Herb Ellis, an actor and director known for helping Jack Webb create the iconic 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. 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. 

For the first eight episodes of the series, which debuted in 1952, Ellis played Officer Frank Smith opposite Webb before Ben Alexander took over the role until the series ended 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.

On the movie side, Ellis appeared in notable films such as Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie.

In 1967, he returned to Dragnet with Webb to appear in episodes of the TV revival which ran for a little over three years. He had regular roles in 1960s series Hennesey starring Jackie Cooper as well as Peter Loves Mary and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. 

Ellis’ numerous other TV credits include The Fugitive and Peter Gunn, and he also appeared in numerous westerns including Frontier, The Sheriff of Cochise, Riverboat, U.S. Marshal, and Iron Horse. In a memorable episode ofThe Andy Griffith Show, he played temperamental bandleader Bobby Fleet.