Jack, Be Nimble!

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"My Name's Friday. I'm a cop."

The stucco and chicken-wire cliffs of Hollywood success are alluring from afar, but the pilgrims who cling to the steeps find them treacherous, lonely and slippery as glass. A fearful few on the higher ledges kick savagely at those who struggle near; the weary majority simply hang on, motionless as skewered lepidoptera. Climbers tumble off daily into a shadowed limbo below, to live out grey lives without Cadillacs, swimming pools or cell space in the brain of Louella O. Parsons. But television's Jack Randolph Webb, 33. has never faltered or looked down; he has gone up, up, up, limber as an Indian brave.

Hollywood has seldom seen such a climber. Only eight years ago, Jack Webb was an unknown news announcer in a San Francisco radio station. Only six years ago he was a "starving" motion picture bit-player. But even then, he was seeking compulsively for handholds, eyes fixed unblinkingly on the heights. No ledge was too narrow, no couloir too deep to halt him. The traveling companions who could not keep up he left behind. Some grabbed for his ankles or coattails. He shook them off. He bounded up to fame almost overnight as Sergeant Joe Friday, the quiet, dark-haired, jug-eared hero of Dragnet (NBC, Thurs. 9 p.m. E.S.T.*). He still climbs feverishly on.

Last month, Webb moved his old gun collection, his $135 sports jackets, his portable typewriter and Dudley, his bassett hound, into a $100,000 ultramodern two-bar house, high in Beverly Hills' celebrity-studded Coldwater Canyon. Last week he had the house up for sale. In his intense and single-minded haste to go on conquering Hollywood, he has not even found time to use his swimming pool. "Jack," says Stanley Meyer, the protocol-conscious business manager of Webb's Mark VII Productions, "would live in one room with a cot and a movie projector, if you'd let him."

Passion for Work. Webb covets money, but except for Cadillacs (he is on his fifth, a cream-colored convertible with blue upholstery) he gets little personal pleasure from it. He is a warm, sympathetic and basically modest man. He fervently admires talent in others. But fellow toilers who do not share his perfectionism and his passion for work fill him with injured bewilderment and anger; he reacts to any threat against complete artistic control of his work with the ferocity of a Boer trekker defending his oxen against the howling black.

Unlike his creature, Sergeant Friday, Webb can roar with laughter and talk with vast intensity and enthusiasm. He attracts all sorts of people. But he has few friends, almost no social life and is seldom seen in Hollywood nightspots. Nothing but an ailing script can keep him from sleeping nine hours a night, and he is hard at work every morning at 8 o'clock. In his spare time he stares at motion pictures, often "stopping them and backing them up" to engage in rapt inspection of every last optical effect and lap dissolve. In five years, he has read only one book (The Caine Mutiny), but few films, good, bad or indifferent, have escaped his coldly appraising eye.

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