A character actor who helped create one of the iconic cop shows of the 1960s has died. Deadline reports that Herb Ellis, who collaborated with Jack Webb to create the TV series “Dragnet,” died Dec. 26 in San Gabriel, Calif. He was 97.
“Born Herbert Siegel in Cleveland, Ohio, on Jan. 7, 1921, Ellis was a radio actor and director,” Deadline reports. “His frequent collaborations with Webb included a pilot they wrote titled ‘Joe Friday, Room Five,’ which later served as the foundation for the iconic TV procedural ‘Dragnet.'”
“Dragnet” premiered in 1952 following the airing of a pilot in late 1951. Ellis appeared opposite Webb in early episodes of the series, including playing Officer Frank Smith until Ben Alexander took over the role. The series ran for eight seasons, wrapping in 1959.
“In addition to ‘Dragnet,’ Ellis appeared in various other radio-to-TV series including ‘Dangerous Assignment,’ ‘Escape,’ ‘Tales of the Texas Rangers’ and ‘The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe,'” Deadline adds.
Ellis also worked in feature films, including Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” and Billy Wilder’s “The Fortune Cookie.”
He was a fixture on television throughout the 1960s, appearing in shows including “Get Smart,” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Fugitive” and “Bewitched,” along with a number of “Dragnet” revivals.
Here’s a clip from 1959, from a show called “The D.A.’s Man” in which Ellis starred as Frank La Valle. Ellis is the one reading the newspaper, with series star John Compton playing Shannon …