There was a plenty serious police show on television in those days. It had had its start in radio away back in 1949. That show, in turn, was the daughter of a radio show about the waterfront. Yes sir, it dealt with life as it was in the big city. It was not for little children. It was hard nosed, it was tough; as a kid, you had been shooed away from the family's living room console radio receiver at the sound of the first bars of Walter Schumann's theme for Dragnet (variously called Dragnet March and Danger Ahead). Here's the real McCoy, the actual theme and lead in aired June 21st, 1951 when we were about five years old. Click on this u.r.l. to refresh a memory. http://www.old-time.com/weekly/dragnet.ram . (For those who hunger for a long clip, go to http://www.otr.com/ra/dragnet.ram for six minutes of a Webb with a boyish voice.) Do you recognize the announcer's voice?
Two titles for the theme? There had been legal contention about credit for the writing of the Dragnet theme and that suit was the origin of the second name that we hear for the Dragnet march. Another well known name in film music, Miklos Rosza, had written music for a film called The Killers some years earlier and that music was titled Danger Ahead. The suit contended that there had been plagiarism and part of the settlement was credit for Rosza as an author of the Dragnet theme. See this excellent site for details http://www.classicthemes.com/50sTVThemes/themePages/dragnet.html .
Hunger for a whole show? Go here for the program of September 24, 1949 the 17th show broadcast.
"The Story You are about to Hear is True"
(What company first sponsored the Dragnet radio show? Find out later.)
Ahh, but it had style. Unintended? Ok, it was unintended. Not subtlety, perhaps, not variety, not character development, not taste (only a policeman would wear his hat indoors) but, dammit, Webb gave the whole production a style. The men's hats and especially that of Webb himself, a broad brimmed fedora worn well down over the ears, give a heady dose of fifties nostalgia today.
( Woo. Your author's favourite subject, radio electronics, comes up in the Dragnet script of April the fifth, 1955, The Big No Tooth. Non nerds, skip this little digression and move down the page. The character Boxer is the elderly night clerk in a seedy hotel.
BOXER: This here gadget. See, see?
BOXER: Fits in your ear like, like so.
FRIDAY: Yeah, I understand.
BOXER: Let's you listen without waking nobody up. Other end attaches to the set like ... like so.
SMITH: You mean that's a radio?
BOXER: Sure is. You ain't seen this kind before, huh?
SMITH: No sir.
BOXER: That's what they call it. Regency transistor. Ain't got no tubes, that's what makes it so small, ya see. Carry it around in your
pocket if you've a mind too.
SMITH: I see.
BOXER: Real good tone, though. Plenty of volume if you want to let it out
To purchase that TR-1, Mr. Boxer had scrimped hard. He had collected the savings from many months of graveyard shifts to purchase that receiver. It had appeared on the market only in October and November of the previous year. It was very special. It had cost him US$49.95 at a time when a five tube "All American" a.c./d.c receiver had cost $5.00. The battery was a further expense. An already standard 22.5V hearing aid battery (still available) was required. It lasted only 20 hours and cost Mr. Boxer USD$1.50. Because of their cost, the prudent user had, in fact, not one battery but a stable of them. The batteries were rotated through the receiver to squeeze the most life possible out of each.
With its TR-1, Regency had created the solid state consumer radio receiver. The mainline consumer electronic companies, run by businessmen rather than engineers, looked at their huge commitment to tubes and the development costs of the transistor and saw no reason to embrace the new technology. Japanese companies were smarter and saw the future. (As a consequence, there never was a North American portable solid state radio receiver industry. Occasionally, reader, you will encounter the statement that the Japanese electronics industry "took over" the consumer solid state radio business in North America. No such thing happened. The reality is that the Japanese electronics industry, Messrs. Morita and Ibuka (a ham operator, of course) of Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Totsuko), which adopted the brand name "Sony" ("little sound") in the lead, built that business by itself and that mainline North American companies, having had the transistor served to them upon a platter by Bell Labs, simply missed the same 'bus that the more agile and hard working Japanese industry caught.)
In a piece of electronics design thereafter fundamental to analogue linear solid state circuits, Regency, in reality Industrial Development Engineering Associates, Inc., came up with a design that allowed manufacture without the then usual hand selection of parts. "Regency" was used, by the way, because one of the founders smoked "Regency" cigarettes. "Regency" sounded less nerdy than I.D.E.A. Much engineering input including the fundamental circuit came from a company in Dallas that had had its birth in the oil business and from which we were to hear a wee bit more as it finally surmounted the problems of fabricating the integrated circuit, one Texas Instruments by name.
Mr. Boxer's expensive transistor receiver, the very first, the Regency TR-1 made with T.I.'s transistors. Here's Totsuko's (Sony's) triumph, the TR-52 and Totsuko's TR-55, the first production radio receiver for Japan, both with transistors made by Totsuko themselves. Morita was a man of innovation. The TR-63 , a little smaller than Regency "pocket" receiver, was advertised as "pocketable". The fact was that it would not fit into the pocket of a man's dress shirt so Morita had special shirts made for his salesmen. They had a pocket slightly larger than normal and would accommodate Sony's new, miniature, TR-63! This receiver, the TR-63, was the first official Sony export to North America. J.A.L. flew in 20,000 of them for Christmas of 1957. In 1958, the Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, Totsuko, adopted its brand name as its company name and became the Sony Corporation.
Back to Dragnet.
Now if you dig the real, original Jack Webb and Ben Alexander (badge 613), Nicholas Benton Alexander, Dragnet, the only real Dragnet, indulge yourself in this site. Look again at streets full of post war Fords, stores with electromechanical cash registers, a streetcar trundling past the cop shop, parking a nickel an hour ("Used to be a penny." grumbles Smith) and police communication by land line telephone alone. "R. and I." is a vast room full of filing cabinets and Cardex trays staffed by a least a dozen girls. The same job today could be done by Joe himself right in his car using a laptop equipped with a c.d. or d.v.d. r.o.m. reader. With Wi-Fi or a wireless connection to a local coffee shop, he wouldn't even need that. Here you can actually watch that real Dragnet with an impossibly fresh faced and boyish Jack Webb along with good old comfortable Ben Alexander in those glorious days of innocence in the U.S. before bugging laws and the Miranda precedent.
What was Sergeant Joe Friday's residential address and who did his housekeeping?
Yarborough and Webb. (Wow, look at that! Joe has Argyle socks.
Now when did you last see Argyle socks?)
Dragnet was the real, original radio and television Dragnet. Badge 714 was the same material in television syndication. Dragnet 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970 were the cleansed, eviscerated, Dragnets tidied up in response to the new legal atmosphere in the United States. Dragnet ran from 1951 to 1959 and then was syndicated and shown as Badge 714.
The syndicated Dragnet was in monochrome and, as it continued in syndication, it came to contain scenes of police procedures by then illegal in the United States. For those reasons it disappeared from the air in that country. In case of a nostalgia attack, go here for chapter and verse on what to rent before going down to the video store. A certain winner and inexpensive is T.V. Classics number 06849. That d.v.d. r.o.m. contains shows from 1953, half a century ago fellow alumni! Also highly recommended is a recently purchased "Allegro" branded package, I.S.B.N. 978-1-58710-008-6. That is a package of two discs containing eight hours of Joe smoking, looking over R.and I., smoking, using stenographers, smoking and otherwise showing us the world of our formative years. Everybody does a lot of smoking, too. It is particularly recommended because of the technical quality. Real care has been taken in the transcription of the grotty old, low gamma monochrome films. They have managed to avoid the washouts and blocking that had seemed inevitable; kinescope was a technology with substantial limitations. Sadly, the shows do not have the theme. Presumably it is still in copyright.
As you are looking at these shows, mull the fact that they were produced by real professionals. Webb was the captain of the ship as well as acting in each show. Nonetheless, when the company was up to speed and with all the sets available, they could crank out two shows a week regularly and sometimes do three in a week.
Oh, yeah: care to guess the telephone extension number at Universal Studios for Webb's office?
The L.A.P.D. effectively retired badge number 714 when it became so well known because of the series. Have a look at this site if you are an aficionado. (According to his daughter, the real, original, badge 714 belonged to Sgt. Dan Cooke. Cooke assisted Webb with technical advice and script subjects. After Cooke's death, his daughter says, Cooke's widow donated the badge to the L.A.P.D. Police Academy's Museum where it now resides. On Webb's passing, apparently an official retirement of the badge number was made. Consult this authoritative and otherwise excellent site to follow up here.)
Here's a dose of Dragnet! Programs from the very beginning. Hear how Webb started out for the first six months and then, in January of 1950, how the classical Dragnet format emerged: http://www.otr.net/?p=drag .
George Fenneman was the announcer all through the series both on radio and television. You can hear him at the above site announcing in the unfamiliar, early format. Hal Gibney was a long time announcer in the radio series who shared duties with Fenniman and both did the cigarette commercial announcements.
You thought that Webb was incapable of a smile? Mrs. Webb made it happen in 1953 and here's the proof!
. . Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Troup appearing in Webb's Emergency.
Sadly, the beautiful, graceful, Julie London (Peck) , the nursie above, passed away not long ago. She had been Mrs. Robert William Troup. She and her husband had had regular rôles in one of Webb's later shows, Emergency. Troup had played the part of a physician and London that of a nurse. The connection here is that London had been Webb's wife after the war and into the fifties while that real, original, Dragnet series had been coming to life. So, while his character did not take his hat off indoors, Webb exhibited taste in his personal life.
(Oh, yeah. Speaking of Walter Schumann, did you know he had worked as a composer and conductor for, gasp, Spike Jones and the City Slickers? Felix Slatkin once sawed the strings for Jones, too. Webb, by the way, owned the Dragnet theme outright. The radio series had done very well and when the television films joined it, the disc of the theme began to sell very well and Webb was able to use the proceeds to help flesh out the production budget for the television series. The original theme recordings were: 78 r.p.m. single, Dragnet by Ray Anthony, Capitol 2562, 1953; and 45 r.p.m. single, Dragnet by Ray Anthony Capitol MA-1-1587, 1953. The music which accompanies the stamping of "Mark VII" is scored for timpani and anvil!)
(Have a look at the hoods in this movie clip! Two of them you will recognize.)
"The Story You've just Seen is True."
Sic Transit Gloria Viae
The logo and today's unromantic reality.
. . .Troup, appearing in a later Dragnet episode.
Now Troup may have been an actor of modest exposure (he resurfaced driving a Jeep in Altman's M.A.S.H., about the right rôle) but he was a musician. He distinguished himself as a song writer, too. He had had a huge commercial success in 1946 and it's still going strong.
Every time Nelson Riddle's arrangement of the theme for Route 66 brings back a flood of memories; thank that Jeep driver in M.A.S.H. It was Troup who had written that music for us children of the 'sixties.
When you watch The Big Boys episode, pay special attention to the criminal Julius Harvey Carver, the fellow with a William Fairbanks moustache. That actor receives bottom billing. His role is that of an 18 year old and the actor looks just the right age. If you don't recognize the face, pay attention to the voice. Fill yer tank with permium: more versions here, here and, the ultimate, the suave Mr. Cole here.