Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

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Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar Empty Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

Post by Seamus on 8/12/2019, 5:32 pm

Brand new summary that comes to us via greybelt from John Abbott a Johnny Dollar expert. Much thanks to both.

In February 1949, a new program debuted on CBS: “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”. On September 30, 1962 its final episode aired, thus closing the Golden Age of Old Time Radio. In the intervening years, except for a 13-month interruption, Johnny Dollar, “America’s fabulous Insurance Investigator, the man with the action-packed expense account” entertained audiences and in the process, created an amazing 812 episodes.

The basic storyline of Johnny Dollar is unique among “private eye” programs: each week Johnny would be hired by an insurance company to investigate questionable claims. He would travel all over the world to protect the interests of the hiring company - each case being narrated with entries in his expense account. Early on, Johnny was noted for $1.00 tips (worth more than $10 in today's dollars!) and padded expense accounts. As the program matured, the tips disappeared, but not the listing of “incidentals” on the expense account. The mentions of each expense were used to change the scenes of the stories and move each show plot forward.

During the series run, six actors played the role of Johnny Dollar:
Charles Russell - 34 programs (1949-1950),
Edmond O’Brien - 106 programs (1950-1952,
John Lund - 98 programs (1952-1954),
Bob Bailey - 483 programs (1955-1960),
Bob Readick - 29 programs (1960-1961) and
Mandel Kramer - 69 programs (1961-1962)

Additionally, two other prominent radio actors auditioned for the role of Johnny Dollar. Singer and entertainer Dick Powell auditioned to be the first Dollar. He went on to become the voice Richard Diamond. Gerald Mohr, who a few years earlier voiced Phillip Marlowe for CBS, auditioned for the resumption of the series after John Lund's tenure ended.

Johnny Dollar was supported by the finest CBS voice actors in Hollywood and then, after the program moved to New York in 1960, a reliable stable of CBS actors who had roles in radio soap operas and early television series.

Even though Johnny Dollar aired for almost 12 years, it had a sponsor for only one year during the O’Brien-Lund period. Wrigley’s Gum sponsored the program during a very successful 1952-53 season, and the program to receive a Hooper rating of 6.3 (tying with Fibber McGee and Molly). For the rest of the aeries the programs were “sustaining” – which meant that the network picked up the cost of the program, and they sold advertising, as did local stations, before and after the broadcast. Even as a sustaining program, the program lasted until 1962 when, along with an episode of Suspense, dramatic radio that originated in the golden age disappeared from the airwaves.

The cases that Johnny Dollar investigated ran the gamut from murder, arson, fraud and even a missing mouse! These cases were penned by some of the best of writers in radio. The writers included E. Jack Neuman, Paul Dudley, Gil Doud, Les Crutchfield, and Blake Edwards (yes, THAT Blake Edwards, creator of "The Pink Panther" and many other motion pictures).

Over the run of the program, a number of individuals directed the program, including Gordon T. Hughes, Norman McDonnell, Jaime del Valle, Jack Johnstone and Bruno Zirato, Jr. Starting in 1956, Jack Johnstone (its producer-director) found it difficult to find new scripts, so he started writing scripts himself. He ended up writing 272 scripts for Johnny Dollar. Jack related in a SPERDVAC interview that all the major writers had moved to movies and TV, so he had to fill the gap. He even wrote scripts for Suspense, using the pseudonym "Jonathan Bundy."

Even though the program started off weakly, it gathered steam and ultimately became the “Engergizer Bunny” of Radio. Johnny Dollar is probably more beloved today by collectors than it was at the time it aired. Favorite episodes are the 5-part series with Bob Bailey. YTJD expert John Abbott reminds fans that they may find the initial run with Charles Russell is often overlooked, and by doing so they are missing a different and entertaining characterization that they may find worthwhile.

John Abbott's books that provide an in-depth and exhaustive resource for the series are available at BearManorMedia and at Amazon. Be sure to get the latest, most-up-to-date edition, released in 2018.
Seamus
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