On July 7, 1957, Johnny Dollar, the “fabulous freelance insurance investigator with the action-packed expense account” solved the case of “The Felicity Feline Matter“. Even after the advent of television, the fifties were still part of the golden age of radio dramas. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar was a classic detective series which began in January, 1949 and concluded its long run with a final broadcast on September 30, 1962. Eight men voiced Johnny over the years, and Johnny No. 6, Bob Bailey (October 1955 – November 1960) is considered by radio crime aficionados to be the best.
Each case (almost always referred to as a “matter”) followed a standard format: Johnny received a call from an insurance executive asking him to investigate an unusual claim; Johnny traveled to a distant locale; Johnny solved the case while indulging in romance and threatened by danger. Each story was told in flashback as Johnny reviewed his expense account; transportation, lodging, and food entries prompted the story development. Incidentals occasionally popped up: “Item nine, 10 cents. Aspirin. I needed them”, and “Two cents. What I felt like”. At the conclusion of each episode, Johnny would calculate and submit the grand total.
The original Johnny was smart, tough, and a wisecracker. He was the policeman’s friend, but didn’t necessarily follow the law. He and his airwave competition – Richard Diamond, Philip Marlowe, and Sam Spade – were all fairly interchangeable. When Yours Truly returned after a one-year hiatus in October 1955, Bob Bailey and his new writers (primarily Jack Johnstone, Robert Ryf, and Les Crutchfield) made Johnny more sensitive and thoughtful. They experimented with five-part weekday serials, which allowed them to explore more detailed plots, then reverted to a half-hour weekly show. In all, there were 811 episodes in Johnny’s 12-year run. “Felicity Feline” was #544.
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