Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

  • December 8, 1948 to September 30, 1962 on CBS
  • Cast: Dick Powell (audition), Charles Russell, Edmond O'Brien, John Lund, Gerald Mohr (audition), Bob Bailey, Bob Readick and Mandel Kramer all played Johnny Dollar at different times in the show's history.
  • Supporting cast members included Vivi Janiss, Jack Kruschen, John Dehner, Ann Morrison, Paul Dubov, Lillian Buyeff, Lawrence Dobkin, Barney Phillips, Georgia Ellis, Parley Baer, William Conrad, Ed Begley, Jeanne Bates, Irene Tedrow, Peggy Webber, Joseph Kearns, Lurene Tuttle, Howard McNear, Virginia Gregg
  • Producer-Director: Jack Johnstone
  • Orchestra: Amerigo Marino
  • Writers: John Dawson, Les Crutchfield, Robert Ryf, Jack Johnstone

"the man with the action-packed expense account...America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator." And if we still weren't sure, he always told us himself: "Yours truly, Johnny Dollar."

Johnny Dollar was a high-powered insurance investigator who worked chiefly for the Universal Adjustment Bureau, a clearinghouse for the many insurance companies. "The man with the action-packed expense account."  He was always ready to fly to far reaches of the country to get to the bottom of insurance fraud - stolen diamonds, furs, art. He investigated arson and played bodyguard for highly insured clients. He generally ran into danger and often murder. His trademark was tossing silver dollars as tips to busboys and bellhops.

The early episodes tended to be flat and the character of Dollar was too dry. Johnny Dollar was too much the wiseacre, always ready with a flip phrase. At the start of the 1950 season veteran film actor Edmund O'Brien stepped in as the second Johnny Dollar. During the O'Brien programs improved with scripts by expert crime writers such as E. Jack Neumann, John Michael Hayes, Sidney Marshall and Blake Edwards. The character became the stereotypical American detective of  Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. When O'Brien left in 1952 and John Lund became Dollar number three the typical private dick remained.

When Bill Bailey became Johnny Dollar in 1955, the series bloomed. It became a 5-day-a-week, 15 minute program with a new producer-director Jack Johnstone. The scripts developed Dollar's character and the plots. Dollar became the bright yet gritty street wise detective with a conscience. Strong casts with many veteran radio actors and excellent directing led to more realistic stories. The sound effects, acting and stories led to some of the best and most exciting adventure and mystery.

But a daily show, even if recorded (transcribed) weekly was a lot of work and at the end of 1956 it reverted to a 30 minute, once a week show. At the end of the 1950s the show was sounding tired.

Bailey let the show when it moved to New York and was replaced by Bob Readick for six months. In 1961 Mandel Kramer became Johnny Dollar showing more cynical humour than Bailey's Dollar.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar has the distinction of being the last dramatic radio series from the golden age of radio. As with the close of Suspense, the golden age of radio was sounding its death throes.


 

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Trivia

  • Bob Bailey was the fourth Johnny Dollar (1955). He came from playing George Valentine in Let George Do It.

 

     
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