Friday, December 19, 2014

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 19 - Johnny Dollar and the Nick Shurn Matter

Working on sending out one blog entry each day in December to showcase great Old Time Radio for the Christmas season.  Here is a link to all the entries.  Here is day 19 - Johnny Dollar and the Nick Shurn Matter.  This is, of course, from Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, the great series that featured America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator.  While there were a number of holiday episodes for this long running series, the Nick Shurn Matter is one of my favorites of the five part marathons.

If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#82). He has a number of great programs available throughout the month of December on his great show.  You can also get a large number of these programs at a variety or resources on the web. One place to find these shows is the 500 OTR Christmas Shows from the Internet Archive. This is a great resources for many of these wonderful radio shows!

Squirrels and other pictures at the University of Michigan on an awful cold wintry day (January 6, 2014)

Squirrels at the University of Michigan on an awful cold wintry day (January 6, 2014)

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar is one of my favorite Old Time Radio series.  It ran from 1949 through 1962 (making it one of the last dramas on the radio).  These detective stories all started with an insurance claim - or the concern that one might be coming.  Companies all over Hartford, Connecticut would call in Johnny Dollar if they had any doubt or concerns about an insurance policy or a claim.  The structure of the show revolved around his expense account - which was a nice way to move the story forward.  I will go on record and say that he did not seem to pad his expense account as much as he was accused of doing so!

Throughout that time, there were a number of actors who portrayed Johnny Dollar (America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator).  The one I loved the most is Bob Bailey (see my previous entry on the centennial of his birth).  From October 3, 1955 through November 2, 1956 (after a year break), the show changed its format.  Instead of 30 minutes self-contained dramas, the stories would be spread out through 15 minute episodes spread out over five consecutive nights.  Instead of a story in 30 minutes, the writers and producers now had 75 minutes to tell a story.  With this larger canvas, the stories became more interesting and detailed.  Discussions that would have been quicker between characters, or just told in exposition, were drawn out.  Relationships between the characters were more greatly developed and the stories added a layer of complexity that could not be done in 30 minutes.  In fact, they took stories that were originally on as a single episode and turned them into a five part serial.  And if a listener missed an episode, they always did a good job of providing some footing with the story in the opening minute each evening.

When they moved to the five part serials, they brought in Bob Bailey to play Johnny Dollar.  He was fantastic in this role (as with the title character in Let George Do It) and made it for me.  I first realized how cool these were through Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#82) and his Johnny Dollar Marathons - where he would play all five episodes in a row.  I always felt that these episodes remind me of some of the work from CBS (Norman Corwin and the Columbia Workshop) that represents the best that the medium could offer.

The Nick Shurn Matter is a great story.  Johnny Dollar gets the call from an insurance adjuster and they are trying to prevent the paying of an insurance claim. Turns out that a crooked guy died under suspicious circumstances.  His beneficiary, was crooked in his own Nick Shurn, a no good hood.  But the twist is that everyone was sure that Nick Shurn pulled the trigger.  The task for Johnny Dollar is to find a witness and protect her for trial.  One Kathleen O'Dare, a hat check girl at a New York club that Shurn owned, was a witness to the crime, but was missing.  Running from Nick Shurn and his hired gun, Kathleen raced back home, to a small town in Northern Michigan.  With the pageantry of small town Michigan for Christmas and a snowstorm, Johnny Dollar was racing against time, and Nick Shurn to keep Kathleen O'Dare safe.

Nick Shurn Matter - Part 1 (December 19, 1955)

Nick Shurn Matter - Part 2 (December 20, 1955)

Nick Shurn Matter - Part 3 (December 21, 1955)

Nick Shurn Matter - Part 4 (December 22, 1955)

Nick Shurn Matter - Part 5 (December 23, 1955)

Here are some links to programs relating to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar:

25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas:

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