In Robert Taylor's tenure as host on Death Valley Days occasionally he took a role in the story. In this episode Taylor essays the role of James 'Shanghai' Kelly who in the days of the California Gold Rush was the best and most notorious individual who recruited sailors for those tall clipper ships against their wishes.
As the narrative explains lots of people came to San Francisco after gold was discovered, but few wanted to leave. So the ship's captains had to obtain a crew any way they could. That's where folks like Shanghai Kelly came in with their waterfront bars and boardinghouses. A little hospitality, an introduction to Mr. Michael Finn and before you knew some prospective 49er was bound for the Orient.
Taylor has a firm rule, he only recruits for people going on long voyages like to China or South America lest they come back too soon and want to do him bodily harm. One does in this episode in fact.
Taylor's long suffering girlfriend Mary Murphy wants him to get out of Shanghai business, but he's making to good a living. So she hatches a plan to cure him so they'll leave San Francisco and go into a line of work which carries less risk.
By the title of story, it has to do with his birthday. Murphy comes with quite the scheme.
According to the Wikipedia article which is not long on details, Shanghai Kelly had a full red beard and a temper to match. Hardly the image that the dark and courtly Taylor gives us. Nevertheless this is a fine episode.
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