07 März 2009

Crimefighting, 1950s Style

With the economy descending into depths unknown since the thirties, crime is making a comeback. We need the moral clarity of the great Joe Friday:

“I want you to remember something.”


"In the years I’ve been in this department, I’ve seen some bad ones, real bad. Teenaged kids that didn't know any better scraped up off the pavement and sent home to their parents, drunks too loaded to know what went on…there’s been a lot of them go through here, but you’ve finished way ahead of the field, boy.”

“You talk good. Bet you’re on a lecture team around here.”

“I’m getting fed up with you kids roaming the streets in those death traps of yours. I don’t care about you—you want to wrap yourself around a post, you go ahead. We’ll try to stop you, but don’t you take somebody else with you. We’ve tried just about everything in the books to make you understand…doesn’t look like any of them did any good.”

“You all through?”

“No, not quite. You killed a human being, a woman who didn’t even know you. She never saw you until it was too late. You threw a ton-and-a-half of metal at a 120-pound woman, then you ran away and left her in the gutter to die. You wrecked a family—you tore it right down the middle and rolled over it. You’ve ruined the lives of all the people around that woman. You gave a group of decent kids a bad time because you stole their name. Now you get up on your feet and keep that smart mouth of yours closed, you understand?”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Make it quick.”

“Running that woman down—how much will I get?”

“I don’t know, but it won’t be enough.”

--Dialogue between Det. Sgt. Joe Friday and hot-rod punk in Dragnet, “The Big Rod” (1954)

Other bits of dialogue, noteworthy in that they indicate how long certain phrases and expressions have been around:

Bartender: “He got pretty loaded last night and told me he didn’t have anyplace to pad down.”

Friday to grieving widower: “Take it easy.”

After patting down a suspect: “He’s clean.”