— from The Badge by Jack Webb (a nonfiction book, 1958)p> Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, California — December 13, 1982 br> The last thing I wanted to do was get Jack Webb angry with me. Yet here I was — a lowly studio script reader — at the legendary Cock and Bull honored with an end seat at his corner table in the room off the bar, listening in as Jack and his cronies conducted their daily tour de horizon of the way things were. Even a first time visitor caught on quickly that this living legend inhabited a binary world with no gray area, composed of good and evil, friend or foe, cop and criminal, saints and whores. /p>
More often than not, people who articulate such a polarized worldview draw a comfort and serenity from its symmetry and simplicity. But not Jack, not now. One of this town’s greatest “hyphenates” (actor, writer, producer, director), Webb was at this moment exercised to the extreme. On all visible fronts — Hollywood, the culture, the nation — it was the dark side — the bad guys, the crooks and the a**holes — that appeared to be winning. I immediately wanted to be this man’s friend, partly because of the exhilaration of being in his presence and partly because I was already terrified of the alternative.
“Jack Webb is the most under-appreciated auteur in this town,” I had told an acquaintance just a few days previously, when he mentioned in a Hollywood-casual kind of way that he was developing a project with the legend. “Most creative giants are considered a success if they develop or become associated with a single genre giant such as Chaplin, Sennett, Hitchcock, Gene Autry, David Lean,” I continued. “Compared to Webb, they’re one-trick ponies. Not only did he create a distinct genre and narrative style for television and radio — police procedural (Dragnet) — Webb created several distinct feature film paradigms that Hollywood has been knocking off for thirty years. Compare his D.I. to An Officer and a Gentleman. Compare his -30- to All the President’s Men. Compare Pete Kelly’s Blues to countless musical/drama/performance flicks. Moreover, his book The Badge re-opened the Black Dahlia case and indirectly spawned the Hollywood Babylon genre which includes important works such as Chinatown and True Confessions.”
To be sure, my rant was spoken like a severely over-analytical script reader. But when I had finished, the businessman and his partner were beaming. The moment passed, but the next day this same acquaintance called me up for the first time.
“Jack wants to meet you.”
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