correct according to their 'OTTER log' they represent as the "most authoritative and accurate vintage Radio database in the world".
We've provided a screen shot of their current log for comparison, HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE to protect our own further due diligence, content and intellectual property.
Johnny Madero, Pier 23 was a fascinating series with only two currently circulating exemplars from this controversial Jack Webb vehicle.
- One might well ask how it can be that 'the most authoritative and accurate otr database in the world' could fail to correctly cite the name of this program on every page of their OTRRpedia. The name of the series is Johnny Madero, Pier 23, not Johnny Modero, Pier 23.
- One might also wonder how they got the name of one of the two famous Radio writers of the program, Lou Morheim wrong, versus the Lou Markheim that the OTRR cites. Or, for that matter the name of the announcer, Tony LoFrano.
- And finally, one might justifiably ask how they overlooked the seven titles of the series that they missed.
The answer is quite obvious. Here are the sources from which they simply copied their 'original research':
While they're to be commended for consulting the radioGOLDINdex, we're at a loss to understand why they'd copy anything from either the Wikipedia Johnny Modero, Pier 23 [sic] article or the Thrilling Detective Johnny Modero article, two of the most notoriously inaccurate vintage Radio article sites on the Internet. Beyond that, there are two--and only two--circulating exemplars to listen to. How hard is it to actually listen to two, 30-minute, highly entertaining episodes? Is actually listening to the only two circulating exemplars of Johnny Madero, Pier 23 too much to ask, to qualify as 'the most authoritative and accurate otr database in the world'?
One might think the immediate tipoff to the OTRR when they're wandering the Internet finding information to copy would be to avoid sites or articles that can't even spell the name of the series they're seeking, correctly. Wouldn't that be a dead giveaway? How, by any meaningful measure, does that qualify the OTRRpedia as the most 'authoritative and accurate otr database in the world'? On the plus side, they did get seven of the fourteen known titles for the series correct. That would give them at least 50% accuracy.
The articles in the sidebar at left are typical examples of the often ambiguous results of research into these seventy-year old programs. In Billboard Magazine's first announcement from May 10, 1947 the packager maintains that the program will debut on April 30, 1947. In fact, Johnny Madero actually debuted on April 23, 1947. Reading further, we come to the cancellation of Johnny Madero, in which the series is cited as having debuted on April 23, 1947 and was going to be cancelled on September 3, 1947. Had research turned up only the first announcement and the review, one might well have mistakenly concluded that Johnny Madero debuted on April 30 instead of April 23.
For an even more stark illustration of what plagues the commercially co-opted 'otr' community one need but perform the following quoted search:
That search will disclose every commercially co-opted, 'otr' site on the worldwide web. By our last count there were some 3,900 such commercial, misinformation peddling 'otr' sites. You'll find all the usual suspects: libsyn, boxcars711, wikipedia, otrr, etc. If you visit those sites with any frequency, you're simply reading plagiarism and misinformation, Q.E.D.
What you see here, is what you get. Complete transparency. We have no 'credentials' whatsoever--in any way, shape, or form--in the 'otr community'--none. But here's how we did it--for better or worse. Here's how you can build on it yourselves--hopefully for the better. Here's the breadcrumbs--just follow the trail a bit further if you wish. No hobbled downloads. No misdirection. No posturing about our 'credentials.' No misrepresentations. No strings attached. We point you in the right direction and you're free to expand on it, extend it, use it however it best advances your efforts.
We ask one thing and one thing only--if you employ what we publish, attribute it, before we cite you on it.
We continue to provide honest research into these wonderful Golden Age Radio programs simply because we love to do it. If you feel that we've provided you with useful information or saved you some valuable time regarding this log--and you'd like to help us even further--you can help us keep going. Please consider a small donation here:
We don't pronounce our Golden Age Radio research as 'certified' anything. By the very definition, research is imperfect. We simply tell the truth. As is our continuing practice, we provide our fully provenanced research results--to the extent possible--right here on the page, for any of our peers to review--or refute--as the case may be. If you take issue with any of our findings, you're welcome to cite any better verifiable source(s) and we'll immediately review them and update our findings accordingly. As more verifiable provenances surface, we'll continue to update the following series log, as appropriate.
All rights reserved by their respective sources. Article and log copyright 2009 The Digital Deli Online--all rights reserved. Any failure to attribute the results of this copywritten work will be rigorously pursued.
The Johnny Madero, Pier 23 Radio Program Biographies
|John Randolph 'Jack' Webb
Radio, Stage, Screen and Television Actor, Radio Disc Jockey, Recording Artist, Producer, Director, and Writer
Birthplace: Santa Monica, CA
Education: Belmont High School, Los Angeles, CA
1945 The Little Man Inside
1946 Spotlight Playhouse
1946 The Jack Webb Show
1946 Are These Our Children?
1946 One Out of Seven
1947 The New Adventures Of Michael Shayne
1947 Johnny Madero, Pier 23
1948 Murder and Mr Malone
1948 The Whistler
1948 Ellery Queen
1948 Jeff Regan, Investigator
1948 Errand Of Mercy
1948 Guest Star
1948 The Anacin Hollywood Star Theatre
1949 Three For Adventure
1949 Pat Novak For Hire
1949 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1950 Family Theatre
1950 Night Beat
1950 The Story Of Dr Kildare
1951 Pete Kelly's Blues
1953 The Martin and Lewis Show
1953 The Bob Hope Show
1959 Hollywood Salutes the National Guard
1963 Weekend Sound Flights
1969 The Charlie Greer Show
1969 Special Delivery: Vietnam
Three For Adventure
Mark VII, Limited Productions:
1956-1957 Noah's Ark
1959 The D.A.'s Man
1959 Pete Kelly's Blues
1962-1963 General Electric 'TRUE'
1971-1972 The D.A.
1971-1972 O'Hara, U.S. Treasury
1972-1974 Hec Ramsey
1975 Mobile One
1978-1979 Project UFO
August 16, 1951 Article on Jack Webb's Work Ethic
Jack Webb ca. 1955
Jack Webb (lower right) at Belmont High School ca. 1938
Jack Webb ca. 1948
Jack Webb as Joe Friday ca. 1951
Jack Webb, providing direction to Ella Fitzgerald, ca 1954
Jack Webb and first wife famed Jazz songstress, Julie London ca 1955
Jack Webb at home with his first daughter, Stacey ca. 1953
Jack Webb, reading a script on set, ca. 1953
Webb, with Peggy Lee and George Jessel at 1953 Cerebral Palsy Fund Raiser
Ben Alexander and Jack Webb confer in the Radio studio for Dragnet, ca. 1953
Jack Webb, resting on a lighting board for the production set of Pete Kelly's Blues, ca. 1955
Jack Webb, ca. 1965
|Born in Santa Monica, California, on April 2, 1920, Jack Webb's father had already left home before his birth and Jack Webb would never know him. John Randolph Webb was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother amidst the poverty immediately preceding the Great Depression.
To make matters worse, Webb suffered from acute asthma from the age of six until his death, despite a cigarette intake that often reached three packs a day throughout his adulthood. Even as a young man, Jack Webb's great passion was movies, and he dreamed of one day directing them. His other passion--Jazz, was the gift of an ex-jazz performer who lived in Webb's Bunker Hill, L.A. apartment building. He gave Webb an LP of the legendary Bix Beiderbecke, the first of over 6,000 jazz recordings Jack Webb would collect over his lifetime.
Jack Webb served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a crewmember of a B-26 Marauder medium bomber during World War II. Upon receiving his discharge, he relocated to San Francisco, working first as a late night disc jockey, then starring in his own radio show, The Jack Webb Show (1946), a half-hour comedy that aired on the West Coast over ABC Radio.
His first acting roles in Radio were in San Francisco-based Monte Masters' Spotlight Playhouse (1946) performing with Masters' wife Natalie Park (later of Candy Matson fame), 1947's The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, and his own Johnny Madero, Pier 23. He would later spin off his Johnny Madero character into Pat Novak for Hire and Jeff Regan, Detective before he refined his crime drama sights to the more realistic and subdued Joe Friday character in Dragnet. Most notable--and personal--of his early projects was One Out of Seven (1946) in which Webb performed all the voices, attacking many social ills of the era, including race prejudice, corrupt politicians, and Red-baiting.
Jack Webb had an extraordinary ear for the 'throwaway line' most often associated with the work of Raymond Chandler. But it was Webb's genius for drolly and cynically delivering those Chandleresque lines, that made every radio program he recorded during that era some of the most often revisited recordings among Golden Age Radio collectors. Nevermind the fact that he was bouncing those memorable, hard-boiled retorts off of the likes of Raymond Burr, William Conrad, Wilms Herbert, Tudor Owen, Herb Butterfield--and yes, even the famous Carlisle Bibbers. Webb's influence continued throughout most of the radio noir genre detective and crime dramas that followed, even though Webb's own Joe Friday character never uttered a Chandleresque line himself during any of the iterations of Dragnet that followed.
Indeed it was a small role as a crime lab technician in the film noir classic He Walked by Night (1948) that led him to the creation of "Dragnet." Dragnet first aired over NBC radio on June 3, 1949, and moved to TV ("Dragnet" (1951)) on December 16, 1951, where it ran until September 1959. Webb also appeared in the famous Billy Wilder film, Sunset Boulevard (1950) as William Holden's energetic best friend. But it was the influence of the gritty, hyper-realistic He Walked By Night, that linked Webb to Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn of the Los Angeles Police Department. Wynn was a technical consultant for He Walked By Night, and with Wynn's assistance--and entre to legendary LAPD Chief William H. Parker--that Webb mapped out the pains-taking, hyper-realistic model for Dragnet.
Dragnet's ground-breaking influence was being felt in both Radio and Television. Webb's star continued rising fast, and the 1950s saw him become a film director, directing (and starring in) five features: Dragnet (1954), Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), The D.I. (1957), -30- (1959), and The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961). Webb's famous--or infamous--attention to the minutest details made him a natural behind the camera, but his last two directorial outings were box office flops.
Jack Webb's personal life was also arcing from the mid-1940s through the 1950s. He met and married beautiful Jazz songstress and actress Julie London, in 1947. The couple had two daughters, Stacey (1950) and Alisa (1952) and Webb was a doting father, albeit greatly compromised for quality time throughout what came to be the most active and demanding years of his professional life.
The compromises inevitably took their toll, and the couple divorced in 1953. Webb would marry three more times during his life; to Dorothy Towne (2 years), Jackie Loughery (6 years), and Opal Wright (2 years). After his divorce from Jackie Loughery in 1964, Webb would remain single until he married Opal Wright in 1980, just two years before his sudden heart attack just before Christmas of 1982.
Webb's return to Television in 1962 led to his appointment as Head of Production for Warner Bros. Television in February 1963. Webb had taken over from William T. Orr as executive producer of the hit ABC detective series 77 Sunset Strip (1958). Webb demanded wholesale changes in the program, retaining only Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., in the role of Stuart Bailey from the previous rotating ensemble cast of Zimbalist, Ed Byrnes, Roger Smith, Louis Quinn, Jaqueline Beer, and Richard Long. The result was a predictable disaster. Its ratings plummeted, and Warner Bros. canceled the Webb-helmed series midway into its sixth season. Apart from the poor box office showing of Webb's two previous films, Webb's reputation as one of Hollywood's wunderkind had continued to rise. The loss of his position with Warner Bros. was the first significant stumble of Webb's career
Following two years of unemployment--and reflection, Universal Studios invited Webb to do a new Dragnet as a TV movie. The result so pleased NBC and Universal that they offered Webb a new Dragnet series--Dragnet 1967. The new, updated series was an almost instant hit, and Dragnet 1967 ran for three seasons, followed by over ten years in syndication. Webb leveraged Dragnet 1967's success into a second hit, Adam-12 (1968), which gave both Jack Webb and his Mark VII, Limited production company a new lease on life. Webb's success developing new television programs with Mark VII continued through the 1970s, right up until the time of his unexpected passing in 1982. Webb's daughter Stacy tragically died in an automobile accident in 1996.
Jack Webb was a tireless champion of both social justice and the peace officers he so respected throughout his adult life. Jack Webb's mark in Radio influenced hundreds of other productions throughout the 1940s and 1950s. His influence on Television is felt to this day.
But for his Radio fans, his body of work--and its far-reaching influence--carries on, generation after generation through the magic of The Golden Age of Radio and the wonderful recordings we've managed to preserve from the era.
[ Charles T. Aldrich, Jr.]
Radio, Television, Film and Stage Actor
New York City, New York, USA
1932 Strange Adventures In Strange Lands
1932 Tarzan of the Apes
1932 The Linit Bath Club Revue
1933 Seal of the Don
1933 Calling All Cars
1934 Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher
1934 Mama Bloom's Brood
1934 Mary Pickford and Company
1935 That Was the Year
1935 Front Page Drama
1935 The Amazing Interplanetary Adventures of Flash Gordon
1935 The March of Time
1937 Speed Gibson of the International Secret Police
1937 Dr Christian
1937 The Cinnamon Bear
1938 Captains of Industry
1938 The Fullness of Times
1938 Log Cabin Jamboree
1938 Good News
1938 Warner Brothers Academy Theatre
1938 Big Town
1938 Lux Radio Theatre
1938 The Wonder Show
1939 The Joe E Brown Show
1939 The Shadow of Fu Manchu
1939 The Adventures of Jungle Jim
1939 Fibber McGee and Molly
1940 In His Steps
1940 The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show
1941 Miss Pinkerton, Inc.
1941 Cavalcade of America
1941 Orson Welles Theater
1941 Your Red Cross Roll Call
1942 The Pepsodent Show
1942 The Whistler
1942 Mail Call
1945 Cavalcade of America
1946 The Fabulous Doctor Tweedy
1946 H0llywood Star Time
1946 The Casebook of Gregory Hood
1946 Theatre Guild on the Air
1946 Birds Eye Oopen House
1946 The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
1946 The Drene Show
1947 The Freedom Train
1947 Here's To Veterans
1947 The Baby Snooks Show
1947 The Life of Riley
1947 The Greatest Story Ever Told
1947 Johnny Madero, Pier 23
1947 Maxwell House Coffee Time
1947 The Great Gildersleeve
1948 A Day In the Life of Dennis Day
1948 The Shadow
1948 Old Gold Time
1948 The Judy Canova Show
1948 The Little Immigrant (Life With Luigi)
1948 Our Miss Brooks
1948 NBC University Theater
1948 The Phil Harris and Alice Faye Show
1948 The Charlie McCarthy Show
1949 From the Bookshelf of the World
1949 My Favorite Husband
1949 The Magic Detective
1949 Sweet Adeline
1949 The Halls of Ivy
1949 Guest Star
1950 Granby's Green Acres
1950 The Halls of Ivy
1950 The Cass Daley Show
1950 The Lucky Strike Program
1950 Mr and Mrs Blandings
1951 All About Time
1952 The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
1952 Junior Miss
1953 Richard Diamond, Private Detective
1955 My Little Margie
Gale Gordon c. 1949
Gale Gordon, c. 1926
Gale Gordon, ca. 1934
Gale Gordon at the mike with Jean Hersholt and Rosemary De Camp for Dr. Christian ca. 1937
Gale Gordon's posthumous Radio Hall of Fame Award 1999
|Say the name 'Osgoode T. Conklin' outloud and what does anybody within earshot--and over the age of 50--immediately imagine? Gale Gordon, naturally. Next test: say the name Gregory Hood outloud within earshot of the same audience? . . . . . wait for the sound of a pin dropping two rooms away.
Such was Charles T. Aldrich's blessing--and curse--for the first half of his acting career. Who's Charles T. Aldrich?--the self-same Gale Gordon. It's a truly great character actor's curse--or blessing--to not be recognized. Indeed, the most ideal character actor imaginable, might never be recognized at all--by anybody but his acting peers.
So how does an actor as strikingly debonair and attractive as Gale Gordon manage to escape being typecast for the first half of his acting career? He was darn good at what he did. That's how.
Any dyed-in-the-wool Film, Radio, or Television buff can probably rattle off a stream of 20 - 40 great character actors they've heard or seen during their lives. But it's a rare few character actors that can immediately evoke the kind of visceral connection to a character that Gale Gordon can.
And if you're blessed enough to be an aficionado of all three of the audiovisual Arts of The Golden Age then the name Gale Gordon will come to mind over and over and over again whether in Film, on Radio, or on Television. Just take a brief tour of Gordon's Radiography at the left. Action, Adventure, Romance, Comedy, Thriller, or Melodrama. They're all there--and in embarassing abundance. That's the mark of a truly versatile character actor at the height of his powers.
Gale Gordon almost immediately established that he could star as a lead radio character in virtually any radio genre. But Gordon was an actor's actor. He appears to have continually sought the delicious character roles that he could really sink his teeth into. He had the chops, the looks, and the swagger to lead in any of the various action or detective genre programs of the era. And he tried a few for size. But it was the more quixotic, challenging character roles that he enjoyed the most.
Some maintain that Gordon got his break on radio as Mayor Latrivia on the ever popular Fibber McGee and Molly Show which aired on radio from 1935-1959. But that ignores over fifteen years of a highly productive, successful radio resume before that role.
The other false assertion about Gale Gordon's amazing career is that he "found his niche as stuffy, blustery characters" on Our Miss Brooks (1952) and the various Lucille Ball sitcoms. That's simply nonsense. This great character actor's 'niche' was virtually any script placed before his eyes--period. That he'd mastered the casual, icy 'slow burn' to gifted comedic actresses the likes of Eve Arden or Lucille Ball, belies their equal genius for comedic timing and irony. Gordon simply responded to that exquisite timing with his own well honed timing and character development--both skills he finely crafted over a 30-year acting career spanning over 500 appearances by then.
But there's no denying what a wonderful curmudgeon he could be. Indeed, Gale Gordon recognized all too well that characters as well-spoken and erudite as Mayor LaTrivia, Osgoode T. Conklin, or Theodore J. Mooney (the names alone evoke a certain image) could certainly take ever more ironic turns by poking fun at them. That was his genius and that was the genius of the producers that cut him loose on such classic characters.
Charles Aldrich, Jr. was the son of a vaudeville quick-change artist, Charles T. Aldrich Sr., and Gloria Gordon, a former British actress who played Mrs. O’Reilly the Landlady on television's My Friend Irma. He clearly had greasepaint in his blood and his path to become a great character actor was etched in stone from the outset. He studied as a student and dresser in a local theater and made his stage debut at the ripe age of 17.
His Film work included:
- Here We Go Again (1942) as Cadwalader (his film debut)
- A Woman of Distinction (1950) as Station Clerk
- Here Come the Nelsons (1952) with Ozzie & Harriet Nelson, as H.J. Bellows
- Francis Covers the Big Town (1953) with Donald O’Connor and Francis the talking mule, as District Attorney Evans
- Our Miss Brooks (1956) with Eve Arden, as Osgoode T. Conklin, a spinoff of the TV and radio series
- Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958) as Col. Thorwald
- The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959) as Raven
- Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959) with Jerry Lewis, as Congressman Mandeville
- Visit to a Small Planet (1960) again with Jerry Lewis, as Bob Mayberry
- All in a Night’s Work (1961) as Oliver Dunning
- All Hands on Deck (1961) as Commander Bintle
- Dondi (1961) as Colonel
- Sergeant Deadhead (1968) as Capt. Weiskopf
- Speedway (1968) as R.W. Hepworth
- The ‘burbs (1989) as Walter (his final film role.)
Simply scan the above list for the names of his characters. Without even watching any of them, one can 'see' him in any of those roles.
When the great character actor Joseph Kearns passed away unexpectedly during filming of the third season of Dennis The Menace, it was Gale Gordon they immediately tapped to fill in for his long-time friend, as Mr. Wilson's relative John Wilson. And who better to immediately--and seamlessly--to tackle the role on short notice to save the franchise for another two years.
Gale Gordon was married to actress Virginia Curley for his entire adult life, from 1937-1995. She passed away just a week before Gale Gordon's own demise. You can't invent a more perfect Life than that with all the resources of The Fates combined. He's not only missed, he's cherished--by generation after generation that will be able to hear and watch this wonderful character actor--and gentleman--for hundreds of years to come.
|William Conrad [William Cann]
Stage, Radio, Television and Film Actor, Director, Producer, Narrator
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky
1944 The Whistler
1945 Destination Tomorrow
1946 Dark Venture
1946 Strange Wills
1946 I Deal In Crime
1946 Favorite Story
1946 Cavalcade Of America
1946 Meet Miss Sherlock
1947 Voyage Of the Scarlet Queen
1947 The Adventures Of Philip Marlowe
1947 Johnny Madero, Pier 23
1947 Mr President
1947 Lux Radio Theatre
1947 Shorty Bell, Cub Reporter
1948 The New Adventures Of Michael Shayne
1948 Damon Runyon Theatre
1948 The First Nighter Program
1948 Ellery Queen
1948 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1948 Let George Do It
1948 Jeff Regan, Investigator
1948 Hallmark Playhouse
1948 Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
1948 Prudential Family Hour Of Stars
1948 Command Performance
1948 Hawk Larabee
1949 Pat Novak For Hire
1949 Our Miss Brooks
1949 This Is Your FBI
1949 Hollywood Mystery Playhouse
1949 Rocky Jordan
1949 Screen Director's Playhouse
1949 Box Thirteen
1949 The Green Lama
1949 Dangerous Assignment
1949 Richard Diamond, Private Detective
1949 Four Star Playhouse
1949 The Adventures Of the Saint
1949 The Count Of Monte Cristo
1950 The Halls Of Ivy
1950 The Adventures Of Frank Race
1950 Night Beat
1950 Rocky Jordan
1950 Philip Morris Playhouse
1950 The Adventures Of Sam Spade
1950 The Story Of Dr Kildare
1950 Broadway Is My Beat
1950 Hollywood Star Playhouse
1951 Hedda Hopper's Hollywood
1951 The Man Called X
1951 Tales Of the Texas Rangers
1951 Pete Kelly's Blues
1951 Mr I.A. Moto
1951 The Silent Men
1951 The Railroad Hour
1952 Stars Over Hollywood
1952 The Line-Up
1952 Jason and the Golden Fleece
1952 Tums Hollywood Theatre
1953 Bakers' Theatre Of Stars
1953 The Six-Shooter
1953 Crime Classics
1953 On Stage
1953 Hallmark Hall Of Fame
1953 Fibber McGee and Molly
1954 High Adventure
1955 The Adventures Of Captain Courage
1955 I Was A Communist For the FBI
1955 Mystery Theatre
1956 The Key
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1958 Heartbeat Theatre
The Roy Rogers Show
The Pendleton Story
The Adventures Of Maisie
William Conrad, ca. 1943
William Conrad in Killers (1947)
William Conrad as Matt Dillon, ca. 1953 (Courtesy of Harry Bartell)
William Conrad, for ABC, ca. 1957
William Conrad and Jack Webb, in Webb's Film, --30-- (1959)
Conrad in Cannon publicity still, ca 1971
Bill Conrad, ca. 1972
|William Conrad was born William Cann in Louisville, Kentucky. He started work in radio in the late 1930s in California. During World War II, Conrad served as a fighter pilot. He returned to the airwaves after the war, going on to accumulate over 7,000 roles in radio-by his own estimate. We can attest to at least 2,000--Conrad had been a fighter pilot, after all.
Conrad's deep, resonant voice led to a number of noteworthy roles in radio drama, most prominently his role as the original Marshal Matt Dillon on the Western program Gunsmoke (19521961). For the Gunsmoke purists, we'd remind them that the two actors that technically preceded Conrad in the role--Rye Billsbury and Howard Culver--auditioned as Mark Dillon, not Matt Dillon.
He was considered for the Television role of Matt Dillon when the series was brought to the small screen in 1955, but increasing obesity led to the casting of James Arness instead. As it turned out, relatively few of the other cast members were cast in the TV version.
Other radio programs to which Conrad contributed his talents included The Whistler, Strange Wills, The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Johnny Madero, Pier 23, The New Adventures of Michael Shayne, Ellery Queen, The Adventures of Sam Spade, Jeff Regan, Investigator, Let George Do It, Pat Novak for Hire, Escape!, Suspense and The Damon Runyon Theater. One particularly memorable radio role was his breathtaking performance in "Leinengen Vs. The Ants" first heard in the January 14, 1948 broadcast of Escape!, and in a later rendition in the August 25, 1957 Suspense broadcast of "Leinengen Vs. The Ants." Conrad, of course was also memorable as the 'voice' of Escape!.
Conrad's long association with Jack Webb produced some of radio noir's most memorable moments as well. Conrad was heard in every Jack Webb production he ever mounted, and the chemistry between the two of them is one of radio's greatest pairings. From Johnny Madero, Pier 23, to Dragnet--and beyond, the verbal interplay between Conrad and Webb always made for fascinating radio--and Film.
Conrad's possessed an amazing gift for creating bone-chilling Radio characterizations of a seemingly endless array of toughs, gangsters, hard-boiled cops, corporate magnates, and hundreds of other commanding, self-assured, scoundrels and heroes alike. Those roles created a Radio following for him rarely equalled in Radio History. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997.
Among Conrad's various film roles, where he was usually cast as threatening figures, perhaps his most notable role was his first credited one, as one of the gunmen sent to eliminate Burt Lancaster in the 1946 film The Killers. He also appeared in Body and Soul (1947), Sorry, Wrong Number and Joan of Arc (1948), and The Naked Jungle (1954). And again, his characterizations of tough guys, aided by his amazing deep baritone and chillingly authoritative presence made for some of Film Noir's most enduring depictions.
Conrad moved to television in the 1960s, first guest-starring in NBC's science fiction series The Man and the Challenge. Conrad guest-starred--and directed-episodes of ABC's crime drama Target: The Corruptors! (1962). Indeed, both Conrad and the legendary Sam Peckinpah directed episodes of NBC's Klondike (19601961). He returned to voice work, most notably as narrator of The Fugitive (19631967) and as the director of Brainstorm (1965).
Conrad is as fondly remembered for his voice work in Animation. He narrated the animated Rocky and Bullwinkle series from 195964 (as "Bill Conrad"), and later performed the role of Denethor in the animated Television version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Return of the King (1980).
The 1970s brought him further small-screen success with leading roles in Cannon (1971-1976), Nero Wolfe (1981) and Jake and The Fat Man (1987-1990). Conrad was also the on-camera spokesman for First Alert fire prevention products for many years, as well as Hai Karate men's cologne.
Conrad's credits as a director include episodes of The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Route 66, Have Gun, Will Travel, and 77 Sunset Strip, among others, and feature films such as Two on a Guillotine.
Conrad had one son, Christopher, with his first wife, Susie. When Susie died after thirty years of marriage, Conrad married Tippy Stringer Huntley, a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park and widow of famed former NBC newscaster Chet Huntley.
Conrad died from congestive heart failure on February 11, 1994, in Los Angeles, California. He is interred at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in the Lincoln Terrace.
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