Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar: "The Picture Postcard Matter," 10/1/56 to 10/5/56

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar was one of old-time radio's longest running shows, beginning its run in 1948 and continuing until network radio drama came to an ignoble end in 1962.

It was a quality show with a fun gimmick. Johnny Dollar was a freelance insurance investigator. The show was structured around his first-person narration in the form of his expense account: "Item 1, $342.13: air fare and incidentals from Hartford to L.A." he would tell us, then begin recounting the details of the case as he investigated upon his arrival. All throughout the episode, he would drop in yet another expense ("Item 3: $1.40, cab fare from my hotel to the waterfront"; "Item 11: $10.00 slipped to the bartender to 'encourage his memory'"; and so on.) When the case was wrapped up, he'd total his account and sign the report "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar."

Of course, a clever gimmick is meaningless unless backed up by good storytelling. Johnny Dollar definitely had good stories, with solid plots and often excellent characterizations.

For most of its run, Johnny Dollar was a half-hour show. But for a little over a year in 1955/56, it became a 15-minute per day serial. One story would begin Monday and conclude on Friday.

With Bob Bailey playing Dollar with an easy combination of intelligence and toughness, the show was at its peak during this time. With 75 minutes rather than 30 minutes to tell the story, there was plenty of time for both character and plot development.

"The Picture Postcard Matter" is a typically strong entry from this time. $100,000 dollars in diamonds were stolen from a messenger in Zurich. The insurance company receives a letter from a guy offering to sell them information on the whereabouts of the diamonds.

Dollar is hired to follow up and flies to Zurich. He's almost immediately beaten up by thugs who think he has the diamonds. His contact in the city is murdered, but a picture postcard leads him to a sky lodge in the mountains. Someone tries to off him and Dollar has reason to suspect several different people.

The plot moves along logically, with enough action and suspense seeded into it to make sure things stay interesting. The reasons for both suspecting certain people AND the reasons for thinking those same people may be innocent after all are nicely balanced, leading to a good twist at the end. It is, all things considered, a very nice way to spend 75 minutes.

[The best way to listen to a OTR serial, by the way, is to limit yourself to one part a day. Give yourself the pleasure of the suspense of a cliffhanger.]

These episodes can be downloaded HERE.


  1. Love Johnny Dollar! Great series, even though, personally, I think some of the later shows turned a bit too campy for me......

  2. The show had such a long run that it's really not surprising it started to run out of steam towards the end. But during its heydey it was one of the best OTR shows ever.


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