This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.
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Johnny Dollar, "The UnAired Matter"
Stewart Wright © 2015
(From Radio Recall, December, 2015)
In early August, 1962, trade publications carried the story that CBS would be dropping its last two prime-time radio dramas series: Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. These series aired their final episodes on September 30, 1962. But, for Johnny Dollar was the broadcast on that date, "The Tip-Off Matter," the last episode available?
In April, 2015, I was conducting archival research on several series including Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. In the recently available documents of the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Collections were many Jack Johnstone-written Johnny Dollar scripts that were aired from late 1960 through September, 1962 when the show originated from New York. These scripts did not have cover pages, there was no cast or crew information; nor were there any closing credits. The dramatic portions of the scripts are complete.
Among these Johnstone scripts were two scripts titled "The Key to Crime Matter" dated 9-30- 62. The date was crossed out on both scripts and replaced by the date 10-7-62 written in pencil. At first I thought they were simply two copies of the same script. Actually, they were the same basic script with different opening scenes. In one version, Pat Fuller of the Universal Adjustment Bureau fills Johnny in on the case he wants the insurance investigator to work. In the other version, the script begins with Johnny receiving calls in the space of a few minutes from three of his Philadelphia insurance company contacts; each wants him to investigate a theft at a different Philadelphia area hotel. Pat Fuller catches Johnny at the airport, fills him in on the much broader scope of the case and has him work the case for all companies through the Bureau. From this point, the plotlines of both scripts are the same. I have been unable to find any indication that either script was ever recorded. The following is the plot summary that I have compiled from the two scripts.
Pat Fuller of the Universal Adjustment Bureau has Dollar come to his office to fill him in on an epidemic of thefts of money, furs, jewelry, and watches from hotel rooms. The Philadelphia area thefts involve loss claims totaling $4,871 that have been filed with 5 different insurance companies. Pat mentions that there have been similar groups of thefts at some of the best hotels in other cities including Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, Mobile, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Baltimore, Atlantic City and Trenton. In each of the cities, single thefts have occurred at several high-end hotels. Other than the stolen items, there are no signs that the rooms have been illegally entered.
Pat thinks one man is behind all of the thefts and wants Dollar to investigate. The two men agree that the next city on the thief's list is probably New York. Johnny thinks he knows how the rooms are being entered, but needs to gather evidence to back up his hunch and obtain information on the thief. Johnny visits some of the cities and hotels and checks the guest registration cards. He finds similar hand writing for several different names and that the suspect checked into and out of the hotels at least a full day before any of the burglaries occurred. After the thief checks out, the room in which he stayed is occupied by new guests and is later burglarized.
Johnny goes to New York and checks with his ace-in-the-hole: a desk clerk at the Hotel Commodore who has an astonishing memory for names and faces of guests who have stayed at the hotel and when they stayed there. He helps the investigator go through recent guest registration cards and together they quickly find a signature that is a match to those that Dollar gathered through his field work: a Mr. Charles Hathaway Halsey. The clerk is able to give a complete description of the man, but he informs Johnny that Mr. Halsey checked out that morning. Dollar is not disappointed because there has been no theft at the Commodore; he now knows that he has gotten ahead of his suspect and all he has to do is wait.
Johnny wants to stay in the specific suite Halsey had used, but it is already occupied. The Commodore's management moves the new guests to another suite to accommodate the investigator. Dollar will lie in wait for the thief. On the second day, the phone rings in the early evening and the investigator doesn't answer it. He is sure it is the thief checking to see if the guests are out. The sleuth turns out the lights and waits in hiding.
A few minutes later he hears the door being unlocked and the thief enters and begins to go through the room and luggage looking for valuables. All the while the thief is talking to himself. Johnny has planted an appropriate and most disagreeable surprise in his luggage: a rat trap which triggers and breaks several of the painfully surprised thief's fingers.
An armed Dollar comes out of hiding and confronts the man. The thief realizes that his game is up and is surprised that Johnny doesn't immediately recognize him. He is Charles Everhurst aka "Light-Fingered Charlie" who Dollar had caught several years before. His plan was simple: get one of the best suites in a major hotel, make a duplicate key, stay a day or two then check out, and return a day or two later and steal the current guest valuables while they were out of the rooms. Very few of the valuables and very little of the cash is recovered. Light-Fingered Charlie used his ill-gotten gains to finance his later thefts.
No summary of an episode of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar would be complete without mentioning his Expense Account. For the two versions of "The Key to Crime Matter" the totals were $772.89 and $542.89