Day: April 15, 2023

My Top Six Most Wanted Missing Old Time Radio Episodes

A version of this article was posted in 2018.

In podcasting, few things make me happier than getting word more detective radio programs have come into circulation. Over the last few seasons, we’ve revisited several series where I’d done every available episode only for more episodes to come available.

The list of series I would love to have new episodes for is vast. I’d love more episodes of series that have 90% of their episodes missing, such as The Fat Man and The Thin Man. I’d love episodes for shows for which we have only dozens of episodes out of hundreds, such as The Saint, Barrie Craig, and Nick Carter. I’d love more episodes of series where we already have most of them such as The Adventures of Philip Marlowe, Dragnet, Richard Diamond, and Johnny Dollar.

When it comes to specific missing episodes, the list is far shorter. We have no idea what the missing episodes are about, so in theory, one missing episode could be as good as another. Yet, we do have tantalizing details about some specific episodes, and I’m particularly curious about them. Here are my top six:

6) Dragnet: Production 1, June 3, 1949

We are missing the very first episode of Dragnet from the radio series that ran for six years and led to four different TV series, a major motion picture, and a successful spin-off in Adam 12. “Production 1” is one of only eleven lost episodes of the radio show, but it’s such a historic broadcast, and it’s a shame we can’t hear it. The only reason it ranks so low is that we do have “Production 2”, which gives us a hint of what “Production 1” was like, with its very different opening theme and somewhat different style. Production 1 isn’t Dragnet as most people know it, but it’s still the beginning of the series, and I’d like to be able to hear it.

Note: This episode is one various site frequently claim to have for sale, but when you listen to the episode, it’s actually “Production 2”.

5)Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Lonely Hearts Matter, Episode 4: April 28, 1956

The fifteen-minute Johnny Dollar serials with Bob Bailey are the best audio dramas of radio’s Golden Age. Thankfully, they are almost entirely intact, with only four installments missing. Three of these missing episodes are Parts Two or Three. If a chapter is going to be missing, one of these middle chapters is best, as most plot developments are readily captured in recaps.

However, “The Lonely Hearts Matter” is missing Episode Four. In my opinion, that’s the second-worst episode to be missing. The worst possible episode to not have is the final episode of the serial since you don’t know how the story ends. But Episode Four is critical, as it’s in this episode that Johnny begins to move towards the solution, and the drama of the final chapter is set up. As it is now, “The Lonely Hearts Matter” is not a satisfying listen. The leap from parts three to five is a huge one. We can read about what happened in Episode Four thanks to John C. Abbott’s definitive book on Johnny Dollar. However, there’s nothing like actually hearing the episode.

4) Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Curly Waters Matter, February 1, 1949

After the end of the serial era, the show resumed the typical half-hour format. Most episodes were entirely self-contained. So while we may not have all the episodes, we don’t need them to understand the episodes we do have. One exception to this is “The Curly Waters Matter”. This episode is missing and that’s bad for two reasons. First, it introduces Betty Lewis, who would be a recurring character for the last year and a half of the Bob Bailey era, as Johnny’s first and only ongoing girlfriend. In addition, the plot for next week’s program (“The Date of Death Matter”) is a bit of a sequel to this one. Many of the events are recapped, so you can understand what went on in that episode, but it’s disappointing we couldn’t hear these events for ourselves.

3) Let George Do It: George Meets Sam Spade, September 26, 1947

Dennis at the Digital Deli located a tantalizing ad from a newspaper for the radio series Let George Do It with the caption “George Meets Sam Spade.”

The radio show doesn’t exist in circulation (only one episode of Let George Do It from 1947 does), so we’re left with a lot of questions. Was this an actual team-up between George Valentine and Sam Spade despite being on different networks? Was it a guest appearance by Sam Spade actor Howard Duff on Let George Do It? Was it a situation where a parody of Sam Spade appeared, perhaps voiced by Elliott Lewis, who worked for Mutual around this time and could be a soundalike for his friend Duff? We’ll never know until the episode is found.

2) Dragnet: The Big Cop, August 2, 1951

This is the only radio/television episode of Dragnet from the 1950s to tackle the issue of police corruption. A listener emailed me with the theory that the radio and TV versions of this episode were being suppressed. It doesn’t require a conspiracy. Hundreds of thousands of hours of 1950s radio are missing. That said, I’d love to see how Dragnet dealt with this topic in the 1950s.

Note: This is another episode that is often listed as being available for sale, but the episode sold is an unrelated burglary case.

Since I first wrote this article, the Gotham Radio players produced a solid recreation (heard thirty-five minutes into this broadcast from WBAI). It gives the script a believable treatment and it’s a good one. I’d so love for the original to appear.

1) Matthew Slade: The Day of the Phoenix, Part Three, July 1964

This episode concluded the 1960s detective series Matthew Slade, Private Investigator. It aired in 1964, a couple years after the official end of the Golden Age of Radio. The absence of the concluding episode, “Day of the Phoenix”, is why I’ve held off on doing this series.

This episode is tantalizing because there’s evidence it exists. It’s listed in the Digital Deli’s log, and I saw the episode for sale on a now-defunct website that offered Old Time Radio MP3 CDs. I didn’t buy it because of the seller’s shady setup, but it does give hope that the show is out there.

We’re running out of great detectives that we haven’t done yet, so we may end up running Matthew Slade without “Day of the Phoenix”.

If you have any of these episodes, I’d love to hear them and to share them with my audience. Before emailing me, please be sure that you’ve listened to the episode and verified it is what it purports to be (particularly with the missing Dragnet episodes).

Tales of the Texas Rangers: Travesty (EP4052)

Today’s Mystery:

A man claims that his spare tire was stolen out of the back of his car, and accuses a Sherriff’s Deputy of failing to file his report.

Original Radio Broadcast Date: June 15, 1952

Originated from Hollywood

Starred: Joel McCrea as Jace Pearson, Byron Kane, Ken Christy, Paul Frees, Michael Ann Barrett, Jess Kirkpatrick, Tony Barrett

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Join us again on Monday for another detective drama from the Golden Age of Radio.