Saturday, February 28, 2015

Alzheimers Movies, Books and Songs

Alzheimer's Disease in Movies and Songs

It's hard to have the time to escape when you're in the midst of caretaking for
Promotional poster for 1985
Do You Remember Love

Dave Bell Associates, Inc. 
someone with Alzheimers or dementia. When you get a break, it's sometimes hard to relax your mind. It's also easy to feel that you're all alone in this. September is World Alzheimer's Month. 

While your situation is completely unique, it's got a similarity to what others have gone through and are going through and there are people you can talk to for support. Being a dementia caregiver can be isolating. Watching a movie together may help get discussions going within the family.

There are movies and songs you can sample on the Amazon site if you choose to do so. Watch a trailer. Sometimes watching or listening might finally give you that excuse to cry for the first time in a long time. 

They may help to relieve a bit of your caregiver stress if only for a moment. Many of the items on this page, CDs, DVDs, etc make wonderful caregiver gifts.

I'm including what were some of the most helpful informative books and documentaries on video, too. Mostly, this page has movies and songs that deal with getting older, caregiving or directly with Alzheimers. If you're one of the many Alzheimer's and/or dementia caregivers out there, please leave any more you might know of in the comment section at the end.

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

Is a progressive and fatal brain disease. As many as 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer's gets worse over time, and it is fatal. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. The web site and books can help you with the Warning Signs and Stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

September is World Alzheimer's Month. Think about participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's or sponsoring a walker.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Other types of dementia include vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and frontotemporal dementia.

It has no current cure. But treatments for symptoms, combined with the right services and support, can make life better for the millions of Americans living with Alzheimer's. There is an accelerating worldwide effort under way to find better ways to treat the disease, delay its onset or prevent it from developing. 

Iris about the author Iris Murdoch

Alzheimer's Themed Films to stream, get on DVD - Helping you to realize that you're not alone

Films to consider:

Iris, a film about the English author Iris Murdoch Stars include Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent who won an Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor, Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville.

I Never Sang for My Father: with Melvyn Douglas and Gene Hackman, director Gilbert Cates

The Savages: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Firefly Dreams: A Japanese film with Maho, Tsutomu Niwa, Etsuko Kimata, Shunsuke Kabeya, Atsushi Ono

Sundowning: Minor Rootes, Steve Jones, director Jim Cole
You may find them on DVD or on television

Still Alice, Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her performance. Costars are Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart. Still Alice is available for pre-order. You may want to read Lisa Genova’s best selling novel.

U Me Aur Hum: Bollywood DVD with Ajay Devgan and Kajol, director: Ajay Devgan

Tracy & Jess: Living with Early Onset Alzheimer's 

The Alzheimer's Project 4-part HBO documentary Maria Shriver

The documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me includes the song I'm Not Gonna Miss You which was an Academy Award nominee. Tim McGraw sang the song as a tribute to the singer at the awards ceremony in February 2015 when Campbell was not able to attend.
I'm Not Gonna Miss You, Glen Campbell

Hanging Up
The film received mixed reviews but is a good look at family and how you may deal with an
aging parent.
"Hanging Up deserves credit for combining issues of sisterhood and elderly parent care while relying on neuroses to carry its unconventional plot.

But you've also got to lament this botched "dramedy" from screenwriting sisters Nora and Delia Ephron (adapting the latter's novel) and director Diane Keaton, who lacks a coherent plan for illuminating their trio of female siblings."

Three sisters bond over their ambivalence toward the approaching death of their curmudgeonly father, to whom none of them was particularly close - Amazon

Video contains
Deleted sequence

Outake Gag Reel
HBO First Look: Getting Connected, the Making of Hanging Up.
Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron

Variety of Films, Documentaries, DVDs helpful to, made by, about and specifically for caregivers

Sandwich: Film about a woman handling her mother's Alzheimer's while bringing up her own daughter

Edith and Michel 

Forget Me Not

The Forgetting Featuring David Hyde Pierce

A Short History of Decay

Grace: The Alzheimer's Documentary, William-Whiteford

Alzheimer's Dementia Hands-On Care DVD: "The Art of Caregiving" with Care Expert Teepa Snow. There are several titles with high user ratings to choose from: Alzheimer's Care with Teepa Snow

Academy Award Nominated Short Films

A Collection of 2006 Academy Award Nominated Short Films
Academy Award Nominated Short Films including.....(Not Alzheimer's specific themes, but these are a couple of very good short films with older characters) Included in the set are:

Eramos Pocos (One Too Many) (Spain)
In this comedy, Joaquin, a husband and father, finds that his wife has left him. Joaquin seeks his son's help in bringing home his mother-in-law from the nursing home to do the housework. Beautifully portrayed with an interesting turn of events.

Helmer & Son (Denmark)
A son is called to the rest home where his recently admitted father has locked himself inside a closet. Distinguished by a good dialogue, the short provides an insight on the relationship of father and son.

 Do you remember love? 1985 TV movie
Joanne Woodward

Joanne Woodward
CBS film about Alzheimer's Disease. This isn't easily found, but being from  the mid-1980s, it was a landmark film and important to talk about. In a year with other fine performances, Ms. Woodward won the  Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie for her role.

Barbara Wyatt-Hollis is an English professor who begins to fall under the effects of Alzheimer's. The film documents her decline and the emotional turmoil it causes for her. It also shows how the changes impact her husband, George and their children. The film also looks at the process by which families can be educated and supported to deal with the impact of the disease, as well what is done for those afflicted.

Excerpts from a March 1985 New York Times article about the movie;

"Cancer, heart disease and disabling strokes have already served as the bases of television dramas, and now Mr. Bell's company has just completed shooting a movie about Alzheimer's disease, Do You Remember Love, for CBS. The disease, a neurological disorder that causes loss of memory and confusion - which may leave victims incapable of caring for themselves - currently affects more than two million Americans and has no known cure.

"The film was directed by Jeff Bleckner, who won an Emmy last year for his direction of Concealed Enemies, the PBS dramatization of the Alger Hiss case. Joanne Woodward stars as an award-winning poet and college professor stricken with Alzheimer's disease; Richard Kiley co-stars as her husband, and Geraldine Fitzgerald plays her mother. The movie will be broadcast in May.

"Although the film makers were initially wary of doing another affliction drama, they concluded that this one had qualities that set it apart from the routine tear-jerkers. 'There's something about this disease which is especially frightening, because it attacks the most precious thing we have as human beings, our mental faculties,' Mr. Bleckner said.

"Although there is little hope for victims of the disease, Mr. Bell said Miss Patik's script still found a way to accentuate the positive. 'In the film,'' he said, 'Joanne's family becomes closer because of the disease. They cope with tragedy in a very loving way.'

For Miss Woodward, the subject had more than clinical interest. The actress's mother, Mr. Bleckner said, is an Alzheimer's victim. 'I think Joanne was often quite depressed while doing the film,' Mr. Bleckner said. 'On our last day, we shot in a real convalescent home with many victims of Alzheimer's disease. Joanne got very quiet, and you could tell that it upset her. But she's a consummate professional, and her work was never affected.'"

Alzheimers Disease Cross & Heart Tee Shirt
by fightcancertees
There are many shirt designs to choose from,
Personalize and customize

Retro Vintage Kitsch Poster A Year From Now? T Shirt
by seemonkee

Spending time with those we love.
It can be frustrating, it's tough, it's important

~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~

Songs and Music

Neighbor Dan song about early-onset Alzheimer's
- Dave Maloney

Silent House by The Dixie Chicks
can be found on the CD, Taking The Long Way
Amazon Prime members get a very special deal on this and other MP3s

This is one of the songs on this page that we listened to when we were caregiving for some of the family members who've lived with Alzheimer's Disease.

Silent House, Emily Robison excerpt

One room
Two single beds
In the closet hangs
Your favorite dress
The books that you read
Are in scattered piles
Of paper shreds

Everything that you made by hand
Everything that you know by heart

And I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
And I'll remember the years
When your mind was clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house
Silent house

Tom Paxton
Live For the Record
Tom Paxton Live: For the Record
He's forgotten the names of trees
This CD includes the poignant Names Of Trees
excerpt of the lyrics by Tom Paxton and Susan Graham White:

... There are days when he'll recall the forest in the fall,
When we can walk for hours together, and he's fine
There are precious days like that
when he can name them all;
The ash, the elm, the beech, the oak, the pine.
He's forgotten the names of trees ...

Live for the Record  may sell out, be temporarily sold out at elsewhere. Please also try link above.
Live albums don't usually stay in my rotation for too long, and only the best overtly political material stays fresh in my experience. So I'm surprised at how much I still like Live For the Record after nearly four years. As you know if you've been to a Tom Paxton concert in recent years, he starts off his concerts with what he calls "short shelf-life" songs - brief songs about current events that are, in his own words "of diminishing interest to us all."

This disc opens with a clutch of such songs on mid-1990s people and events such as Lorena Bobbitt, Bob Packwood and the 104th Congress; they do sound dated now, but they're still good for a laugh. More seriously, On the Road to Sribinica is the most positively haunting of the few Bosnia songs I've heard; this alone is worth the price of the disc. From there, Paxton switches back and forth with remarkable ease from the serious to the sentimental to the hilarious, a skill which has always been his strongest point as a songwriter and performer.

His band is in fine form throughout the show; it's often hard to believe this was a live recording! There are great renditions of most of his classics (The Last Thing on my Mind, Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound, Ramblin' Boy) as well as his trademark love songs (Dance in the Kitchen, You Are Love) and satire (Modern Maturity and an updating of What Did You Learn in School? that never fails to make my Republican friends angry!) -- Amazon

For My Broken Heart Reba McEntire MP3s or CD 

The album was Reba's first new album in a few years, after the tragic death of her band on a plane. The pain and remorse is evident in her voice, on the title track, which is one of her best songs from the 90's.

Elsewhere, the album offers other great songs which will forever be remembered. Is There Life Out There is another great song about a mother who is working a job, raising two kids and going to college. Its a spirited performance by Reba, who gives the song life.

Her cover of The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia is a great performance as well, as if the song was written for her to sing it. The album shows Reba's ability as a singer to convey different emotions and to get the message she wants to send out to the listener. 

Other highlights include He's In Dallas, If I Had Only Known and Buying Her Roses. A must have. Give it a listen. -- Amazon

Not intended for to be about loss of memory, Too Many Memories is from the Tom Rush CD, What I Know. The song is available on MP3

Once a future so bright now seems distant and cold
And the shadows grow long and your eyes look so old
When there's too many memories for one heart to hold
Now there are those moments
And they just never fade
Like the look in her eyes
And the way the light played

God moved in that moment
And the angels all cried
And they gave you a memory
that you'll have til you die
And the lesson you've learned
And you don't dare forget
What makes you grow old is replacing hope with regret
When there's too many memories for one heart to hold 

Neurologist and author, Dr. Oliver Sacks speaks about music and memory

Alzheimer's: The Answers You Need
A book to answer questions for the person with the disease

Many books about Alzheimer's disease assume that family caregivers or professionals are reading them. Alzheimer's: The Answers You Need is the first book written expressly for the patient. The book assumes that people with AD are intelligent, sensitive and desperately seeking answers to questions about their condition. Moreover, the book does not overwhelm with information nor does it condescend in attempts to convey a point.-- Amazon

I Remember Better When I Paint: Art and Alzheimer's Choose DVD and/or paperback book to accompany. "
I Remember Better When I Paint, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is a documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer's and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease."

The 36-Hour Day A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias and Memory Loss (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book)
This is the book that our relative's doctors suggested. It was very helpful to us. Choose the most recent edition.
It has been estimated that five percent of older people suffer from severe intellectual impairment. So these two eloquent and readable guides will be much in demand as the number of families facing the challenge of caring for a relative with some form of dementing illness continues to grow.

First published in 1981, The 36-Hour Day follows the format of the previous editions but has been thoroughly updated to incorporate new information on the latest research, several drugs that hold promise, and genetic aspects of Alzheimer's. The heart of the guide remains unchanged, focusing on helping families cope with this progressive and irreversible disease. Besides tips on how to care for the demented during the various stages of the disease (for example, place a picture of a toilet on the bathroom door), the text discusses the different kinds of help available and how to seek it. Financial and legal issues are well covered, while sections on nursing homes and other alternative living arrangements provide advice and practical suggestions.

Appendixes list recent books, videos, web sites, and U.S. and international organizations. Both titles are highly recommended: Rabins and Mace for the practical help and advice, Jones for her eloquent presentation of a comprehensive program that treats patients with dignity. Cleveland Clinic Fdn. (C) 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Please Note:
Other songs, films and books will be added. What are some that have helped you?
  ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~ ~o~o~o~

Related Pages of Interest:

Painting as Therapy for Persons with Alzheimers  

A list of celebrities with Alzheimer's Disease and/or Dementia

Alzheimer's Disease Programs at Museums: Art appreciation, therapy

Cinematic Journeys From One Traumatic Transition to Another: Puberty, Aging, Alzheimer's

Join Amazon Prime (Free Month; One Year Membership) Streaming Movies & TV Shipping Discounts and more - Watch Over 40,000 Movies, HBO shows & specials, Wide selection of new/old movies, foreign films and documentaries compared to other streaming video sites and the yearly price is about the same. 

1985: Joanne Woodward won the Emmy for her work in Do You Remember Love? There were so many strong performances by women in important and memorable films and miniseries that year. Several were taken from books. Other nominees for the Primetime Emmy that year included Farrah Fawcett in a much praised performance in The Burning Bed, a story about a battered wife. It was taken from a non-fiction book.  

Mary Tyler Moore in Heartsounds, playing Martha Weinman Lear former editor of The New York Times Magazine in a film dealing with heart disease. Jane Alexander for Malice in Wonderland which was based on the 1972 novel Hedda and Louella: A Dual Biography of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. Elizabeth Taylor was Louella Parsons. Alexander was Hedda Hopper. Finally Peggy Ashcroft in the very popular The Jewel in the Crown.

Friday, February 27, 2015

1950s Comic Strip Detective Joe Friday Dragnet

What you are about to read is true
1950s Dragnet Comic Strip

"Realizing the lack of a completely authentic comic strip story of a metropolitan
Dragnet newspaper comic strip
began October 1953
police force in action, the producers of the famous Dragnet program including creator Jack Webb, have arranged for the presentation of their stories in picture form. 

"The series will go behind the scenes with Detective Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner."

A reader of this blog reminded me of yet another aspect of the Dragnet show. 

There was a comic strip that ran in newspapers. As with the TV show, they advertised the comic strip after some of the radio shows. There was also a Mad Magazine parody.

They built interest and excitement with a series of illustrated ads such as the one above. They were published in a countdown type fashion. Each featured the comic likeness of the Joe Friday character. Finally we saw, "Starts Today!"

Running only on weekdays, I found it in one newspaper, The Miami Daily News 1953-1954. 

The Miami Daily News at least implied that they published the Dragnet comic exclusively though the ad that followed the radio show didn't suggest that. The comics would, in return, have ads for the times and local stations where people could see or listen to the show.

Dragnet tv show comic strip announcement in newspaper
Announcement of the Dragnet comic October 19, 1953
The comic-strip is said to have run 1953-1955 and could be found in multiple newspapers. 

On a brief search of other available US papers, I couldn't find it during that time period.  That definitely doesn't mean it didn't run elsewhere.

The radio version of Dragnet began in 1949, the TV show started in 1951, with its color revival in 1967.

When movies or TV shows get this pervasive you start hearing the inevitable joke asking for a Dragnet on Ice version. 

"It was Thursday, July 16th. It was warm in the city. We were working General Assignment out of Hollywood Division. My partner is Frank Smith. The boss is Captain Bert Jones. My names' Friday. We'd gotten a call from a real estate agent that some property had been stolen from a bungalow in the Hollywood area. We had to check it out." 

"What you are about to read is true"
October 19, 1953 premiere of the
Dragnet Comic Strip
"Every relevant and interesting phase of police procedure will be shown in the Dragnet strip. The correct procedure for fingerprinting, ballistics and testing, as well as investigations, line-ups and interrogations will be covered. 

"The stories in Dragnet are true complete and authentic in every sense. Every incident in the comic strip is carefully checked and receives police approval for authenticity."
-- Miami Daily News, October 13, 1953

Other comic strips of the time period included Alley Oop, Joe Palooka, Major Hoople, Pogo, Myrtle, Mutt and Jeff, Dottie Dripple, Disney's Donald Duck, Dixie Dugan, Snuffy Smith, Mickey Finn, Captain Easy, Mary Worth, Kerry Drake, Marlin Keel, Roy Rogers, Secret Agent X9, Hopalong Cassidy, Orphan Annie and There Ought Be A Law.

Like George M. Cohan, Orson Welles and others, Jack Webb was intent on getting his name and his brand name out there wherever he could. Director William Castle learned this same lesson when he worked with Orson Welles. 

"Realizing the lack of a completely authentic comic strip story of a metropolitan police force in action," what a great line for marketers and creative types. There is something the world lacks that only you can provide.

Dragnet Comic Strip 1954, "All right Crawford, what have you got for us?"
I am no expert on the show, this comic or comics in general.  If you have interest in comic art, artists, illustrators, illustrated books, you should check out a publication ImageS created by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. He is very knowledgeable on the subject, having written a book and been a consultant for others.

Most very reasonably priced these days, the show had its share of paperback tie-ins and included Dragnet "Case Histories from the Popular TV Series."

Dragnet: The Case of the Courteous Killer even has a Kindle version In this book, Joe Friday has been promoted to Lieutenant. He had that rank briefly during the run of the show but had the character made a Sergeant again, deciding that sergeants saw more action.

Related pages of interest:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dragnet 1950s classic TV show

Dragnet Early Television Cop Series
Sgt. Joe Friday

It was Thursday, February 26th. It was sultry in Los Angeles.... A radio favorite since 1949 Dragnet hit America's television screens in 1951. Sergeant Joe Friday was a cop in Los Angeles, California. 

One of the first police procedurals, Webb was strict about doing things as he saw them done by the actual LAPD. He reportedly liked to have telephone prefixes and department numbers matched what he saw at the real Los Angeles Police Department. The show was responsible for recruiting new officers. 

Dragnet was one of the first media franchises, radio and television shows, spin-offs, paperback tie-ins and films. This article deals primarily with the early black-and-white episodes. A few of the first television shows displayed the title Badge 714 in the opening credits. You can even watch some episodes right here. Best known as an actor, Jack Webb was also a writer and preferred his roles as producer and director.

A huge fan of jazz music, Webb employed a number of jazz musicians as actors including well known jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon.

1955 TV Guide Jul 23
Janet Leigh and Jack Webb

Pete Kelly's Blues
What's the definition of a Dragnet? We still hear the term used today.  It can be defined as a  system for finding or catching someone, particularly criminals. 

Oh, being an odd bird myself, I always liked it when Friday said it was "sultry in Los Angeles." Not sure what he meant by that, but whoa, what a way to start your shift. You just waited to hear if the suspect was "sullen and uncooperative."

"This is the city, Los Angeles, California"  

The show was also part travelogue. There was information about how the city was founded, the weather and agriculture, how the area had changed over the years. The statistics he, as narrator, quotes about the city, its population for instance, are factual for the time.

Episodes included visits to motion picture studios, taking viewers onto movie sets. We saw aerial and street views of 1950s LA, the cars. The current viewer is getting a time capsule of 1950s (or 1960s) Los Angeles.

The Dragnet TV show won four Emmy Awards (13 overall nominations). The Dragnet theme is instantly recognizable.  Also in 1955 Walter Schumann won the Emmy for Best Original Music Composed for TV for the Dragnet Theme. Jack Webb personally was nominated for five Emmy awards in the categories of directing and acting.

Meet Joe Friday, he's a cop

Cops, as Webb saw them were stoic, everything was by the book. They handled all that they saw, just getting on with business. Most of the show dealt with the work.

The unmarried Joe Friday lived with his mother. Later he had an apartment. Viewers/listeners knew little about his personal life. His partners tried to fix him up and at least once he had a relationship with a policewoman.

While Frank Smith checks something out on the phone,
suspect Carolyn Jones gives Friday the eye
We saw him occasionally flirt, usually when he was undercover. Women, suspects for instance, would flirt with him. There's a cute scene with a flirtatious young, blonde Carolyn Jones in The Big Girl (later Mortitia on The Addams Family). Buddy shows and cop shows that center around partners often make for good drama. Finding hints of any bromance on 1950s TV can take a microscope.

In one episode a woman's husband has been missing for days. She is scared and complains that maybe they're not trying hard enough to find him. At one point, she comes in and yells at them. 

We hear Friday's thoughts. It's something like, "You can't get mad at people. They're in trouble. And besides, it's against policy." 

Joe kept his emotions in check. He calmly explains to her what they're doing step by step and she feels better. 

You may think of Joe Friday as a homicide detective, but he moved from department to department in order to give us a view of a range of different types of police work. This may have been one of the few things a real LAPD officer wouldn't do, at least not as frequently as Sgt. Friday did it.  

In all incarnations of Dragnet, Friday's partners gave an idea of off-the-job relationships and provided brief bursts of humor. His partners were usually more rounded characters. They often had tales of problems with their wives, in-laws, kids, neighbors, pets and home repair. Their interactions with Friday can be some of the best bits on the shows.

"I carry a badge," Number 714

LAPD Lieutenant Daniel Cooke was the real LAPD technical advisor. He reviewed scripts for films and television shows. Cooke worked with Webb and the two became friends. Lieutenant Cooke's badge number was 714. 

When Dragnet the television show premiered, Webb gave Sgt Friday badge number 714 and made it the logo of the program. It was also a significant prop. Webb presented the badge to Lt. Cooke as a token of thanks.

When Cooke died in 1999, his widow donated the Dragnet Sergeant's badge to
the Webb Museum at the Police Academy in Elysian Park.  I've read that the famous badge is in fact there with a plaque beside it.

Part of this information from a May 1999 LAPD News Release announcing the death of Retired Lieutenant Daniel Cooke

The Big Oskar
1958: Discovery of stolen silver turns out to be more than initially thought. Character actress Amzie Strickland is Mrs. Face.

Just the facts:
1949-1957 Dragnet began as a radio program, "The story you're about to hear is true..."

1951-1959 Its first run on television, concurrent with the radio show. Joe Friday's primary partners are Barton Yarborough (Ben Romero) and then Ben Alexander (Frank Smith).

1967-1970 A color revival of Dragnet with Harry Morgan as his new partner, Officer Bill Gannon.

1989 The New Dragnet starred Jeff Osterhage and Bernard White as the detectives. Don Stroud was their captain.

2003 L.A. Dragnet on ABC, starring Ed O'Neill as Joe Friday and Ethan Embry as Frank Smith. The show was produced by Dick Wolf. His successful Law &Order franchise said to have been influenced by Dragnet.

While he wanted the facts, Joe Friday never said, "Just the facts, ma'am." The phrase can be found in the Stan Freberg parody recording. What "You dirty rat" is to James Cagney or "Judy, Judy, Judy" is to Cary Grant, "Just the facts, Ma'am" is to Dragnet.

Workaholic Webb had a Dragnet themed wedding cake
when he married second wife, Dorothy Towne

Jack Webb Magazine Photo clipping 8x10 1page

Film versions
Dragnet 1954 film Alexander, and Richard Boone. Dennis Weaver and Ann Robinson. She said in an interview that she'd had a crush on Jack Webb. [In case you were wondering, this isn't the same Anne Robinson who hosted the 2000's quiz show The Weakest Link.]

Dragnet 1966 TV movie initiated the return of series onto TV. Actors included  Bobby Troup, Virginia Gregg, Vic Perrin, Gene Evans and of course the introduction of Harry Morgan as Joe's partner, Officer Bill Gannon.
(Released 1969)

Dragnet 1987 A campy movie starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks. Harry Morgan is in the film, also Christopher Plummer, Elizabeth Ashley, Dabney Coleman, Alexandra Paul, Kathleen Freeman, Jack O'Halloran. -- *There's a video treat with Hanks and Aykroyd at the end of the article.

The Big Sorrow

In 1951, Dragnet couldn't help but get real. Actor Barton Yarborough who played Sergeant Ben Romero, died unexpectedly at 51 years old. He'd been
Joe Friday's first partner on radio and then the television version, appearing in only the first two episodes.

While dealing with their colleague's death off-screen, the Dragnet team put together an episode, The Big Sorrow, showing how the the characters might handle the sudden death of their friend, Ben Romero.

There are radio and TV versions. This was 1951 not the 2000s or even the 1970s. Joe and Ben weren't Starsky and Hutch. The episode is respectful and well done. There would be a handful of references to Ben Romero throughout the original run of the show.

Full Police Honors:
When Jack Webb died in 1982, flags were flown at half-staff at police stations across the city. Police Chief Daryl Gates said the badge 174 issued to Webb for the Dragnet series was retired from service to honor the actor. He was given a police funeral with full honors. 

Police Commander William Booth said, "I am certain that it's the first time that we have had a memorial service like this for a non-officer. ... In our view he dedicated a great part of his profession to maintaining or giving this department a very positive image internationally. 

"He did some things personally for the department. ... A lot of our training facilities at the academy are housed in buildings donated by Jack Webb through the building fund that he established for the department."
Spartanburg Herald-Journal Spartanburg SC and Gettysburg Times Gettysburg PA; December 1982

Actor Harry Morgan talks about Dragnet and working with Jack Webb

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this program is for you, not your children"

A memorable line, "What you're about to see is true," was real. Plots were taken from true cases and it was said that Webb offered to pay cops who submitted experiences that could be made into plots for the show.

The topics were quite daring for the time. Don't let anyone suggest that certain behavior or crime didn't exist way back when. In the past as a whole, films and television shows were not enlightened as we are today when it came to how they portrayed characters or cast actors.

On occasions, usually when the theme dealt with harm that came to children, the radio show may have been preceded by a warning about adult content.
On Dragnet they had
all the latest Police Technology
Original Lobby Card

Episodes dealt with gangs, drunk driving, drug addiction, spouse abuse/murder, child abandonment and neglect, child molestation and murder, teen girls lured into pornography/prostitution. A newborn baby was stolen from a hospital nursery. There were corrupt police officers and at least one serial killer. 

In The Big Girl a beautiful woman is robbing and beating motorists. Turns out it's a man dressed as a woman. Their suspect has been living in an apartment building for women.  

Both the 1950s and 1960s series dealt with racism and antiSemitism. 

A 1960s episode The Big Explosion deals with a white-supremacist planning to blow up a building but he won't say where the dynamite is. Friday has to figure it out before there's major loss of innocent life.  

The con men (and women) in these shows are using scams we still have to watch out for today. Burglars scoured newspapers for wedding or funeral ads. When would someone be away from home so they could rob the place? Now we think about bad guys' reading posts on social media.

A Gun for Christmas or The Big .22 Rifle for Christmas

Perhaps the most controversial in which parents are giving their nine-year-old a rifle as a present. Their son finds it before the holiday, opens it and a child is killed. 
It shows an aspect of gun violence, guns in the home that are found and used by children. Herb Ellis (as he does here) played Officer Frank Smith a handful of episodes. Ben Alexander was best known for playing Smith.


The Big Mother 1952:  
Something we see occasionally in the news, much less these days, is the kidnapping of a child from a hospital nursery. Barney Phillips plays Friday's partner, Sgt. Ed Jacobs. Peggy Webber, who appeared on many television and radio episodes, is featured in this episode as Roberta Salazar. While Webb did employ a variety of actors, as with films and TV shows of the time they were apt to have Caucasian actors portraying ethnic characters. *Some of these episodes may be louder than others.

The Big Crime 1954 
One of at least two episodes of the early Dragnet show that dealt with child molestation. The cast includes character actors Irene Tedrow and Jack Kruschen, who is better known for his comedic roles. 

On a recent, March 2015, episode of The Talk, the panel was discussing child safety and a couple's allowing their 10 and 6-year-old children to walk a mile home from a park unattended. Sharon Osbourne made a good point. Instead of focusing on their walk home, it's important to note that that predators could be at a park.  

And when there was the suggestion that these crimes didn't happen "when we were kids," Aisha Tyler made a very good observation that they probably did happen and we didn't hear about them. Things like this weren't talked about. Along with that, there weren't as many means to publicize incidents when they did happen. Does anyone even talk about latchkey kids anymore?

The more broad issue of child abuse was a theme in several episodes of Dragnet in the 1950s and 1960s.

In a 1960s episode, Friday and Officer Gannon search for a burglary suspect dressed in a bright green cape and Napoleon hat who only steals photos of an old comic-strip hero, Captain Lightning. The teen feels empowered when dressed as his favorite superhero. 

Actor Tim Donnelly appears. You can get a full season on DVD or stream just one episode on Amazon. This is referred to as Dragnet 1967 Burglary: DR-31: Dragnet 1969: Season Three.

Parody: Tonight Show Appearance 1968

Though Webb said he didn't like to make fun of his character, and thus in his view make fun of the police, he did occasionally break that rule. An appearance he made on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson is legendary. Webb and Johnny Carson performed what is sometimes called the Copper Clapper Caper sketch.  

In August 1953 Stan Freberg released the satire novelty recording, St. George and the Dragonet. Webb liked the idea so much that he lent Freberg his own orchestra for use on the recording. The song went to  #1 on both the Billboard and Cash Box record charts.

A variant on the theme was used in the video game Donkey Kong. arcade game released by Nintendo in 1981 Music In Video Games: Studying Play talks about how portions of the Dragnet Theme are altered as game play progresses. B-Flat, E-Flat, etc. "Should Mario grab a hammer, the time during which he wields it, it will be accompanied by a B-Flat Major fanfare." 

Technology and the Time:

"Between our frozen dinner
And our bedtime, nine-fifteen
We snuggle watchin' Lucy
On our big, enormous twelve-inch screen
I'm his December Bride
He's Father, he Knows Best
Our kids watch Howdy Doody
As the sun sets in the west
A picture out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine ...."

-- from Somewhere that's green, Little Shop of Horrors a show set in the 1950s/60s

* 1950s technology available to make and watch the first television shows

Webb knew that most people had a small TV,
watching on a 5" to 12" screen. Their reception probably wasn't the best.

"To overcome the small screen size of TV sets of the time, Webb pioneered using a series of quick close up shots between actors.

"'The ping pong dialogue that we used in Dragnet was [because] the small television sets of the time were only about about five inches wide and you couldn't see three people in a master, so he'd break up the sentences.'"

"The result was real life rapid fire dialogue and a production pace that matched it."

-- Quote above by Tom Williams production assistant on Dragnet, from TV Land Moguls 2004

He and everyone creating the show thought about who the audience was and how would they be viewing the final product. Webb's dedication to the police procedural genre and his technical methods of creating his shows made his programs stand apart. He had a distinct style and he stuck to it. Contemporary Rod Serling had positive things to say about Webb in a speech given post-Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. They were both considered icons of the industry.

How does the show look if viewed on our smart phones vs our computers, tablets or current larger television screens? Watching on your phone may give the closest idea of what Jack Webb actually had in mind when he was setting up camera angles for that first series of Dragnet.

* Their intended audience, when the show was made
With any 1950s show, try reading between the lines for the meaning (and sometimes humor). Looking for what they didn't or maybe couldn't say can make these shows even more fun to watch. It can help to catch what they're trying to get across.

Check out this glorious new Westinghouse TV
with electronic magnifier knob

When we were shopping for a 22" television we learned that an LG 22-Inch television is considered a small flat screen TV. It's one of the smallest that some manufacturers make nowadays.

* The stories: Plots, presentation were often influenced by concessions made for sponsors, censors, and/or the network. They also must have had something to do with the actual events, how the situation happened in real life. These shows are windows into the past. This is over 60 years ago.

* Quality of the video and/or audio We're lucky when we can watch full episodes of these black and white '50s shows. Rarely has anyone restored the audio or video. Still they're worth your time. The quality is usually good or at worst, watchable/understandable. 

Limiting ourselves to only free and/or higher-quality restored media really lets other people decide what we see. We miss a lot of history and ideas by only looking at reproductions and restorations.

Pete Kelly's Blues: Another love of Jack Webb's was jazz music.  This was one of his most successful films. Costars included Janet Leigh, Lee Marvin, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee.

This article is part of the Classic TV Detectives Blogathon

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Books and Pages of Interest:

The Earliest Detective TV Shows

Selection of Jack Webb old time radio shows, MP3

Just the Facts, Ma'am: The Athorized Biograhy of Jack Webb: Stacy Webb was one of Jack Webb and Julie London's daughters. She authorized and collaborated on this book. Daniel Moyer and Eugene Alvarez were primary authors. Tragically, Miss Webb was killed in a car accident before the book was published.

Article about Jack Webb Radio Shows, Pre-Dragnet

My Name's Friday: The Unauthorized But True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb

List Old Hollywood Stars Married Holidaytime; Vintage Celebrity Holiday Weddings, New Years, Is your anniversary the same as theirs?

Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks made a Dragnet music video, City of Crime 
to promote the 1987 film

Merry Christmas (early) from Stan Freberg and the Dragnet team