Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, “the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator” aired on CBS Radio from January 1949 to September 1962. There were 811 episodes in the 12-year run, and more than 720 still exist today. I think I have all of them.
As originally conceived, Johnny Dollar was a smart, tough, wisecracking detective who tossed silver-dollars as tips to waiters and bellhops. Dick Powell (who we heard recently as Richard Diamond), starred in the first audition show, recorded in 1948 but he withdrew before the show started production. The show, for which Powell auditioned, was originally titled “Yours Truly, Lloyd London,” although the name of the show and its lead character were apparently changed before first episode recording in December of 1948.
At first, there was little to distinguish Johnny Dollar from other detective series at the time (Richard Diamond, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade). While always a friend of the police, Johnny wasn’t necessarily a stickler for the strictest interpretation of the law. He was willing to let some things slide to satisfy his own sense of justice, as long as the interests of his employer were also protected. The first run ended in 1954. CBS Radio revived Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in October 1955 with a new leading man, a new director, and a new format. The program changed from a 30-minute, one-episode-per-week affair to a 15-minute, five-nights-a-week serial (Monday through Friday, 8-8:15pm EST) produced and directed by radio veteran Jack Johnstone. The new Johnny Dollar was Bob Bailey (Our Johnny Dollar on this particular show), who had just come off another network detective series, Let George Do It. With a new lead and 75 minutes of air time each week, it became possible to develop each storyline with more detail and with more characters. The serial scripts were usually written by Jack Johnstone, “John Dawson” (a pseudonym for E. Jack Neuman), Les Crutchfield, or Robert Ryf. Blake Edwards also contributed several scripts and the show was always produced and directed by Johnstone. The show featured an excellent stock company of supporting actors, including Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Vic Perrin, Lawrence Dobkin, Parley Baer, Howard McNear, John Dehner, Alan Reed, and Forrest Lewis. Movie character actors appeared occasionally.
In late 1956 CBS Radio retooled the show, which reverted to a weekly half-hour drama, airing on late Sunday afternoons. Bob Bailey continued in the leading role until 1960 (and wrote one episode, “The Carmen Kringle Matter”).
Tonight’s show, The Shepherd Matter, was originally one of the five-night serials but has been edited to fit into the time allowed. I must stress that nothing has been removed except the show introductions and the preview of the next day’s show from each of the daily programs. The show itself is basically intact. It was originally broadcast from the 16th through the 20th of April, 1956.
This series originated on radio in the 1940s as Theatre Guild on the Air. Organized in 1919 to improve the quality of American theater, the Theatre Guild first experimented with radio productions in Theatre Guild Dramas, a CBS series which ran from December 6, 1943 to February 29, 1944.
Actress-playwright Armina Marshall, a co-administrator of the Theatre Guild, headed the Guild’s newly created Radio Department and in 1945, Theatre Guild on the Air embarked on its ambitious plan to bring Broadway theater to radio with leading actors in major productions. It premiered September 9, 1945, on ABC with Burgess Meredith, Henry Daniell and Cecil Humphreys in Wings Over Europe, a play by Robert Nichols and Maurice Browne which the Theatre Guild had staged on Broadway in 1928-29.
Within a year the series drew some 10 to 12 million listeners each week. Presenting both classic and contemporary plays, the program was broadcast for eight years before it became a television series.
In 1933, Katharine Hepburn won her first Oscar in Morning Glory, as a young actress who rejects romance in favor of her career. That same year, Hepburn played Jo in the Big-screen adaptation of Little Women, which broke box-office records, and for which she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.
In 1950, Hepburn signed on to play Rose Sayer in The African Queen, a prim spinster missionary in Africa (around the time of World War I), who convinces Humphrey Bogart’s character, a hard-drinking riverboat captain, to use his boat to destroy a German ship. The African Queen was shot mostly on location in Africa, where almost all the cast and crew suffered from malaria and dysentery, except director John Huston and Bogart, neither of whom ever drank any water. Hepburn disapproved of the two men’s drinking and drank gallons of water each day to spite them. She wound up so sick with dysentery that, even months after she returned home, the actress was still ill. The film gave Hepburn her fifth Best Actress nomination, but she lost to Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Named Desire.The trip and the movie made such an impact on Hepburn that later in life she wrote a book about filming the movie: The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind, which made her a best-selling author at the age of 77.
In this version of Little Women, Hepburn plays the parts of both the Narrator and Jo.
Next time: X minus One and Gunsmoke