A favorite of producer/director Jack Webb, character actor Ralph Moody was a familiar face to viewers of Dragnet in both its 1950s and 1960s incarnations -- but that would be an unfair (as well as inaccurate) way to describe an actor who amassed hundreds of film and television appearances in barely 20 years of movie and television work. Born in St. Louis, MO, in 1886, Moody didn't make his screen debut until 1948, with a small role in Man Eaters of Kumaon. Already in his sixties, he always looked older than he was, and his craggy features could also impart a fierceness that made him threatening. Although Moody was known for playing kindly or crotchety old men, he occasionally brought that fierceness to bear, as in the Adventures of Superman episode "Test of a Warrior", in which he played the sinister medicine man Okatee. But in between that and dozens of other one-off television assignments, Moody also managed to work in scenes as the coffin-boat skipper in Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street and one of the rescue workers in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole.
Moody was one of those actors who could work quickly and milk a line or a scene for all its emotional worth. What's more, he could do it without over-emoting. He was the kind of character player that directors and producers in budget-conscious television of the 1950s needed. In an episode of Circus Boy, he played a touching scene with a young Micky Dolenz, as an aging railroad engineer introducing the boy to the world of locomotives and trains. After that, Moody got called back to do three more episodes. But it was Jack Webb who really put him to work in Dragnet and many of his other productions, in radio and feature films as well as television. His more memorable appearances on Dragnet included "The Big Producer", as a once-famous movie producer who is reduced to selling pornographic pictures to high-school students, and "The Hammer", from the 1967 revival of the series, in which he portrayed the neighbor of a murder victim. Moody continued working regularly in television until a year before his death in 1971, at age 84. His final appearance was in the Night Gallery episode "The Little Black Bag".