Wednesday, December 9, 2015

25 More Days of Old Time Radio Christmas: Day 9 - Department Store Woes with Johnny Dollar

Yesterday I featured the centennial honoree Frank Sinatra as a department store detective Rocky Fortune trying to solve the thefts in his store.  Today, I am heading back to a department store with one of the earliest episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.  I am not sure I heard it before I started working on this entry.  But that is the fun part of this project - listening to new recordings.  Here is a link to all the 2014 OTR Christmas entries.  If you have Sirius/XM, you can listen to Greg Bell's Old time radio channel (#148).  He does a great job of showcasing great holiday themed episodes, especially as we get closer to Christmas and the end of December.

Squirrels Outside the Michigan State Capitol (Lansing, Michigan) - December 7, 2015
Squirrel at the Michigan State Capitol Christmas Tree in Lansing (December 7, 2015)

Last year, I featured the great five part Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar series called the Nick Shurn Matter.  This is one of my favorite multi-part series.  It stars Bob Bailey (who is my favorite actor who played Johnny Dollar).  Also, with a 75 minutes to play with (15 minutes for five consecutive nights), there is a whole lot more the writers can do to make the story more complex.  That does not even take into account the ability to have more drawn out conversations between the characters.  Well, that was in 1955 and 1956.  When it started out in 1949, it was a basic 30 minute detective series.  After Dick Powell did the audition show for Johnny Dollar, but he opted to do the great series Richard Diamond (with many scripts written by a young Blake Edwards).  With Dick Powell turning down the role, CBS went with Charles Russell who played Dollar for the first year.

While Johnny Dollar is a basic detective program, the gimmick was that it revolved around his expense report.  Johnny Dollar provided the exposition around the expenses incurred during the case.  At first, I could not believe that they had a show featuring an insurance investigator with an expense report.  But it quickly became one of my favorite series.  

On December 24, 1949, the producers found an opportunity to work in a Christmas show during the first season.  And in many ways, the show tried by like Richard Diamond in not only having a good story, but also having a lot of fun with it.  That comes over loud and clear as Johnny Dollar tries to figure out who is the phantom burglar hitting New York Department Stores.

Johnny Dollar is called into the offices of the Association of Department Stores of Greater Manhattan when it is discovered that a burglar is dressing up as a store clerk, working with a customer, taking their cash and never returning.  Upon arriving in New York, Johnny Dollar discovers that this happened again, and is off to the store to find the witness, a little girl who wanted to buy a camera.  Thinking the camera had film, our mystery burglar tries to take it from the girl, only to be bit on his hand by the victim.  And when the store detective turns up dead, the simple theft becomes murder.  Johnny Dollar works his magic to solve the case.  And in the process, not only gets things wrapped up, but he also gets free shipping (trust me on this one - it makes sense).

So when your shopping this season, be extra nice to the sales staff.  Who knows if they have a worried store manager making their lives very difficult!  Actually, we should be nice to sales staff all year long.  What a wonderful world it would be.

How I Played Santa Claus - or Small Time Swindlers Of Big Time Department Stores (December 24, 1949)

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

      25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2015) & Other Links

      25 Days of Old Time Radio Christmas (from 2014)

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