In 1990, a feature film was produced based on Dick Tracy's life story. Titled The Dick Tracy Story, the film was plagued by production problems. The film was described as "docu-drama" and was meant to encompass Tracy's entire career, from the night that Emil Trueheart was murdered up to the present day. Several liberties were taken with historical fact for the sake of drama.
Tracy himself first learned of the film after production had begun. The actor playing Tracy became frustrated with the make-up and prosthetics and walked off the production. Desperate, the film's director Da Mill contacted Tracy and offered him the opportunity to play himself. Tracy refused at first, but changed his mind after Tess convinced him.
Dick and Tess flew to Los Angeles, where they were met by Vitamin Flintheart, who was also playing himself. Flintheart introduced Tracy to Fame, the young starlet who was playing Tess. Fame and Vitamin had recently become engaged. Fame was replacing the actress who originally been cast as Tess, B.U. Tiffil, after she suffered a bout of "nervous exhaustion".
Several acts of sabotage took place on set that nearly injured Tracy, but these were initially dismissed as accidents. Tracy was surprised to learn that the convicted felon Mumbles had been hired as a consultant on the film. When Mumbles learned about the sabotage, he attempted to take credit for them and extort money from Da Mill, but his plot was uncovered by Tracy and Mumbles was arrested. However, the sabotage did not stop.
It was soon learned that the "accidents" were being arranged by Tracy's old foe Haf-and-Haf, who was bitter about not being included in the film. Haf-and-Haf was an old acquaintance of Fame, and he had used her to gain access to the set. During a showdown, Tracy told Haf-and-Haf that if Tracy had had any input into the film's production, he would have included Haf-and-Haf. This placated the villain, who surrendered. Da Mill was pleased with the publicity this generated for the film.
The film's troubles were not yet over. Fearing that she would be implicated in Haf-and-Haf's activities, Fame staged her own abduction and fled to the top of the Hollywood sign. Tracy tracked her there, with Vitamin close behind. Fame revealed to Tracy that she wanted to become a show business legend and jumped/fell to her death. She died in Vitamin's arms, professing her love for him.
The film's eventual release and reception are undocumented.
- The movie storyline coincided with the summertime release of the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film starring Warren Beatty. Beatty was mentioned in the strip.
- The Dick Tracy Story included some elements that were present in the 1990 film (the association of Flattop and Itchy, as well as Influence and Pruneface, Tracy having both Sam and Pat as partners at the same time, etc.) but it diverged from the film in some ways as well. The Brow had an increased role, there was a kidnapping plot involving Tess, the murder of Emil Trueheart was depicted, and the climax recreated Tracy's sword fight with Putty Puss.
- An incident early in the "Dick Tracy Story" continuity (in which the unnamed actor playing Tracy becomes frustrated with the latex appliques that are altering his facial features) was apparently inspired by Warren Beatty's refusal to use elaborate make-up in the 1990 feature film to make himself more closely resemble the character's appearance in the strip.
- In the first appearance of Blackjack, the Tracy-obsessed bank robber, one of the pieces of Tracy memorabilia shown to be part of Blackjack's collection is a movie poster from The Dick Tracy Story. The name of Tracy's friend Vitamin Flintheart was prominently featured, while Tracy's own name was not. This situation would seem to parallel the release of the 1978 film Superman. In that film, the veteran actors Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman (who each played supporting roles) shared top billing, and the relatively unknown Christopher Reeve (who played the titular hero) was billed below the title.
- The presence of the poster in Blackjack's collection also tends to indicate that The Dick Tracy Story was eventually released, though this is not absolutely conclusive. Tracy's pose in this poster replicates the pose made by Ralph Byrd for the poster of the1939 Republic movie serial, Dick Tracy's G-Men. This was apparently a deliberate reference by artist Joe Staton.