Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy is a comic strip featuring Dick Tracy (originally Plainclothes Tracy), a square-jawed, hard-hitting, fast-shooting, and intelligent police detective. Created by Chester Gould, the strip made its debut on October 4, 1931, in the Detroit Mirror.

Although stories often end in gunfights, Tracy uses forensic science, advanced gadgetry, and wits, in an early example of the police procedural mystery story. Stories typically follow a criminal committing a crime and Tracy's relentless pursuit of the criminal. The strip's most popular villain was Flattop Jones, a freelance hitman hired by black marketeers to murder Tracy. When Flattop was killed, fans went into public mourning, and the Flattop Story was reprinted in DC's series of Oversize Comic Reprints in the 1970s. Reflecting film noir, the villains' small crimes led to bigger, out of control. Similarly, innocent witnesses were frequently killed, and Tracy's paramour Tess Trueheart was often endangered by the villains. As the story progressed, Tracy adopted an orphan under the name, Dick Tracy Jr., or "Junior" for short, who appeared in investigations until becoming a police forensic artist in his father's precinct, and cultivated a professional partner, the ex-steel worker Pat Patton, who gradually became a detective of skill and courage enough to satisfy Tracy's requirements.

 Dick Tracy had a long run on radio, from 1934 weekdays on NBC's New England stations to the ABC network in 1948. Bob Burlen was the first radio Tracy in 1934, and others heard in the role during the 1930s and 1940s were Barry Thompson, Ned Wever and Matt Crowley. The early shows all had 15-minute episodes.

On CBS, with Sterling Products as sponsor, the serial aired four times a week from February 4, 1935 to July 11, 1935, moving to Mutual from September 30, 1935 to March 24, 1937 with Bill McClintock doing the sound effects. NBC's weekday afternoon run from January 3, 1938 to April 28, 1939 had sound effects by Keene Crockett and was sponsored by Quaker Oats, which brought Dick Tracy into primetime (Saturdays at 7 pm and, briefly, Mondays at 8 pm) with 30-minute episodes from April 29, 1939 to September 30, 1939. The series returned to 15-minute episodes on the ABC Blue Network from March 15, 1943 to July 16, 1948, sponsored by Tootsie Roll, which used the music theme of "Toot Toot, Tootsie" for its 30-minute Saturday ABC series from October 6, 1945 to June 1, 1946. Sound effects on ABC were supplied by Walt McDonough and Al Finelli.

Directors of the series included Mitchell Grayson, Charles Powers and Bob White. Cast members at various times included Walter Kinsella as Pat Patton, Helen Lewis as Tess Trueheart and Andy Donnelly and Jackie Kelk as Junior Tracy. Announcers were Ed Herlihy and Dan Seymour.

On July 8, 1945, during a New York newspaper deliverers' strike, New York mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia read a complete Dick Tracy strip over the radio.

The beginning of the May 1, 1945 episode ("The Case of the Empty Safe") was interrupted on the Blue Network for a "special news flash" relating that Adolf Hitler had "died of a stroke." Copies of this episode, complete with the mistaken news flash—Hitler had committed suicide the day before, not died of a stroke—still exist today.

Side note: Dick Tracy can be enjoyed throughout comic strips, cartoons, movie serials, and even several feature length films, but one of his briefest and most interesting incarnations came about during the 60's.  In 1967, William Dozier, the producer responsible for the 1966 Batman television series, produced a pilot for a live-action Dick Tracy series, starring Ray MacDonnell in the title role. While the quality of the pilot ("The Plot To Kill NATO", featuring "Special Guest Villain" Victor Buono as 'Mr. Memory') was slightly above-average, the series was not purchased by either ABC or NBC as ratings for the Batman series were dropping, and a similar series featuring The Green Hornet had recently flopped. To the networks, the "Hero Camp" or Batmania craze was dying, and they chose not to take a risk on another series.
The pilot is notable for the non-appearance of the future Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) as Bonnie Braids. Although cast in the role, she only appears in the title credits at the opening of the show.

Dick Tracy [1967][Unsold Pilot] by UnknownArchiveTV

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