|Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar
|"The man with the action-packed expense account...America's fabulous
freelance insurance investigator...Yours truly, Johnny Dollar."
Starting on a Friday night, February 18, 1949, the radio show brought us a high-powered
insurance investigator who worked chiefly for the Universal Adjustment Bureau, a
clearinghouse for the many insurance companies. The show starred Charles Russell
as Johnny Dollar, the smart and tough detective, whose trademark it was to toss silver dollars
as tips to busboys and bellhops.
Appearing on CBS Radio, Johnny Dollar was heard each week flying off to a different town
filled with danger and possibly murder as he tried to get to the bottom of insurance fraud.
At the start of the 1950 season, Charles Russell was out and veteran film actor Edmund
O'Brien stepped in as the second Johnny Dollar. The series during the O'Brien years
improved with scripts by expert crime writer such as E. Jack Neumann, John Michael
Hayes, Sidney Marshall and Blake Edwards. The character took on the stereotype of the
American detective developed by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Johnny Dollar was more hardboiled; his softer side rarely appeared. O'Brien left in 1952 and John Lund became Dollar number three. With
Lund in the role, the character as developed by O'Brien remained. In 1955, radio actor Bob Bailey became the fourth Johnny Dollar. It was
with Bailey that the series really blossomed. Changing to a 15-minute format five times a week, and under the sharp eye of the new
producer/director, Jack Johnstone, the scripts got much deeper into characterization and plot. And Bailey's depiction of Dollar had
shades of a gritty street fighter, yet bright and sensitive. With a strong cast (many of the same veteran radio actors appearing in different
roles) and excellent directing, the portrayals were much more real. While radio drama was declining, this was radio acting at its best. The
sound effects fit into the scripts so well as to produce some very exciting adventure/mystery. But doing a daily show live was taxing, so
by the end of 1956, the series reverted to thirty minute, once-a-week episodes. But the power of the show continued, due a lot to the
continued presence of both Bailey and Johnstone. However, toward the end of the 1950's, the show began to sound tired - some of the
scripts were weak and even Bailey did not always seem excited. Bailey left the show when it moved to New York production studios and
initially Bob Readick filled Johnny Dollar's shows. However, that was only a transition that lasted six months. In June, 1961, Mandel Kramer
came to the role. He was perhaps the second best of the Dollar portrayals. Kramer's Dollar displayed more cynical humor than Bailey's.
Johnny Dollar remained sensitive yet tough and with Jack Johnstone continuing as producer, the series remained poignant right up to its
Actors Who Played Johnny Dollar
Dick Powell (Audition Show in 1948)
Charles Russell (February 1949 - January 1950)
Edmond O'Brien (February 1950 - September 1952)
John Lund (November 1952 - September 1954)
Gerald Mohr (Audition Show in 1955)
Bob Bailey (October 1955 - November 1960)
Bob Readick (December 1960 - June 1961)
Mandel Kramer (June 1961 - September 1962)
|The final broadcasts of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar on
September 30, 1962, are often cited as the end of the Golden Age of Radio.
|Credit: Eric Theriault
& Serge Lapointe
|Some of the radio shows will broadcast at the end of the
program "this has been a presentation of the American
Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS)." These
were collected from their archives by the original collectors
to fill in what was missing.