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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Jack Webb Stops The Presses


---30--- (1959) Plays The Mile-A-Minute News Game

This was what washed Jack Webb out of Warner features, but hang it all, the thing grows on me more each time I watch. For authenticity, which news scribes said at the time it lacked, and dialogue irritating for overly cute and clever, still --- 30 --- has unique to Webb dynamism plus he and writer William Bowers' one-of-kind take on news gathering. Insiders at the time thought ---30--- spin on scribes closer to Prohibition than our own times, and aspects are old-fashioned, but it was also no secret that Jack preferred life that way. Consider his takes on law enforcing (Dragnet), music (Pete Kelly's Blues), and our military (The D.I.). In fact, his entire update on Dragnet for 60's consumption was lament for days past when law/order held sway, at least so far as Webb worldview.


---30--- lets good actors overact and ordinary situations be Five Star Finals, Jack himself making live wire entrance of a run up flight of stairs. Bowers wrote sheets of dialogue meant to be clever, and maybe it seemed so on paper, but overfeed of it here takes ---30--- to level of unreality not seen even in city desk comedies like Teacher's Pet. Loopy scoring by Ray Heindorf makes me regret there's not a soundtrack CD available. Jack Webb shot at quick-time and usually under schedule/budget, ---30--- coming in at $509K in negative cost. Unfortunately, it only took back $582K in domestic rentals and $115K foreign (would you have gone in 1959 to see a French or German newspaper drama?). The loss wrote finis for Jack and WB, though they'd later use him to revitalize 77 Sunset Strip. Fifty-five years on, ---30--- must be doing something right, because it went weeks as "Most Viewed" of offerings at Warner Instant, where it plays in HD.  There is really fine production/release background for ---30--- in Michael Hayde's book, My Name's Friday: TheUnauthorized but True Story of Dragnet and the Films of Jack Webb, a most informative and enjoyable read.

7 Comments:

Blogger Bill O said...

Webb "revitalized" 77 Sunset strip by firing everyone but Zimbalist, and stretching one episode to five weeks. Must've looked good in the ledger, but finished off that probably otherwise expiring series.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Brother Herbert said...

In case anyone's wondering, -30- is journalists' code for 'end of story.'

Never seen this film and have seen very few references to it. First time I'd heard of it was a listing in the January 1964 TV GUIDE that commemorated the TV coverage of the JFK assassination.

On a side note, one of my captcha words is 'daymzila.' Is that a really scary femme fatale?

11:53 AM  
Blogger Scott MacGillivray said...

Hey, John, can you sing "BOY!" for us?

11:01 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Now I remember why I shut off "--30--" as a boy: that irritating "BOY!" leitmotif! And even at that age, I, too, thought the dialogue overly-cute and hamfisted.

By the way, John, have you ever seen "He Walked by Night"? Webb has a supporting role; you can tell he was deeply impressed by the movie, because he essentially stole the entire style of the movie, right down to the "This is Los Angeles" intro, when he created "Dragnet."

6:03 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Have seen "He Walked By Night" many times and love it, Kevin. There's actually a GPS post upcoming on this one, but it will be several months before it reaches the front of a long line.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Even the Dragnet theme was accused of being influenced by Miklos Rozsa'a KILLERS score. In the last Dragnet incarnation with Ed O'Neal, the theme is co-credited to Rosza.

7:38 AM  
Blogger tomservo56954 said...

I understand it was on HE WALKED BY NIGHT that Webb met the actual LAPD officer involved with the case upon which the movie was based. He upbraided Webb for his negative portrayal of police officers (on radio shows where Webb played private eyes who invariably showed up the men in blue).


Paul Duca

8:43 PM  

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