Dragnet - Single Episodes

(4.6 stars; 148 reviews)


Dragnet, the brainchild of Jack Webb, may very well be the most well-remembered, and the best, radio police drama series. From September, 1949 through February 1957, Dragnet's 30 minute shows, broadcast on NBC, brought to radio true police stories in a low-key, documentary style. The origins of Dragnet can be traced to a semi-documentary film, "He Walked by Night" from 1948, in which Webb had a small role. Both employed the same Los Angeles Police Department technical adviser, used actual police cases and presented the case in "just the facts" manner that became a hallmark of Dragnet. It is interesting to note that Webb employed that format in other radio series, some pre-dating the film mentioned above. Dragnet was a long running radio and television police procedural drama, about the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners. The show takes its name from an actual police term, a Dragnet, meaning a system of coordinated measures for apprehending criminals or suspects. Dragnet was perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in American media history. The series gave millions of Americans a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of real life police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers. Actor and producer Jack Webb's aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting. He achieved both goals and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media. The shows cultural impact is demonstrated by the fact that even after five decades, elements of Dragnet are known to those who have never heard nor seen the program. The ominous four note introduction to the brass and tympani theme music, titled Danger Ahead, is instantly recognizable as well as the shows opening narration:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."
The original Dragnet starring Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday ran on radio from June 3rd, 1949 to February 26th, 1957; and on television from December 16th, 1951 to August 23rd, 1959, and from January 12th, 1967 to April 16th, 1970. All of these versions ran on NBC. There were two Dragnet feature films, a straight adaptation starring Jack Webb in 1954, and a comedy spoof in 1987. There were also television revivals, without Webb, in 1989 and 2003. Dragnet debuted inauspiciously. The first several months were bumpy, as Webb and company worked out the program's format and eventually became comfortable with their characters. Friday was originally portrayed as more brash and forceful than his later usually relaxed demeanor. Gradually, Friday's deadpanned, fast-talking persona emerged, described by John Dunning as "a cop's cop: tough, but not hard; conservative, but caring". Friday's first partner was Sergeant Ben Romero, portrayed by Barton Yarborough, a long time radio actor When Dragnet hit its stride, it became one of radio's top rated shows. Webb insisted on realism in every aspect of the show. The dialogue was clipped, understated, and sparse -- influenced by the hard-boiled school of crime fiction. Scripts were fast moving, but didn't seem rushed. Every aspect of police work was chronicled, step-by-step. From patrols and paperwork, to crime scene investigation, lab work and questioning witnesses or suspects. Webb was a stickler for accurate details, and Dragnet used many authentic touches, such as LAPD's actual radio call sign, KMA-367, and the names of many real department officials, such as Ray Pinker and Lee Jones of the Crime Lab, or Chief of Detectives, Thad Brown. Two announcers were used. Episodes began with announcer George Fennemen intoning the series opening:
"The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent."
Hal Gibney described the basic premise of the episode. For example, "Big Saint", from April 26th, 1951, begins with:
"You're a detective sergeant. You're assigned to auto theft detail. A well organized ring of car thieves begins operations in your city. It's one of the most puzzling cases you've ever encountered. Your job -- break it."
The story usually began with footsteps and a door closing, followed by Joe Friday intoning something like:
"Tuesday, February 12th. It was cold in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of Robbery Division. My partner's Ben Romero. The boss is Ed Backstrom, Chief of Detectives. My name's Friday."
Friday offered voice-over narration throughout the episodes, noting the time, date, and place of every scene as he and his partners went through their day investigating the crime. The events related in a given episode might occur in a few hours or might span a few months. At least one episode unfolded in real time, in "City Hall Bombing", from July 21st, 1949. Friday and Romero had less than 30 minutes to stop a man who was threatening to destroy the City Hall with a bomb. At the end of an episode, announcer Hal Gibney would relate the fate of the suspect. They were usually convicted of a crime, and sent to the state penitentiary or a state mental hospital. Murderers were often executed in the manner proscribed by law. Occasionally, police pursued the wrong suspect, and criminals sometimes avoided justice, or escaped, at least on the radio version of Dragnet. Scripts tackled a number of topics, ranging from the thrilling (murders, missing persons, and armed robbery) to the mundane (check fraud and shoplifting) -- yet, Dragnet made them all interesting due to the fast moving plots and behind the scenes realism. In "The Garbage Chute", from December 15th, 1949, they even had a locked-room mystery. Though rather tame by modern standards, Dragnet, especially on the radio, handled controversial subjects, such as sex crimes and drug addiction, with unprecedented and even startling realism. The tone was usually serious, but there were moments of comic relief. Romero was something of a hypochondriac, and often seemed hen-pecked. Though Friday dated women, he usually dodged those who tried to set him up with marriage-minded dates. Due in part to Webb's fondness for radio drama, Dragnet persisted on radio until 1957, as one of the last old time radio shows to give way to television's increasing popularity. In fact, the TV show would prove to be effectively a visual version of the radio show, as the style was virtually the same. The TV show could be listened to, without watching it, with no loss of understanding of the storyline.

NOTE: Updated Release! Version 2.1: Added ARFS version of episode 194 "The Big Laugh", and removed erroneous episode 93 "The Big Trunk" and 94 "The Big Lover" (28-Nov-2009).

NOTE: Updated Release! Fixed Episode 301 "The Big Siege", added some AFRS episodes, and about a dozen other miscellaneous changes(19-Nov-2009).

From the Old Time Radio Researcher's Group. See "Note" Section below for more information on the OTRR.

This recording is part of the Old Time Radio collection.



Production 2 aka Homicide aka The Nickel Plated Gun 29:41
Production 3 aka The Werewolf 29:32
Production 4 aka Homicide aka Quick Trigger Gun Men 29:51
The Helen Corday Murder 29:49
Red Light Bandit 29:35
Attempted City Hall Bombing 29:57
Missing Persons - Juanita Lasky 29:53
Benny Trounsel - Narcotics 29:41
Production 10 aka Homicide aka Maniac Murderer aka Mad Killer At Large 29:53
Production 11 aka Sixteen Jewel Thieves 29:41
Police Academy - Mario Koski 29:17
Dragnet_49-09-01_013_Auto_Burglaries_-_Myra,_the_Redhead 29:54
Eric Kelby - Body Buried In Nursery 29:50
Sullivan Kidnapping 29:26
James Vickers - Cop Killing - Tunnel Chase 29:12
Brick-Bat Slayer 29:13
Truck Hi-jackers - Tom Laval 29:14
Dragnet_49-11-24_026_Mrs._Rinard,_Albert_Barry_-_Mother-In-Law_Murder 29:17
Spring Street Gang - Juveniles 29:16
George Quan - The Jade Thumb Rings 0:22
22 Rifle for Christmas 29:26
The Roseland Roof Murders 30:37
Max Tyler - Escaped Convict 29:17
The Big Man Part 1 (Narcotics) 29:18
The Big Man Part 2 (Narcotics) 29:27
Dragnet_50-02-02_035_Claude_Jimmerson,_Child_Killer 29:20
The Big Girl 29:19
The Big Grifter 29:20
The Big Kill 29:22
The Big Thank You 29:38
The Big Boys 29:12
The Big Gangster Part 1 29:13
The Big Gangster Part 2 29:19
The Big Book 29:26
The Big Watch 29:23
The Big Trial 29:19
The Big Job 29:20
The Big Badge 29:18
The Big Knife 29:17
The Big Pug 29:20
The Big Key 29:40
The Big Fake 29:30
Dragnet_50-06-08_052_Big_Smart_Guy_AFRS#46 24:35
The Big Smart Guy 29:31
The Big Press 29:19
Dragnet_50-06-22_054_Big_Mink_AFRS#48 24:01
The Big Mink 29:19
The Big Grab 29:05
The Big Frame 29:17
The Big Bomb 29:19
The Big Gent Part 1 29:12
The Big Gent Part 2 29:20
The Big Dare 29:17
The Big Actor 29:18
The Big Youngster 29:19
The Big Chance 29:20
The Big Check 29:18
The Big Poison 29:21
The Big Make 29:21
The Big Pair 29:17
The Big Death 29:13
The Big 38 29:13
The Big Quack 1:07
The Big Grandma 29:20
The Big Meet 29:21
The Big Church 29:17
The Big Mother 29:18
The Big Parrot 29:17
The Big Betty 29:18
The Big Car 29:18
The Big Picture 29:17
The Big Break 29:19
22 Rifle for Christmas 29:23
The Big Family 25:43
The Big Holdup 30:16
The Big Jump 29:39
The Big Dance 29:24
The Big Tomato 30:18
The Big Children 29:02
The Big Cast 29:27
The Big Crime 29:12
The Big Couple 29:33
The Big Partner 26:40
The Big New Years 26:27
The Big Ben 26:12
The Big Friend 29:17
The Big Threat 29:27
The Big Speech 29:37
The Big Saint 29:35
The Big Casing 29:23
The Big Drills 26:35
The Big Blast 29:27
The Big Mailman 29:32
The Big Bindle 29:30
The Big Imposter 29:26
The Big Building 29:29
The Big Run 29:31
The Big Cliff 29:29
The Big Love 29:25
The Big Set-Up 29:36
The Big Sophomore 29:19
The Big Late Script 29:33
The Big Screen 29:42
The Big Winchester 29:15
The Big In-Laws 29:29
The Big Crazy 29:31
The Big 17 29:34
The Big Waiter 26:11
The Big Sour 25:21
The Big September Man 26:28
The Big Want Ad 27:34
The Big Shoplift 29:29
The Big Story Man 25:51
The Big Market 26:25
The Big Lease 29:32
The Big Hit and Run Killer 29:46
The Big Bungalow 29:34
The Big Hands 29:15
The Big Affair 29:58
The Big Canaries 29:58
The Big Overtime 29:44
22 Rifle for Christmas 25:30
The Big Sorrow 29:39
The Big Red Part 1 29:30
The Big Red Part 2 29:31
The Big Juvenile Division 29:40
The Big Almost No Show 29:34
The Big Honeymoon 29:21
The Big Phone Call 29:31
The Big Producer 29:28
The Big Plant 29:22
The Big Evans 29:27
The Big Fire 29:32
The Big Border 29:29
The Big Rose 29:30
The Big Streetcar 29:27
The Big Show 29:26
The Big Bunco 29:50
The Big Elevator 29:28
The Big Safe 29:23
The Big Gamble 29:27
The Big Mail 29:15
The Big Shakedown 29:16
The Big Fourth 29:25
The Big Whiff 29:21
The Big Jules 27:20
The Big Roll 29:15
The Big Trio 29:32
The Big Hate 29:12
The Big Signet 29:23
The Big Impression 29:29
The Big Drive 29:17
The Big Paper 29:36
The Big Test 29:28
The Big Ray 29:32
The Big Tear 27:33
The Big Bull 29:34
The Big Shot 29:26
The Big Brain 25:09
The Big Jolt 29:15
The Big Lie 29:27
The Big Pill 29:31
The Big Number 29:35
The Big Light 29:38
The Big Dive 29:24
The Big Walk 29:20
The Big Guilt 29:25
The Big Shirt 29:23
The Big Mole 29:27
The Big Eavesdrop 28:56
22 Rifle for Christmas 26:40
The Big Mask Part 1 29:47
The Big Mask Part 2 28:15
The Big Small 29:26
The Big String 29:22
The Big Lay-Out 29:41
The Big Strip 29:39
The Big Press 29:30
The Big Tooth 29:30
The Big Smoke 29:32
The Big Want 29:22
The Big Laugh 29:28
The Big Laugh (AFRS) 25:08
The Big Impossible 29:30
The Big Informant 29:41
The Big Dream 29:39
The Big Chet 28:53
The Big Compulsion 30:00
The Big Rip 28:51
The Big Scrapbook 29:19
The Big Carney 29:22
The Big Joke 29:23
The Big False Move 29:42
The Big Gun Part 1 30:56
The Big Gun Part 2 28:54
The Big Will 29:34
The Big Lilly 29:11
The Big Revolt 29:27
The Big Ham 29:21
The Big Bop 29:26
The Big Lift 29:32
The Big Cab 29:26
The Big Slip 29:28
The Big Try 29:40
The Big Little Mother 29:30
The Big Plea 29:39
The Big Paint 29:39
The Big Fraud 29:15
The Big Rain 29:08
The Big Kid 29:37
The Big Kid 25:10
The Big Flight 25:38
The Big Present 29:28
The Big Present 25:29
The Big Odd 29:36
The Big Odd 25:25
The Big Pick 28:32
The Big Pick 25:36
The Big Brink 29:24
The Big Brink 24:57
The Big Little Jesus 29:16
The Big Steal 29:05
The Big Steal 25:33
The Big Listen 29:28
The Big Listen 24:48
The Big Switch 29:02
The Big Switch 25:24
The Big Bill 25:34
The Big Bill 24:41
The Big Bid 29:08
The Big Bid 24:10
The Big Filth 29:15
The Big Filth 25:30
The Big Broad 29:26
The Big Broad 24:53
The Big Sucker 29:25
The Big Sucker 26:01
The Big Pipe 29:50
The Big Pipe 25:26
The Big TV 28:58
The Big TV 23:47
The Big Cup 29:13
The Big Cup 25:51
The Big Rod 29:50
The Big Rod 24:01
The Big Mustache 29:35
The Big Mustache 24:53
The Big Confession 29:46
The Big Confession 25:56
The Big Saw 29:15
The Big Saw 26:07
The Big Note 29:16
The Big Note 25:58
The Big Net 29:18
The Big Net 25:45
The Big Lift 29:07
The Big Lift 25:01
The Big Stop 29:25
The Big Stop 26:01
The Big Look 28:52
The Big Look 25:31
The Big Help 25:18
The Big Watch 26:14
The Big Cowboy 24:54
The Big Student 25:50
The Big Cat 26:07
The Big Customer 25:49
The Big Chick 26:00
The Big Search 25:48
The Big Rescue 26:01
The Big Heel 25:51
The Big Match 25:58
The Big Stand 29:08
The Big Stand 25:41
The Big Wish 26:02
The Big Cad 26:14
The Big Shock 25:52
The Big Office 25:37
The Big Trunk 25:24
The Big Cut 29:23
The Big Cut 25:33
The Big Try 26:06
The Big Bible 29:15
The Big Bible 26:04
The Big Handsome Bandit 25:54
The Big Tar Baby 29:42
The Big Tarbaby 26:20
The Big Mannikin 29:22
The Big Mannikin 26:37
The Big Key 26:13
The Big Locker 29:35
The Big Coins 25:02
The Big Dog 24:46
The Big Switch 25:46
The Big Gone 25:58
The Big Dig 25:46
The Big Lens 26:19
The Big Little Jesus 27:19
The Big Underground 25:31
The Big Mug 25:59
The Big Complex 25:25
The Big Token 25:32
The Big Bounce 24:56
The Big Bird 25:48
The Big Gap 25:27
The Big Hat 25:06
The Big Slug 25:38
The Big Set-Up 25:44
The Big Father 25:24
The Big Set 25:12
The Big Set 25:33
The Big Talk 24:51
The Big Talk 25:11
The Big Death 24:10
The Big No Tooth 23:58
The Big Tie 24:46
The Big Deal 24:26
The Big Child 25:22
The Big Momma 25:18
The Big Revision 25:27
The Big Squealer 25:20
The Big Siege 25:42
The Big Sisters 29:18
The Big Sisters 25:22
The Big Limp 24:43
The Big Fall Guy 29:19
The Big Grab 25:14
The Big Convertible 25:06
The Big Rush 24:32
The Big Genius 24:52
The Big Bobo 29:03
The Big Housemaid 25:05
The Big Sheet 24:52
The Big Missus 29:10
The Big Beer 26:22
The Big Blonde 24:46
The Big Fellow 24:09
The Big Ruling 29:08
The Big Daughter 25:04
The Big Close 25:23
22 Rifle for Christmas 25:03
The Big Dream 26:16
The Big Scrapbook 25:33
The Big Present 25:38


The Birth of Police Procedurals

(5 stars)

Some episodes are so chilling and powerful you'd think it was from some Netflix series. The sharp dialogue, witty banter, the mundanity, gripping stories: all of it create an image of police life according to Sgt. Joe Friday and I love it. Highly recommend it.

Thank you wonderful old time radio researchers group

(5 stars)

For te wealth of info here, before the show even starts. If my marriage ever goes south I know where I'll be looking for a new nice guy. I'm only thinking along these lines because librivox takes a lot of honey-time and night-time that used to go to my relationship....with my man not my tablet.

surprised at how sharp it was

(5 stars)

I expected it to be too corny but was really impressed by how good this series was, and I listened to the whole run. I'm so grateful that Dragnet was uploaded here because I truly enjoyed the whole series!

Nothing can be said about Dragnet that hasn't already been said

(5 stars)

Dragnet, Gunsmoke, Jack Benny, Amos 'n' Andy. Four of the most respected, well liked, well received, and high rated series in old time radio. What they had was excellent story lines, story lines and scripts that were believable, continuity and character development (Lux Radio Theater, on the other hand, had stand-alone shows that didn't allow for character development), characters (even though Jack Benny and Amos 'n' Andy were comic characterizations) that people could relate to. Dragnet had excellent scripts and generally intense acting, the result of a line of radio shows that Jack Webb was involved in, ultimately transitioning successfully (as with the other three shows) to television with little change in format or character. If four different people each picked a different one of the four shows as the "best" of old time radio, I would have a hard time disagreeing; but, even if they didn't pick Dragnet as crossing the "best of OTR finish line" first, it would be a photo finish. As an aside, if you wanted to see a "different" Jack Webb, try to find episodes of his early radio show broadcast from San Francisco; it was along the lines of Steve Allen's radio and television shows, and showed his appreciation of jazz (highlighted in Pete Kelly's Blues).

LAPD's Propaganda

(4 stars)

Before Dragnet started, the Los Angeles Police Department's reputation was very low - high profile, unsolved crimes like the Black Dahlia and the murders of Georgette Bauerdorf and Jeanne French, the Flying Nurse, and accusations of large scale corruption, the LAPD needed something to put them in a better light. Dragnet was a great way to do just that. The high profile unsolved cases made the headlines in the Los Angeles and other newspapers while many other cases were being solved - all sorts of cases: drugs, murders, kidnapping, etc. Apparently, creating one of the best known and written police procedural programs of Old Time Radio and early television was much easier than ridding the LAPD of the multiple levels of corruption.

Hats off to whoever set this up!

(5 stars)

What a great collection! Love the tv and radio episodes of the Jack Webb Dragnet show! Although I believe all the episodes are true accounts, I also realize they are spiced up a bit with some humor at times, but I appreciate that. Also, many of the gun fights seem to be added since I never hear of the resulting assault with a deadly weapon charges at the end of the show. Thanks to all that put this together!

The Big error

(3 stars)

I e-mailed someone at OTRR quite some time ago, but this still hasn't been fixed. The episodes identified as 1951 shows "The Big Lover" and "The Big Trunk" are incorrectly identified. Both shows begin with Friday stating that his partner is Frank Smith. However, Friday didn't have a partner named Frank Smith in 1951. His smart until the last show of 1951 was Ben Romero, and he didn't have a partner named Frank Smith until 1952.

Great Series, needs a disclaimer

(5 stars)

Warning! This series may be dangerous to your health. Listening to this Radio Broadcast may influence you into smoking Chesterfield Cigarettes. Seriously, great series, I really get a kick out of hearing the old commercials about the Chesterfield cigs and how "They are the only ones that have been proven to have no adverse effects on Ears, Nose or Throat" LMAO... No wonder they won't allow those commercials any longer...