Jack Webb, Drill Instructor

“I AM NOT YOUR MOTHER!” – Sergeant Jim Moore    

One of the most popular releases in the Warner Archives series, THE D.I. (1957) remains a consistent bestseller on the Turner Classic Movies web site, along with a few other WA titles that share that rarefied honor and include On Borrowed Time, The Valley of Decision, The Enchanted Cottage and Room for One More. Certainly the film was not a boxoffice smash upon its original release but the cult of Jack Webb has grown considerably since then and THE D.I. is undiluted, industrial-strength Webb – the star/director/producer is on the screen almost the entire time during this 106 minute marine training drama. (TCM will air it, along with Jack Webb’s -30-, on Sunday, January 29, beginning at 8 pm ET).

Here’s the gist of it. Sergeant Jim Moore (Webb) has twelve weeks to transform a bunch of undisciplined recruits into model Marines. One recruit in particular – Private Owens (Don Dubbins) – becomes the D.I.’s cross to bear. Moore senses great potential in this confused young man but Owens’ unmotivated attitude is noted by Moore’s commanding officer and the D.I. is given three days to make the recruit shape up or discharge him. Along the way Moore finds time to romance a dress shop clerk (Jackie Loughery) – a subplot obviously intended to humanize the Moore character. More importantly, the reason behind Owens’ puzzling, recalcitrant behavior is revealed toward the end in a private meeting between Moore, his commanding officer and Owens’ mother (Virginia Gregg), the wife of a war hero. The storyline may be overly familiar but Webb’s spin on it proves that he may be the most overlooked auteur director of his era (he directed 5 feature films – Dragnet (1954), Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955), THE D.I. (1957), -30- (1959) & The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961) – and numerous TV series).

If you read the viewer comments on the IMDB listing for THE D.I., you’ll notice the many testimonials from former marines who swear by the film’s accuracy and realism in regards to the intensive training sequences depicted and the behavior of drill instructors. Webb was a stickler for authenticity, something he had already proved with the Dragnet series and its inside look at the inner workings of an urban precinct on a day to day basis. He was all about the details on THE D.I. as well. He shot the film at Camp Del Mar, part of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in California and a Corps Reserve Center in Pasadena; all of which served as stand-ins for the movie’s actual setting, the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina. Webb also cast real Marines in most of the roles, hiring only a handful of professional actors for the major parts. And he worked closely with Lt. Col. Wyatt Carneal, the film’s technical advisor, to make sure that everything from the uniforms to the weapons to the drill formations were the real thing.

All of this painstaking detail is fine but it is Webb’s ferocious performance in the title role that dominates the film from first frame till last. He tears through the film like the Tasmarian Devil, yelling, growling, barking and mercilessly taunting his recruits with lines like “You make me want to vomit” or “What was it you just said, you miserable clown?” It’s exhilarating, even hilarious at times. If you enjoyed watching Dragnet’s Joe Friday grind down his suspects with his relentless interrogation methods, wait till you see Webb in action here, exercising absolute power as a boot camp tyrant. He has a rat-a-tat-tat delivery that would make him a world class rapper today but just as impressive are his whip-like emotional transitions from shouting at top lung to hid troops to intimate, one on one, in-your-face sarcasm:  “You know, I don’t think I could stand it if you were mad at me.”

Webb has all of the choice lines and it’s a good thing too since most of the cast members are real marines and not actors. Among some of the more quotable quips, delivered with righteous vigor, are:

“There’s a man hidden somewhere under that baby powder”

“When I get a punk, I get rid of him. When I get a guy like this Owens, I cultivate ‘em.”

“A dead marine is never sorry Owens. A dead marine is just dead.”

“Tell me Castro, did you mother ever have any children that lived?”

“I have told you people time and time again Your rifle is your best friend. You let it down and it will sure let you down.”

But when Sgt. Moore gets on a roll, his diatribes become rapid fire, mini-soliloquies like this “interview” with a new recruit: “ Well, just who are you? Little Orphan Annie? What are you doing in a man’s uniform? You’d better start talking like a man. You pull them words up from the gut, boy. Growl like a tiger. No place in this Marine Corps for little boys. I don’t think you’re gonna make it boy. You just don’t pack the gear. GO!” It’s quite possible that Webb’s portrayal in THE D.I. served as an inspiration for R. Lee Ermey’s tough as nails gunnery sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987).

Webb’s directorial decisions in THE D.I are just as theatrical and exaggerated as his larger than life performance. The opening sequence alone with its tight close-ups of nervous young inductees being interrogated by the gruff title character (we only see glimpses of him from the back) has a claustrophobic intensity and sense of heightened drama that recalls some of the later experimental film techniques used by Shirley Clarke in The Connection (1962) and Jonas Mekas in The Brig (1964). And there are a number of low-angle camera shots in scenes where Moore is haranguing his men and appears to be towering over them like some omniscient god as they scrub the floor in their skivvies or stand erect in terrified silence. In one sequence, Moore walks backwards along the long row of recruits with the camera tracking toward him as cutaway shots are interspersed of the sergeant viewed through formations of the mens’ parted legs in rigid attention. This is strange, disorienting stuff. There is also a gas mask training scene shot in a thick chemical fog that is truly hallucinatory and looks like an outtake from the L.A. sewer sequence in THEM! (1954).

Probably the most famous sequence in THE D.I. – the murder of a sand flea during a training maneuver – has a theatre of the absurd quality that mirrors the movie’s stage based origins. Based on real accounts of Marine life at Paris Island, this incident – in which a marine is ordered to find the sand flea he killed and give it a proper burial – was the inspiration of a two act play entitled The Pine Box by future D.I. screenwriter James Lee Barrett. He later developed it into a one hour drama for Kraft Television Theatre under the title The Murder of a Sand Flea. Eventually Webb purchased the rights to this and had Barrett expand it into a feature length film called THE D.I.       


For the most part, THE D.I. exerts a hypnotic allure due to its oneiric enshirement of boot camp life and Webb’s hyperactive drill instructor but there are some bizarre detours along the way that occasionally break the highly stylized tension. An early scene in an after hours hangout for the enlisted men where Monica Lewis performs “If’n You Don’t (Somebody Else Will),” accompanied by an offscreen chorus of whistling marines, is an entertaining novelty number that seems to belong in another movie…..calling David Lynch. While the roadhouse sequence is designed to show Moore relaxing after hours and meeting his future financee (Jackie Loughery), it is Monica Lewis who walks off with the scene. Flamboyant and saucy in her slinky black dress, she transforms her southern belle chanteuse into a campy diva. In addition, her featured musical number became a novelty hit single which Variety called a “sophisticated hillbilly song”…..whatever that means.

Unfortunately, the romance between Moore and Annie (Ms. Loughery), though most likely intended to draw in female moviegoers and to downplay the D.I.’s hard-ass nature, isn’t very compelling. It only points out Webb’s obvious discomfort in playing love scenes, even if it is part of his character. The low point of their scenes together, played for light comedy, is when Moore visits Annie at her dress shop and is embarrassed by all of the attention he receives from the other female patrons. This is painfully stilted but mercifully brief with one smitten matron cooing over a guy in a uniform and an annoying little girl asking him, “You’re a man, aren’t you?” Still, no sparks fly on the screen between Webb and Jackie Loughery, although there were fireworks in real life and Webb married the actress shortly after completing THE D.I. (She was wife number 3 after Dorothy Towne (wife no. 2) and singer Julie London (wife no. 1).

When THE D.I. went into general release, it garnered mostly positive reviews with The New York Times’ reviewer voicing one of the more popular opinions: “Against a colorfully detailed background of mercilessly thorough regimentation, the slender plot shows how an apparently soulless top-kick scaldingly molds a confused recruit into a crack Marine. As final proof that the sergeant’s bark is worse than his bite, our hero (the sarge) also seals a sideline romance with a nice shop girl…. Mr. Webb has staged a pounding, graphic tribute to the Marine training method, from sun-up to sundown, from the barracks into the field….with the stage thus set for an interesting off-beat drama, the star takes over and confines it to a rather one-dimensional close-up of a fairly monotonous fellow. As the sergeant, Mr. Webb struts around, squinting blandly, growling and, most of the time, bellowing at the top of his lungs. One viewer, risking the wrath of the actor’s fans, still wishes Mr. Webb had never ventured beyond his strictly secondary excellence as the paraplegic in “The Men” or as Bill Holden’s pal in “Sunset Boulevard.”


Clearly Webb intended THE D.I. as a tribute to the marines and as a moral booster and recruitment incentive. And that was how it was mostly received at the time. But seeing it now, one can’t help but see the real motivation behind the rigorous training and desensitizing mental conditioning. Moore is building finely tuned killing machines. But who else would you want defending your country in war times? Moore drives the point home again and again with remarks like “You people are too slow. If you were that slow in combat, you’d be dead. DEAD!”  Or “We don’t deal in pity or sympathy. You’ll learn to think in terms of the group. You’ll remember your responsibilities and you’ll carry out orders.” The film, of course, has a happy ending with Private Owens being successfully assimilated into the Corps but the negative aspects of Moore’s treatment are never questioned or explored here because this is essentially a Pro-Marine picture about character building and a portrait of Moore, not Owens. For an alternative point of view, try Frederick Wiseman’s 1971 documentary Basic Training or Nick Bloomfield & Joan Churchill’s Soldier Girls (1981) for comparison.

In the gold rush years of Dragnet and its many reincarnations on TV, I never thought much about Webb’s abilities as an actor. He was simply Sgt. Joe Friday, the just-the-facts-ma’am law enforcer of the popular radio series and later TV series (and feature length film) he created in 1949. Webb so completely embodied that character and became so associated with Joe Friday that he existed as some kind of American archetype like John Wayne in Westerns. Yet later I discovered (and revisited) a different Jack Webb in films where he played supporting roles. He was especially memorable in a villainous role as a snarky, paranoid gangster flunkie needling Charlton Heston in the 1950 noir Dark City. But more surprising was his moving performance in The Men (1950) as a war veteran paraplegic, struggling to cope with his condition but also supportive and encouraging to his fellow hospital mates; his scenes with Marlon Brando, the angry, hostile new guy in the ward, are especially powerful and show what a great actor Webb could be. Watch his eyes in this movie and you see a steady stream of simultaneous and conflicting emotions; for the era, it’s an amazingly subtle but electric performance that threatens to steal Brando’s spotlight. Another favorite Webb supporting role is his small part in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. (1950) as a best friend of screenwriter Joe Gillis (played by William Holden). There he is, laughing, joyous, the life of the party and having a blast – a bright spot in Wilder’s sea of cynicism. This amiable, open-hearted guy couldn’t be the same actor who played Joe Friday, could he?

But Webb was never meant to be a supporting actor. His drive and determination in his own career (after a poverty-ridden childhood) assured his success as a major player in the entertainment industry. And, as an actor, Webb seemed drawn to and more interested in playing authority figures. There is nothing soft or vulnerable or ambiguous about Webb’s protagonists in Dragnet or THE D.I. or Pete Kelly’s Blues or -30- (in which he plays the driven editor of a city newspaper). In all of these, Webb is a bastion of uber-masculinity – tough, cynical, aggressive, uncompromising and avoiding any trace of sentimentality or sensitivity. Maybe this was the way Webb really was in real life or wanted to be but this persona also stereotyped him and made him an easy target for parody.

Webb was also known for his conservative politics and, like John Wayne, had nothing good to say about draft dodgers, hippies and the counterculture. He probably wasn’t too sympathetic to film industry blacklist victims in the 50s either if you consider the anti-Commie short subject he produced and narrated, Red Nightmare (1962). But unlike Wayne during the turbulent sixties, Webb was always “cool” in pop culture circles. Not just for Dragnet – who didn’t love that show? – but for his love of jazz. Webb was an amateur cornet player and an obsessive record collector (he allegedly had a private collection of over 6,000 jazz albums) and his love of music led him to create what he once referred to as “the damned best picture I ever made” – PETE KELLY’S BLUES, the story of a jazz band who tangle with gangsters in Prohibition era Kansas City.

While the movie doesn’t always succeed on a dramatic level, partly due to Webb’s dour, one-note portrayal of the title character, the actor/director’s recreation of the Roaring Twenties period is often stunning and the music is impeccably presented. If nothing else, the movie is a jazz fanatic’s wonderful shrine to the music of W. C. Handy and his contemporaries, Dixieland jazz, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee, who proved she could act and won a Best Supporting actress nomination from the Academy. Similar to what he did with Dragnet, Webb turned PETE KELLY’S BLUES into a TV series while films like THE D.I. created the template that was used again and again for similar military dramas like Tribes (1970), a popular TV movie that pitted D.I. Darren McGavin against hippie recruit Jan-Michael Vincent, and An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) with newbie Richard Gere trying to survive Navy Flight school training under Sgt. Louis Gossett Jr.

By all accounts, Webb was a real stand-up guy, generous and extremely loyal to friends in the industry and his social circle. And he wasn’t intimidated by powerful industry moguls like Jack Warner, who offered him a contract as a television executive producer which later ended in a bitter legal battle; Webb emerged as a successful independent. He was also a known workaholic, spending more time at the office then home, and his health suffered (he liked his liquor and smoked up to three packs of cigarettes a day at one point), factors that must have had an impact on the failure of three marriages (his fourth wife was Opal Wright). But, in the end, the public was the beneficiary of his creative energies when you consider the entirety of his work as an actor and movie director and all of the popular television entertainments he produced outside of Dragnet; Among them are Temple Houston, Adam-12, Emergency! (in which he cast his ex-wife Julie London and her husband Bobby Troup in key roles), Sierra, Project UFO, Sam (starring Mark Harmon) and many more.

TCM’s double feature of THE D.I. and -30- on January 29 should whet the appetite of any Jack Webb fan who wants to see more of the guy but it’s also a homage to this idiosyncratic and often underrated figure in Hollywood’s history.

Sources:

Just the Facts, Ma’am: The Authorized Biography of Jack Webb by Daniel Moyer & Eugene Alvarez

Hollywood Through My Eyes: The Lives and Loves of a Golden Age Siren by Monica Lewis with Dean Lamanna (Cable Publishing)

Other sites of interest:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-gangsterwebb01-2008nov01,0,7833399.story

http://www.findadeath.com/Deceased/w/jackwebb/webbhead.htm

http://www.acidlogic.com/im_jack_webb.htm

http://www.americanlegends.com/jackwebb/index.htm

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=1401

http://www.emergencyfans.com/people/jack_webb.htm

http://jonasmekasfilms.com/available/index.php?film=brig

0 Response Jack Webb, Drill Instructor
Posted By Ivan : January 8, 2012 1:09 pm

Great stuff about a wild movie made by an obsessive artist–thanks!
BTW, in his book The Short-Times (the inspiration for Full Metal Jacket), author Gustav Hasford name-checks The D.I. several times.

Posted By Ivan : January 8, 2012 1:09 pm

Great stuff about a wild movie made by an obsessive artist–thanks!
BTW, in his book The Short-Times (the inspiration for Full Metal Jacket), author Gustav Hasford name-checks The D.I. several times.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : January 8, 2012 4:16 pm

James Ellroy has said that when he was a boy his father gave him a book by Jack Webb about famous L.A. crimes, and it was there that he first read about the Black Dahlia case. I had that book, too, but I didn’t make as good use of it as Ellroy did.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : January 8, 2012 4:16 pm

James Ellroy has said that when he was a boy his father gave him a book by Jack Webb about famous L.A. crimes, and it was there that he first read about the Black Dahlia case. I had that book, too, but I didn’t make as good use of it as Ellroy did.

Posted By Jenni : January 8, 2012 4:17 pm

Having a son in the Marines, who went through boot camp in San Diego( and in Marine lingo is known as a Hollywood Marine instead of one who went through boot at Parris Island, SC), I will be sure to tune in and watch The D.I. My son had many interesting tales to tell us about his DIs, and even though they are not allowed to hit a recruit anymore(which was allowed for a long time), they still do get in a recruit’s face, multiple DIs will do this, and scream and scream and yell. My son said when he first got to the training depot, it was late at night or early in the morning, and they were kept up for 3 days without sleep to add to the disorientation and the tearing down process of a new recruit. I do know that to be a DI in the Marines, one has to go to a long training school, and it is very rigorous. Also, 3-4 DIs are assigned to a new group of recruits, and they do the marches, runs, and a lot of the same exercises that the recruits have to do, so these DIs are a very fit bunch. An excellent book to read, which gives an up close look at new recruits going through boot at Parris Island, is Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks.

Posted By Jenni : January 8, 2012 4:17 pm

Having a son in the Marines, who went through boot camp in San Diego( and in Marine lingo is known as a Hollywood Marine instead of one who went through boot at Parris Island, SC), I will be sure to tune in and watch The D.I. My son had many interesting tales to tell us about his DIs, and even though they are not allowed to hit a recruit anymore(which was allowed for a long time), they still do get in a recruit’s face, multiple DIs will do this, and scream and scream and yell. My son said when he first got to the training depot, it was late at night or early in the morning, and they were kept up for 3 days without sleep to add to the disorientation and the tearing down process of a new recruit. I do know that to be a DI in the Marines, one has to go to a long training school, and it is very rigorous. Also, 3-4 DIs are assigned to a new group of recruits, and they do the marches, runs, and a lot of the same exercises that the recruits have to do, so these DIs are a very fit bunch. An excellent book to read, which gives an up close look at new recruits going through boot at Parris Island, is Making the Corps, by Thomas Ricks.

Posted By suzidoll : January 8, 2012 5:35 pm

I can never reconcile the Jack Webb in SUNSET BLVD. with the Jack Webb of DRAGNET. Nothing against Jack Webb but his star image from the latter is just too dominant.

Posted By suzidoll : January 8, 2012 5:35 pm

I can never reconcile the Jack Webb in SUNSET BLVD. with the Jack Webb of DRAGNET. Nothing against Jack Webb but his star image from the latter is just too dominant.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 8, 2012 5:43 pm

Ivan, thanks for that tidbit about Gustav Hasford, I figured it had to have some kind of influence.

Jenni, you’ll be happy to know that Webb’s D.I. doesn’t whack anybody in the face or body in the movie but it’s enough just to have him in your face yelling.

Suzi, I’m with you on Webb’s post-Dragnet performances except for THE D.I. He seemed to lose interest in playing anything other than tough authority figures. He is so moving in THE MEN and so one-note monotonous in movies like -30-.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 8, 2012 5:43 pm

Ivan, thanks for that tidbit about Gustav Hasford, I figured it had to have some kind of influence.

Jenni, you’ll be happy to know that Webb’s D.I. doesn’t whack anybody in the face or body in the movie but it’s enough just to have him in your face yelling.

Suzi, I’m with you on Webb’s post-Dragnet performances except for THE D.I. He seemed to lose interest in playing anything other than tough authority figures. He is so moving in THE MEN and so one-note monotonous in movies like -30-.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 9, 2012 1:02 am

My dad (no conservative) instilled a love of Jack Webb in me. I grew up watching Dragnet and Emergency! and to this day Adam-12 is still my favorite cop show. I can’t wait to get caught in the Webb on January 29.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 9, 2012 1:02 am

My dad (no conservative) instilled a love of Jack Webb in me. I grew up watching Dragnet and Emergency! and to this day Adam-12 is still my favorite cop show. I can’t wait to get caught in the Webb on January 29.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 9, 2012 1:05 am

And what good was there to say about draft dodgers, hippies and the counterculture? Ha ha!

Posted By dukeroberts : January 9, 2012 1:05 am

And what good was there to say about draft dodgers, hippies and the counterculture? Ha ha!

Posted By Pamela Porter : January 9, 2012 10:44 am

And yet…there’s the softer side of Jack Webb, as seen in this “Dragnet” episode, which I like to call “Joe & Bill Have A Sleepover”

http://www.hulu.com/watch/55215/dragnet-aid-the-weekend

Pamela

Posted By Pamela Porter : January 9, 2012 10:44 am

And yet…there’s the softer side of Jack Webb, as seen in this “Dragnet” episode, which I like to call “Joe & Bill Have A Sleepover”

http://www.hulu.com/watch/55215/dragnet-aid-the-weekend

Pamela

Posted By Rudy : January 9, 2012 1:22 pm

Saw it for the first time in October 1985 while in my first days of Marine recruit training at MCRD-San Diego. We watched it while spit shining our boots and awaiting our DIs coming to take us to our training home (after the first few days of processing with temporary DIs). It is a great piece of Nostalgia for us Marines. (though most I know including myself would say Boys of Company C & Full Metal Jacket capture bootcamp even better)

Posted By Rudy : January 9, 2012 1:22 pm

Saw it for the first time in October 1985 while in my first days of Marine recruit training at MCRD-San Diego. We watched it while spit shining our boots and awaiting our DIs coming to take us to our training home (after the first few days of processing with temporary DIs). It is a great piece of Nostalgia for us Marines. (though most I know including myself would say Boys of Company C & Full Metal Jacket capture bootcamp even better)

Posted By otto mannix : January 10, 2012 10:05 pm

I borrowed that movie from Ivan, above, and laughed my ass off. I made an audio recording of all Jack’s rants and ravings, to be listened to at proper moments. What a prick. One has the distinct feeling that Webb really was that much of a jerk. I mean, look at Dragnet; what makes the show great is that it’s the only one which portrays cops as the assholes they really are!

Posted By otto mannix : January 10, 2012 10:05 pm

I borrowed that movie from Ivan, above, and laughed my ass off. I made an audio recording of all Jack’s rants and ravings, to be listened to at proper moments. What a prick. One has the distinct feeling that Webb really was that much of a jerk. I mean, look at Dragnet; what makes the show great is that it’s the only one which portrays cops as the assholes they really are!

Posted By JoeDoakes : January 11, 2012 5:26 pm

Actually, I don’t think Webb was much of a conservative. He was a New Deal liberal who was very supportive of the civil rights movement. However, like some other Hollywood liberals of the era, John Ford and Jack Warner, he was also a patriot who could see the evils of communism and found himself disgusted by the anti-Americanism and self indulgence that reared its head in 1960s popular culture.

Posted By JoeDoakes : January 11, 2012 5:26 pm

Actually, I don’t think Webb was much of a conservative. He was a New Deal liberal who was very supportive of the civil rights movement. However, like some other Hollywood liberals of the era, John Ford and Jack Warner, he was also a patriot who could see the evils of communism and found himself disgusted by the anti-Americanism and self indulgence that reared its head in 1960s popular culture.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 11, 2012 5:27 pm

Once Dragnet became a hit, Webb seemed to morph into Joe Friday in all of his subsequent screen performances, regardless of whether he was playing a different character or not. Too bad. He had real potential as a character actor. At the same time, no parodies of him (a la Dan Aykroyd) are as funny as the real thing.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 11, 2012 5:27 pm

Once Dragnet became a hit, Webb seemed to morph into Joe Friday in all of his subsequent screen performances, regardless of whether he was playing a different character or not. Too bad. He had real potential as a character actor. At the same time, no parodies of him (a la Dan Aykroyd) are as funny as the real thing.

Posted By Jenni : January 11, 2012 10:42 pm

Being a child raised by a father who was a cop, I strongly disagree with Otto’s comment. How many holidays did I not get to spend with my dad due to his having to be on duty, to make sure the idiots out there didn’t get too out of control. He has always said the holidays bring out the worst in some people. I didn’t think a comment on TCM’s Movie Morlocks would bring out the worst comments either.

Posted By Jenni : January 11, 2012 10:42 pm

Being a child raised by a father who was a cop, I strongly disagree with Otto’s comment. How many holidays did I not get to spend with my dad due to his having to be on duty, to make sure the idiots out there didn’t get too out of control. He has always said the holidays bring out the worst in some people. I didn’t think a comment on TCM’s Movie Morlocks would bring out the worst comments either.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 11, 2012 11:30 pm

Otto- Wow. All cops are assholes? Generalize much?

Posted By dukeroberts : January 11, 2012 11:30 pm

Otto- Wow. All cops are assholes? Generalize much?

Posted By dukeroberts : January 11, 2012 11:31 pm

Two of my best friends are cops. I think they’re both pretty swell guys. I was in both of their weddings.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 11, 2012 11:31 pm

Two of my best friends are cops. I think they’re both pretty swell guys. I was in both of their weddings.

Posted By Tom S : January 11, 2012 11:52 pm

I’ve got some issues with the police as an institution, and the way that institution is run and regulated, but obviously there are plenty of individual perfectly nice cops out there. Though I think the aforementioned institutional problems sometimes mean that even the nicest cops are acting like assholes when you meet them on-duty, depending on who you are.

Posted By Tom S : January 11, 2012 11:52 pm

I’ve got some issues with the police as an institution, and the way that institution is run and regulated, but obviously there are plenty of individual perfectly nice cops out there. Though I think the aforementioned institutional problems sometimes mean that even the nicest cops are acting like assholes when you meet them on-duty, depending on who you are.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 12, 2012 12:32 am

Tom- Are you speaking of the police in your respective hometown or of the police everywhere? There are thousands and thousands of police forces all over the country. I am certain they are not all run the same way. Congress as an institution I can understand. There is a total of only 535 people in both houses, but there are possibly millions of police working in thousands and thousands of precincts around the country, each enforcing and protecting the distinct laws of their respective municipalities, counties and states. That would almost be like saying that all teachers suck.

Posted By dukeroberts : January 12, 2012 12:32 am

Tom- Are you speaking of the police in your respective hometown or of the police everywhere? There are thousands and thousands of police forces all over the country. I am certain they are not all run the same way. Congress as an institution I can understand. There is a total of only 535 people in both houses, but there are possibly millions of police working in thousands and thousands of precincts around the country, each enforcing and protecting the distinct laws of their respective municipalities, counties and states. That would almost be like saying that all teachers suck.

Posted By Tom S : January 12, 2012 12:59 am

The whole point with an institutional criticism is that it is not a reflection on the specifics of how something may be run here or there, but about the culture and nature of police enforcement. It is true that different specific outgrowths of problematic things may occur in different places, but broadly speaking it is more a question of what the police do and don’t do, and that’s not something that varies from place to place.

It reflects the laws they’re tasked to enforce, the rights cops have with respect to enforcing those laws vs the rights of the accused, the laws which the police as a whole do not enforce (financial ones, broadly, but really virtually anything committed by the sufficiently wealthy,) and the limited means the system has to stop things like police brutality, illegal search and seizure, racial profiling, and the like.

Some places are worse than others, but they’re all subject to the same problems- not the least of which is that, as Anatole France put it, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Which is to say that many of the things with which the police are generally tasked, like arresting low level pot dealers, arresting streetwalkers, and all the specifics France mentioned, simply don’t apply to the wealthy- which has the double effect of punishing the poor for being poor and encouraging the police to think of the poor as the source of crime.

None of that means every cop is a bad person, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’ve known several cops who were themselves disgusted by the system, the same way all the best teachers I know are disgusted by the way education is approached in this country. But it does mean that we have a system that encourages meanness, and which causes even the nicest people amongst the police to do things that are effectively mean, even if only as part of their duty.

Posted By Tom S : January 12, 2012 12:59 am

The whole point with an institutional criticism is that it is not a reflection on the specifics of how something may be run here or there, but about the culture and nature of police enforcement. It is true that different specific outgrowths of problematic things may occur in different places, but broadly speaking it is more a question of what the police do and don’t do, and that’s not something that varies from place to place.

It reflects the laws they’re tasked to enforce, the rights cops have with respect to enforcing those laws vs the rights of the accused, the laws which the police as a whole do not enforce (financial ones, broadly, but really virtually anything committed by the sufficiently wealthy,) and the limited means the system has to stop things like police brutality, illegal search and seizure, racial profiling, and the like.

Some places are worse than others, but they’re all subject to the same problems- not the least of which is that, as Anatole France put it, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Which is to say that many of the things with which the police are generally tasked, like arresting low level pot dealers, arresting streetwalkers, and all the specifics France mentioned, simply don’t apply to the wealthy- which has the double effect of punishing the poor for being poor and encouraging the police to think of the poor as the source of crime.

None of that means every cop is a bad person, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I’ve known several cops who were themselves disgusted by the system, the same way all the best teachers I know are disgusted by the way education is approached in this country. But it does mean that we have a system that encourages meanness, and which causes even the nicest people amongst the police to do things that are effectively mean, even if only as part of their duty.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 12, 2012 10:51 am

Somehow the original topic got derailed. I thought we were talking about Jack Webb and The D.I.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 12, 2012 10:51 am

Somehow the original topic got derailed. I thought we were talking about Jack Webb and The D.I.

Posted By Jenni : January 12, 2012 2:35 pm

It derailed when Otto decided to bad mouth all cops, and as a cop’s kid, I answered back, and so did Duke and Tom S.

Posted By Jenni : January 12, 2012 2:35 pm

It derailed when Otto decided to bad mouth all cops, and as a cop’s kid, I answered back, and so did Duke and Tom S.

Posted By Semperfi : January 12, 2012 11:41 pm

You wrote in your blog that Lee Ermey possibly found inspiration in Jack Webbs portrayal of a Drill Instructor. Negatory – Lee Ermey was the real deal, spending many long, hot days on the grinder push’n boots during the Vietnam war. Get the facts, just the facts straight!

Posted By Semperfi : January 12, 2012 11:41 pm

You wrote in your blog that Lee Ermey possibly found inspiration in Jack Webbs portrayal of a Drill Instructor. Negatory – Lee Ermey was the real deal, spending many long, hot days on the grinder push’n boots during the Vietnam war. Get the facts, just the facts straight!

Posted By morlockjeff : January 13, 2012 1:19 am

Yes, R. Lee Ermey was the real deal but who’s to say he didn’t see THE D.I. and use it as an example to build his own screen character? This was acting, not real life. And I never stated it as a fact, only a “possibility.”

Posted By morlockjeff : January 13, 2012 1:19 am

Yes, R. Lee Ermey was the real deal but who’s to say he didn’t see THE D.I. and use it as an example to build his own screen character? This was acting, not real life. And I never stated it as a fact, only a “possibility.”

Posted By MedusaMorlock : January 13, 2012 1:59 pm

“The D.I.” was one of the Million Dollar Movies that ran on one of our local station 7 or 8 times a week back in the mid-sixties. (They had a Warner Bros. package that they made great use of!). Used to watch it many times and of course loved “Dragnet” and anything with Webb in it. Such an amazing stylized (when he wanted to be) performer and such energy. I have always loved Jack Webb! Can’t wait to watch the movies at the end of this month and especially since I probably have never seen the whole “The D.I.” because it used to be shoe-horned into a two hour slot.

I also love Ermey, and who’s to say what came first — real Marine drill instructors, Webb’s enhanced and hilarious version,and Ermey’s similarly funny and also terrifying performance. I really want to know who wrote the material for actual D.I.s if their rants were as clever as what we see on the screen. Perhaps wit and sarcasm stood in for profanity, I don’t doubt that.

Great post, Jeff!

Posted By MedusaMorlock : January 13, 2012 1:59 pm

“The D.I.” was one of the Million Dollar Movies that ran on one of our local station 7 or 8 times a week back in the mid-sixties. (They had a Warner Bros. package that they made great use of!). Used to watch it many times and of course loved “Dragnet” and anything with Webb in it. Such an amazing stylized (when he wanted to be) performer and such energy. I have always loved Jack Webb! Can’t wait to watch the movies at the end of this month and especially since I probably have never seen the whole “The D.I.” because it used to be shoe-horned into a two hour slot.

I also love Ermey, and who’s to say what came first — real Marine drill instructors, Webb’s enhanced and hilarious version,and Ermey’s similarly funny and also terrifying performance. I really want to know who wrote the material for actual D.I.s if their rants were as clever as what we see on the screen. Perhaps wit and sarcasm stood in for profanity, I don’t doubt that.

Great post, Jeff!

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : January 13, 2012 2:06 pm

Concerning Morlockjeff’s comment above that Joe Friday colored every role Webb played afterward, that’s always a hazard when an actor finds his perfect role. He tends to repeat it. Anthony Quinn played Zorba for the last three decades of his career. Seeing him in a pre-Zorba role as in “Lawrence of Arabia” is always a revelation, as it’s hard to remember what a verastile character actor he was before he was consumed by Zorba.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : January 13, 2012 2:06 pm

Concerning Morlockjeff’s comment above that Joe Friday colored every role Webb played afterward, that’s always a hazard when an actor finds his perfect role. He tends to repeat it. Anthony Quinn played Zorba for the last three decades of his career. Seeing him in a pre-Zorba role as in “Lawrence of Arabia” is always a revelation, as it’s hard to remember what a verastile character actor he was before he was consumed by Zorba.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 13, 2012 10:25 pm

Yes, if they made the THE D.I. now, it would be a mega-profanity fest but this version would still hit harder because all of the abuse and insults are aimed below the belt – at the recruits’ manhood – and that is a lot more unsettling to the male psyche than the nastiest cuss words you can hurl.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 13, 2012 10:25 pm

Yes, if they made the THE D.I. now, it would be a mega-profanity fest but this version would still hit harder because all of the abuse and insults are aimed below the belt – at the recruits’ manhood – and that is a lot more unsettling to the male psyche than the nastiest cuss words you can hurl.

Posted By Jenni : January 14, 2012 12:32 pm

I read an article about Ermey’s preparation for his audition for Full Metal Jacket. He based his diatribes that he heaped on the recruits from actual rants he’d heard from DIs when he served in the corps, and he had family members throw oranges at him as he practiced his rants in order to be able to deliver them in a rapid-fire, unblinking style.

Posted By Jenni : January 14, 2012 12:32 pm

I read an article about Ermey’s preparation for his audition for Full Metal Jacket. He based his diatribes that he heaped on the recruits from actual rants he’d heard from DIs when he served in the corps, and he had family members throw oranges at him as he practiced his rants in order to be able to deliver them in a rapid-fire, unblinking style.

Posted By oosik75 : January 18, 2012 12:48 am

Great to see Ol’Stone Face get some recognition. After years of Dragnet then see Jack Webb in Sunset Boulevard, well, he became somewhat more dimensional. Another gem that shows some of his comedic talents is “You’re in the Navy Now”. I view “The D.I.” with a jaundiced eye, having experienced the real thing back in the ’70s. Some of it rings true, and I especially like that they used real Leathernecks in the supporting roles. However, with the best of intentions it falls flat. This isn’t Jack’s fault, he gives a superior performance. Maybe it’s that Don Dubbins just isn’t giving enough as a screwup and you end up wondering why the Drill Instructor is wasting his time trying to push him through. With that said, “The D.I.” adds another dimension to Jack and even though he seemed to hide his other faces, Ol’ Stone Face could show other sides all but briefly.

Posted By oosik75 : January 18, 2012 12:48 am

Great to see Ol’Stone Face get some recognition. After years of Dragnet then see Jack Webb in Sunset Boulevard, well, he became somewhat more dimensional. Another gem that shows some of his comedic talents is “You’re in the Navy Now”. I view “The D.I.” with a jaundiced eye, having experienced the real thing back in the ’70s. Some of it rings true, and I especially like that they used real Leathernecks in the supporting roles. However, with the best of intentions it falls flat. This isn’t Jack’s fault, he gives a superior performance. Maybe it’s that Don Dubbins just isn’t giving enough as a screwup and you end up wondering why the Drill Instructor is wasting his time trying to push him through. With that said, “The D.I.” adds another dimension to Jack and even though he seemed to hide his other faces, Ol’ Stone Face could show other sides all but briefly.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 18, 2012 1:48 am

Oosik75, I have to agree that Don Dubbins as the D.I.’s screw-up recruit is a blank slate. You have to take it on faith that Sgt. Moore sees something in him that we can’t but the movie would be much stronger if Webb, the director, was able to convey that in dramatic terms. I’ll have to check out YOU’RE IN THE NAVY NOW. Webb was an original. There is no one like him now.

Posted By morlockjeff : January 18, 2012 1:48 am

Oosik75, I have to agree that Don Dubbins as the D.I.’s screw-up recruit is a blank slate. You have to take it on faith that Sgt. Moore sees something in him that we can’t but the movie would be much stronger if Webb, the director, was able to convey that in dramatic terms. I’ll have to check out YOU’RE IN THE NAVY NOW. Webb was an original. There is no one like him now.

Posted By Michael : January 29, 2012 11:46 pm

Just watched “The D.I.” for the first time in many years and enjoyed the hell of it! The thing that really appeals to me about this film is Webb’s performance of he hard-ass ,yet sympathetic , Ultimate Marine.
He sees the potential of PVT Owens and rides him without mercy yet, when Owens is called into the CO’s office and he talks about his brothers who were killed in Korea, you can see the expression on Webb’s face turn from scorn into sympathy. Same with the scene in the gym with the mother. The CO (typical with most officers) does not get it until she spells it out to him in detail and Webb’s Gunny Moore face is telling a picture of memories of combat and dead friends. It’s all very subtle but that’s my take on it.
By the way, my observations may be influenced by the few shots of Jameson I had during the movie and that my dad is a retired Marine and a Korea and Vietnam combat vet. I am a Navy vet who had recently completed 4+ years in Iraq and Afghanistan as a civilian contractor who worked with the Marines and the Army. God Bless The All.

Posted By Michael : January 29, 2012 11:46 pm

Just watched “The D.I.” for the first time in many years and enjoyed the hell of it! The thing that really appeals to me about this film is Webb’s performance of he hard-ass ,yet sympathetic , Ultimate Marine.
He sees the potential of PVT Owens and rides him without mercy yet, when Owens is called into the CO’s office and he talks about his brothers who were killed in Korea, you can see the expression on Webb’s face turn from scorn into sympathy. Same with the scene in the gym with the mother. The CO (typical with most officers) does not get it until she spells it out to him in detail and Webb’s Gunny Moore face is telling a picture of memories of combat and dead friends. It’s all very subtle but that’s my take on it.
By the way, my observations may be influenced by the few shots of Jameson I had during the movie and that my dad is a retired Marine and a Korea and Vietnam combat vet. I am a Navy vet who had recently completed 4+ years in Iraq and Afghanistan as a civilian contractor who worked with the Marines and the Army. God Bless The All.

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