The Names Have Not Been Changed


He couldn’t get enough of jazz. Had his own phonograph and started collecting records, out of prints. Even went to Sunday afternoon jazz sessions.

At one of those Sunday sessions, at a joint on La Cienega near Pico Boulevard, he was digging some real solid jive. Swinging his arms around. Beating time. Something crashed at the next table. He had knocked over a drink. It wasn’t whisky or gin. Just a soft drink.

“Gee, you’re a clumsy thing,” the owner of the drink said.

Jack looked around. Into the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. Big dark eyes and reddish blond hair. A figure that made you want to turn cartwheels in the street. He bought her a fresh drink.

The girl’s name was Julie London. She was only 16 years old, seven years less than Webb. She wanted to be an actress. She dug Bobby Hacket and Bud Freeman and BG the most. She was crazy about Joe Pushkin on the piano and George Wettling on the drums. She was almost as crazy about jazz as he was.

They saw
a lot of each other in the next few weeks. They listened to a lot of jazz. They held a lot of hands. They kissed each other.

Then he got his army orders. Went to a camp at Fresno for four months of basic training. Then to camp St. Cloud at Collegeville, Minnesota, for six months of preflight training. He studied trigonometry and calculus. Maybe they figured him for a navigator caliber. Maybe not. Anyway, he wanted to be a pilot.

At St. Cloud, he did two shows, both called Flying High, to raise money for the USO headquarters. He wrote, directed and emceed the shows.

The fellows were sitting around the barracks one night. One of them was leafing through a magazine. He suddenly whistled. Real loud. Like a siren. “Hey,” he shouted, “get a load of this.”

They crowded around. He was pointing to a full-page photograph of a girl. She looked familiar. She was a starlet, under contract to a movie studio.

While they drooled, Webb read the caption. It was his girlfriend, Julie London.

“I’d sure like to meet her,” on of the boys said.

“Any time you come to Los Angeles,” Webb said, very offhand, “you just look me up and I’ll arrange it. I know this dreamboat very well.”

“Aw, knock it off.”

“It’s a fact,” he insisted.

“Why don’t you stop talking to yourself, man?”

“On the level.”

“Who yuh kidding?”

Soon they were making bets. He wrote Julie a letter and asked her to answer it and vindicate him. She wrote him a long letter. He wrote her a long letter. They started writing long letters back and forth. He couldn’t get her out of his mind, night or day.


The Milwaukee Sentinel

September 26, 1954

By Maurice Zolotow

(This is an excerpt from a longer article on Jack Webb.)

Jack Webb and Julie London --- The first time they met, she called him a “clumsy thing” but they were soon seeing a lot of each other, holding hands, falling in love.

Photograph by Don Ornitz from Globe

Jack and his ex-wife, Julie London, in the days before they faced the fact that their marriage wasn’t working out. She was a promising movie starlet when he was in the Air Force.