The Last Man Standing Matter: Johnny Dollar & the End of Old-Time Radio

He was the golden age of radio's last detective, a character played by more actors in a dozen years than James Bond was in 50. It's been more than 50 years since his last expense report, but one case remains - The Last Man Standing Matter.

  • Don Klees
    Inquiring Minds
  • Don Klees
    A Walk in the Past
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    26 minutes 7 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 18, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    2,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Don Klees

Don Klees has spent many years in the video business since film-school. This continues to enrich his life in many ways, chief among them being able to tell people he watches television for a living. Outside of that day-job, Don alternates between working on this documentary and writing about pop-culture for publications such as the Outside In book series, the journal Chromakey, and the anthology Me & the Starman.

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Director Statement

Like many things having to do with old-time radio in the DC area, this project started with Ed Walker. Though I've been a fan of radio drama since I was a kid, somehow I'd missed out on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar until catching it on Walker's weekly radio showcase, the Big Broadcast, not too long after moving to Maryland. If memory serves, it was The Jolly Roger Fraud Matter.

Over the next several years, I came to love and learn more about the program. I became fascinated by this program that seemed simultaneously unheralded and passionately loved. Fascinated that a show even a relatively devoted fan such as myself could go for so many years without hearing turned out to be the last regular drama of radio's "Golden Age" alongside the rather more famous Suspense.

After a few years of thinking to myself that it would make a good topic for a documentary, I finally realized I was right. The decision that the person to do it should be me followed, and I started making preparations in November of 2012.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in making a documentary about old-time radio is that virtually all of the original participants have passed away. I was fortunate enough to get access to interviews that radio historian John Dunning and others did when those involved with Yours Truly Johnny Dollar were still alive. Their accounts were valuable in telling not just the story of the program but also conveying the end of the era in which it was made and by extension the lives and careers impacted by that change, especially that of the program's long-time star Bob Bailey.

Whether you're working from a dramatic script or a transcript of documentary interviews, the editing process is where a film is really "written". This not only means figuring out what to include but also determining what to leave out. Of the two, the second is actually harder, because it’s not simply a matter of good material vs bad. The bad material tends to reveal itself quickly and clearly, but recognizing that a moment that’s interesting in isolation doesn’t fit the film’s overall story and acting accordingly is a tricky business.

Several really nice pieces had to be left out for just that reason. Losing material about producer/director Jack Johnstone’s early work in radio and backstory on the program's memorable music - just to name a couple - was disappointing. The end result, however, is a better, more cohesive film - one proudly dedicated to the memory of Ed Walker.