Dick Tracy (1950–1952)

TV Series  |   |  Drama
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Title: Dick Tracy (1950–1952)

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2   1  
1952   1951   1950   Unknown  
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Cast

Complete series cast summary:
...
 Dick Tracy (48 episodes, 1950-1952)
Joe Devlin ...
 Sam Catchem (34 episodes, 1950-1952)
William Woodson ...
 Narrator (22 episodes, 1950-1951)
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11 September 1950 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Through the 1950's ABC was an also-ran network which out of necessity aired low-budget programs. Dick Tracy was popular with kids, but star Ralph Byrd's fatal heart attack in August, 1952 precluded the series continuation. See more »

Connections

Version of Dick Tracy (1937) See more »

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They left out Vitamin Flintheart
13 December 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

Ralph Byrd was a leading-man type who was a little bit talented and a little bit good-looking, but not a great deal of either: he got about as far as his looks and talent merited. He had the good luck to get cast as Chester Gould's comic-strip character Dick Tracy: with his sharp nose and strong profile, Byrd resembled Dick Tracy about as much as it was humanly possible for any flesh-and-blood human being to look like Dick Tracy without plastic surgery. (Morgan Conway, another actor who played Dick Tracy, looked nothing at all like the face in the comic strips.)

In the early days of television, after his film career had stalled, Byrd attempted to revive his most successful role in a cheapjack low-budget TV series. Commendably, Byrd was aware of his obligation to depict Dick Tracy as a role model for the children who were his target audience. In this series, the villains are always punished, and violence is kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, it's not replaced with anything more interesting: every episode contains a long dialogue scene in which Dick Tracy and this week's villain just stand there jawing at each other. Of course, if ever there was a hero who could subdue villains with only his jaw, Dick Tracy's the one.

Apart from its low budget and bad scripts, this series suffers drastically from the fact that the distinctive villains in Chester Gould's comic strip are so physically grotesque that it's nearly impossible for any flesh-and-blood actor (short of Lon Chaney) to impersonate them on screen. One of the most memorable villains in the 'Dick Tracy' comic strip was Heels Beals, a midget who smuggled jewellery in the hollowed-out heels of his platform shoes. In 'Dick Tracy', Heels Beals is played by Billy Benedict, a normal-sized actor. He still smuggles jewels in the heels of his platform shoes ... but, when worn by an actor of normal height, the platform heels look ludicrous rather than grotesque. In the comic strip, Heels Beals died a slow agonising death from thirst and exposure, trapped inside a giant soda bottle (part of an advertising display). Heels's death was memorably played out over several weeks of Gould's daily and Sunday strips. But there's nothing so grotesque or ironic as that death scene in any episode of 'Dick Tracy' the TV series.

The most famous of Dick Tracy's villains was Flattop, named for the aircraft carriers that got so much publicity during the wartime years of this strip. Before the days of digital photography F/X, it would have been impossible to replicate Flattop's distinctive cranial deformity on a flesh-and-blood actor. Here in the TV series 'Dick Tracy', Flattop is played by John Cliff (who?), a physically normal (and very untalented) actor who appears to have a manhole cover glued to the top of his skull, and hair glued over it to cover the join. We're told that Flattop works for a crime boss named Namgib ... 'Bigman' spelt backwards, geddit?

Several different classic villains from Gould's strip are all portrayed here (interchangeably) by Lyle Talbot in various episodes, and the role of the Mole (he's that guy in the hole) is grossly miscast with veteran character actor Raymond Hatton. (Too bad they couldn't get RONDO Hatton.)

In one episode, Tracy gets locked in a steamer trunk, and the villain keeps threatening to pump cyanide gas into it. (But never gets round to doing so, of course.) The camera set-ups of Byrd, ostensibly inside a tiny steamer trunk, are unintentionally funny.

This TV series is well-intentioned but slow and boring, with bad dialogue and almost no action at all. It doesn't even attain a campy Ed Wood-style level of 'so bad it's good'. It's just BAD. Skip this TV show and get a video of 'Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome', starring Boris Karloff.


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