Saturday, October 18, 2014
It's a little disappointing not to be covering NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE for the Jack Webb Blogathon. As you may know, director John Landis really wanted the DRAGNET star to play Dean Wormer in his 1978 comedy classic (and Kim Novak to play Wormer's wife!). He even met with Webb, who hadn't acted on-screen since a 1971 episode of the Don Adams police sitcom THE PARTNERS. It isn't clear whether Webb turned down the role, Universal rejected the notion, or both. At any rate, John Vernon (CHARLEY VARRICK) was hired to play Wormer and was terrific.
So, to a film that Webb did star in. Not only that, but he was also the director and producer of -30-, Webb's first film since DRAGNET went off the air in 1959 after 276 episodes (and many more on radio).
Webb takes Joe Friday to the big screen and a newspaper office in 1959's -30-, a simultaneously cynical and sentimental drama about reporters and editors pounding a beat, so to speak. And, boy, are they glib, at least according to screenwriter William Bowers (THE GUNFIGHTER), who can’t resist making the whole damn city room sound like a Hope & Crosby routine.
Led by night managing editor Sam Gatlin (Webb), the staff of a big-city newspaper working the 3pm-midnight shift tries to fill pages on what starts out as a slow night.
Before you know it, a lost three-year-old is wandering around the storm drains, rewrite woman Lady’s (Louise Lorimer) test pilot grandson is flying into danger, the boss’ influential friends are touring the newsroom, Gatlin frets over his wife's (HAZEL's Whitney Blake, later the co-creator of ONE DAY AT A TIME) decision to adopt a child, and city editor Jim Bathgate (William Conrad) is risking a buck on the sex of an Italian movie star’s new baby. All while a torrential thunderstorm rages.
Being a Jack Webb joint, the banter occasionally slows for a self-righteous monologue, but the dialogue is generally paced like a DRAGNET episode at 78 rpm. In fact, -30- rips by so quickly that, a minute after learning of a newsroom tragedy, Gatlin and Bathgate are making jokes again. As weird as it is to see Jack Webb laughing, he carries the picture well, and the blustering Conrad (CANNON) nearly steals it off Webb’s shoulders.
Joe Flynn (MCHALE’S NAVY), Richard Deacon (THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW), Howard McNear (THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW), and David Nelson (THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET) are also on the paper’s staff. Webb directed one more feature before returning to television to produce G.E. TRUE, 77 SUNSET STRIP, TEMPLE HOUSTON, and a revamp of DRAGNET. Warner Brothers originally released -30- on a double bill with the Clint Walker western YELLOWSTONE KELLY.
This post is part of the Jack Webb Blogathon being hosted by The Hannibal 8. Make sure you drop by this weekend for plenty of wild Webbness.