Sunday, September 16, 2007

Johnny Dollar Explication

I was listening to “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” a radio drama from the 50’s on XM last night. Johnny Dollar is an insurance investigator, like the Fred MacMurray character in “Double Indemnity” only, Johnny Dollar is straight up, see? The plot of this episode involved Johnny investigating the murder of a farm wife in a small town in Vermont. She had no enemies and she was a invalid, but someone had shot her through the window of her home and killed her. The murder had gone unsolved for a month, and the insurance company was about to pay out until someone sent an anonymous letter saying that the husband was to blame. So, the insurance company sent Johnny Dollar to investigate

For a woman with no enemies in a town of 1000, there were plenty of suspicious characters. The retarded kid with a taste for petty theft who helped out around the farm and was a crack shot with a rifle. The beleaguered, indebted husband on the verge of bankruptcy for paying for all the wife’s surgery who could get out from under with the proceeds of her insurance policy who may or may not have been stepping out with the waitress in the town’s only restaurant. The waitress, who had been acquitted of murdering the woman who had hired her to be a nanny in Chicago and who had moved to Vermont for a fresh start. The next door neighbor woman, who secretly loved the murdered woman’s husband since they were all children, and who had sent the anonymous letter. The town sheriff, who couldn’t bear the sight of his favorite niece in pain. And the husband to the pining woman, who held the mortgage on the murdered woman’s farm that had suddenly lost most of its value when the state changed the location of the new expressway.

I will save you from the need to listen to all 75 minutes of the program. The man who held the mortgage killed the other man’s wife so that the husband could get the insurance money and pay off the mortgage. The show ended with the man confessing the murder to Johnny Dollar, and asking if he could get his hat for the ride into town. Left unanswered were a couple of questions: Since the murder was committed in order to gain the money, even if the husband was in no way involved, would the insurance company still pay? If the insurance company paid, would the husband still have to pay off the mortgage to the man who murdered his wife? I know that many states passed “Son of Sam” laws to keep murderers from making money off their crimes, but in the ‘50’s there were no such laws, so I wonder what the resolution of all that was going to be. The fact that the their was no resolution to the story tells me that the writers did not want to deal with the troubling implications of their whodunnit.

I suspect that the mortgage would still be in force, and would still have to be paid, if not to the man then to his widow as sole heir once Vermont executed the mortgage holder. Although the Shadow claims that “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit, crime does not pay;” it looks like in this case, it does.