Here's how Jack Webb's other Dragnet partner felt about the creator/star

Before Bill Gannon, there was Ben Alexander

NBC/Universal

Working alongside one's boss is no easy feat, especially if that boss created the whole enterprise. That was the case for Ben Alexander, who starred alongside Jack Webb in the latter's first attempt at a Dragnet TV show in 1951.

Webb was the writer and creator behind the then-fledgling Dragnet franchise. At the time, Webb produced three episodes per week. As if this weren't impressive enough, these TV shows supplemented the Dragnet radio show, which, in '56 was releasing two additional stories every other Sunday.

Alexander played Officer Frank Smith, partner to Webb's Sergeant Joe Friday. In a 1956 edition of TV People (Vol. 4, #1), Alexander shared how he felt about his onscreen partner. While it might seem like his employment hinged on a positive quote, Alexander would've actually been toeing the company line if he'd buried Webb. At the time, a particularly nasty rumor portrayed Webb as self-centered and vain. Alexander set the record straight, leaving no question as to who Webb was as a partner.

"The instant I met Jack, my entire life changed for the better. There's simply no one like Jack. He's dynamic, dedicated, creative, brilliant... and so damned nice about it, too! [...] Jack Webb is the greatest guy in the world," said Alexander.

While he attested to Webb's character, Alexander was also quick to praise Webb's merits as an artist. 

"Jack is one man who knows everything about filming a television show," Alexander said. 

"Jack is the creator on Dragnet, while I don't create anything. Jack is the kind of fellow who absorbs knowledge quickly, who has terrific powers of concentration, who just can't be distracted.

"He makes it his business to know everything about cameras, film, lights, sets, angles and scripts... everything!" 

The dedication shows as Dragnet and its various iterations continue to delight fans everywhere! 

Watch Dragnet on MeTV!

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6 Comments

Runeshaper 15 days ago
Sounds like Jack Webb was a really detail-oriented guy.
fob1xxl 15 days ago
Back in 1957 or 1958, Ben Alexander had a Saturday kids talent show that he hosted out of the Oakland, San Francisco Bay area. I was about 11, or 12 and auditioned for the show. I actually won and Ben honored me with another TV appearance on his show and a trophy ! Pretty exciting for a young guy who wanted to get into showbusiness. Years later, in 1964, I duplicated that win again with a talent contest DANNY THOMAS sponsored with KFWB RADIO in Los Angeles. From that, I was offered a guest TV appearance on his TV special and a recording contract with ABC PARAMOUNT RECORDS and recorded with Gramny and Oscar and Emmy nominee and winner Frank DeVol. All starting from an appearance with Ben Alexander !
MrsPhilHarris fob1xxl 14 days ago
Wow! Great story.
justjeff 15 days ago
Ben Alexander was NOT Joe Friday's first partner (Jack Smith). To save space, go to this Wikipedia page for the full rundown... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragnet_(1951_TV_series)#:~:text=His%20personal%20life%20is%20rarely,else%20is%20revealed%20about%20him

Barton Yarborough was Friday's first partner Sgt. Ben Romero, however, Yarborough died of a heart attack at age 51 after filming the second episode.

By the way, in the first ever TV episode ("The Human Bomb"), Raymond Burr portrays Deputy Chief Thad Brown...
TheKodakKid justjeff 15 days ago
Burr had played Webb’s boss on the radio series, before the move to television. If memory serves me correctly, the two of them guest starred on the same episode of the radio version of “Dr. Kildare.” However, it wasn’t as their characters from “Dragnet.”
Adamtwelvia 16 days ago
Jack Webb did seem like a nice guy. Really dedicated too.
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