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Breathless Mahoney was the step-daughter of Shaky the con man and the daughter of Elia Mahoney. She was an attractive and slender blonde woman.

Breathless, Her Mother, & Shaky's Money[]

Breathless encountered Dick Tracy when she found the remains of her stepfather. She claimed to be a journalism student (see Notes below) and used a pretense to acquire one of Shaky's shoes (as a "souvenir"). She knew that the shoe contained a key to a safe deposit box that contained $50,000 in cash that Shaky had acquired through various criminal means. Breathless and her mother then fought over how Shaky's money would be divided, with neither one willing to let the money out of their sight.

Dick Tracy had found Breathless' behavior to be odd, and he came to the Mahoney home to personally escort her to Shaky's inquest. When Breathless and her mother continually struggled over their knitting bag (which contained the money), Tracy became even more suspicious. When Mrs. Mahoney's watch fell off and Tracy returned it to her, he read an inscription that the watch was from Shaky and realized Mrs. Mahoney was Shaky's fourth wife. He found the discarded shoe (with the key imprints) in the Mahoney's trash, and decided to monitor the apartment building.

Breathless and her mother engaged in a battle of wills to see who could stay awake longer in order to claim Shaky's money. Elia took stay-awake pills in order to win against her daughter, but they disrupted her heart functions. As Breathless prepared to flee with the money, Elia managed to get to her nightstand and pull a gun on her daughter. Elia shot Breathless in the arm as Breathless fled with Shaky's money.

Breathless on the Run[]

Breathless became determined to evade capture. She managed to hide the money by tying it to a high tree branch. She then went to a doctor and had her wound dressed. When she returned to collect the money, she found that the low-hanging branch that she had used to pull the tree down had been trimmed and she could no longer reach the knitting bag.


Breathless took a job as a maid for Mrs. Van Hoosen, the elderly woman on whose estate the tree was located, using the alias "Marie". Breathless observed as Herman the gardener discovered the bag and its contents. Breathless cornered Herman in his shed and demanded the bag. When the gardener refused, she stabbed him with pair of garden shears (June 25th, 1945). Herman died, and Breathless fled with the money.

Breathless attempted to stow away in a laundry truck that was picking up clothes from the Van Hoosen home. She was soon discovered by the truck driver, a man called Wetwash Wally. Wally held Breathless captive in the locked truck, driving her out of the city until she agreed to share the money with him. When he unlocked the door to let her out, Breathless struck Wally over the head and left him unconscious by the roadside.

Breathless Meets B.O. Plenty[]


Breathless drove off in the laundry truck, but quickly ran out of gas. She found herself on the farm of B.O. Plenty who schemed to take her money from her. Dick Tracy made his way to B.O.'s farm looking for Breathless. B.O. lied and said he was alone while Breathless hid under the dirt in his field.

Tracy later returned and found that Breathless was still in hiding at the Plenty farm. Tracy was ready to take her into custody, but she managed to drug him with a cup of coffee and Tracy passed out. Breathless and B.O. fled to the city, where B.O. eventually passed out on a bus (since he had drunk the same drugged coffee as Tracy).

Breathless rented a room in the home of a nearby dressmaker. Dick Tracy and the police were able to track her movements, and were closing on her whereabouts. Breathless' landlady found her behavior suspicious, and threatened to summon the police. Breathless stabbed the woman with a pair of scissors (the second such murder Breathless committed) and fled.

Breathless then encountered B.O. Plenty again when he stole a car in which Breathless was hiding. B.O. strangled Breathless nearly to death and fled with her money. Breathless was found and taken to jail where she recovered from B.O.'s assault.

Breathless' End, and Legacy[]


Later, Breathless contracted a fatal illness while in prison. She heard news about B.O.'s reform and his impeding marriage to Gravel Gertie. As the wedding went out over the radio, Breathless wrote a letter as her dying act absolving him of his crimes as a last gesture of decency.

The disease that killed Breathless was never identified. A sample was taken from one of her glands and sent to be analyzed, but the results were inconclusive. The illness had left her weak, emaciated, and in significant physical pain.


Breathless Mahoney as drawn by Joe Staton

It was later revealed that Breathless had a sister named Heartless, another sister who was not a criminal, and a niece named Restless. Both Heartless and Restless crossed paths with Dick Tracy as well.

Left Breathless[]

Years later, it was announced that a major feature film about Breathless Mahoney would be made in Dick Tracy's city. B.O. Plenty learned about this and because distraught, as he believed that he had successfully prevented his wife and children from learning the full extent of his involvement with Breathless.

In the film (entitled Left Breathless), Breathless was played by actress Fortuna Dyer. She closely resembled Breathless and insisted on being addressed as "Breathless" during production. Filming was disrupted by Dyer's involvement with Shaky II, but was apparently completed eventually.

Appearances in Other Media[]

1950s TV Series[]


Breathless appeared in two episodes of the 1950s Dick Tracy TV series, played by actress Jo-Carroll Dennison. In this show, she was depicted as the girlfriend of Diet Smith.

In the episode "The Missing Bonds", Breathless was shown to be an associate of Shoulders, whom she later shot. She was eventually arrested by Dick Tracy.

Archie's TV Funnies[]


Breathless appeared in an episode of the 1971 animated series Archie's TV Funnies.

She posed as a tourist and used a special X-Ray camera to photograph top secret plans for a new weapon. She then took the plans to her criminal associates who were using a toy factory as a cover for their weapons manufacturing operation.

Breathless and her associates were captured by Tracy, Sam, Tess and Junior.

Movie Continuity[]


Madonna as Breathless Mahoney.

In the 1990 Dick Tracy feature film, Breathless was a lounge singer at the Club Ritz and the "girlfriend" of mobster Lips Manlis. She was played by the popular singer and sometimes-actress Madonna.

The degree to which Breathless was aware of Lips' illegal activities is unclear. After some of Lips' men were killed by Flattop and Itchy, Lips' former subordinate Big Boy Caprice arranged to abduct Lips and Breathless from the Club Ritz. Big Boy killed Lips at the South Side Warehouse after forcefully making Lips sign over the Club to him. Lips' territory was now Big Boy's, and he claimed Breathless as well.

Breathless was worked relentlessly by Big Boy to prepare a new routine for the reopening of the Club. Breathless first met (and became attracted to) Dick Tracy when he arrested Big Boy on suspicion of Lips' murder. Tracy wanted her to testify, but she knew that her life would be in danger and would only do so if Tracy responded to her advances. Tracy did not.

Breathless orchestrated a plan of her own, donning the disguise of "The Blank". She enlisted the piano player 88 Keyes as her go-between with Big Boy, and arranged to frame Dick Tracy for murder. She later turned on Big Boy and framed him for the kidnapping of Tess Trueheart. When Tracy raided the Club Ritz, Breathless told him where Tess could be found, but Big Boy had fled with Tess as a hostage.

Tracy chased after them and The Blank showed up and tried to make a deal with Tracy to kill Big Boy and take over the city. Tracy had a hunch and approached the Blank. Breathless refused to kill Tracy because of her attraction to him and was shot by Big Boy, who in turn fell to his death. Breathless was unmasked, and gave Tracy a final kiss before she died.

Diamond Double Cross[]

Breathless was also a character in the live stage show "Dick Tracy Starring in Diamond Double Cross" that was performed at Disney theme parks in conjunction with the movie's release (to which she was also a meet-and-greet character in Disneyland). In the show, Breathless was portrayed as a singer in the Club Ritz (as in the movie) who sought to steal a valuable diamond from the King and Queen of Balonia that was also sought by Big Boy and Flattop. She attempted to seduce Tracy with a "dance lesson" in order to distract him, but was unsuccessful. When Big Boy used the diamond as a marriage proposal, Breathless had second thoughts and later revealed that there was nothing romantic about their relationship. At the conclusion of the plot, Breathless was arrested along with the other mobsters, explaining to Tracy her reason for getting involved in the criminal business: "Well, Tracy, I guess I'm just a material girl" (a reference to Madonna's hit song "Material Girl").

Comic Book Prequel[]

The tie-in prequel comic book provides more background of Breathless' character in the film. In the comic, she arrived in the city (going by the name Patty Mahoney and claiming to be 18 years old) and was robbed of her purse almost immediately by Steve the Tramp. Desperate and forced to sleep on the street, Mahoney was approached by Valentine Ruiz, who took her to a restaurant and fed her. Ruiz soon revealed his intention to force Mahoney into prostitution. She resisted and he attempted to assault her. Mahoney was able to get Ruiz's gun and she shot and killed him. Police arrived on the scene to investigate and Mahoney was taken into custody.

Mahoney spent some time in jail/prison for the killing of Ruiz, which hardened her. She apparently did not receive a long sentence due to the circumstances of Ruiz's death and his known status as a sex trafficker.

Once she was released from jail, Mahoney adopted the stage name "Breathless" and befriended 88 Keyes. Keyes arranged for Breathless to take the place of Mina, Lips Manlis' girlfriend who was the featured singer at the Club Ritz. Lips became enamored of Breathless' talent and beauty and he cast Mina aside. Seeking revenge, Mina attacked Breathless with a straight razor in an attempt to disfigure her. Breathless fought back and disarmed Mina. She then threatened to kill Mina unless Mina left town.

Tie-In Video Game[]

  • Nintendo Entertainment System- Breathless appears in Dick Tracy's mug shot book. She is identified as a "sultry songstress". She also appears in cut scenes between levels in which she flirts with Tracy.


  • BreathlessRG
    Breathless is often described as resembling Marilyn Monroe, but this is mostly due to her appearance and portrayal in the film. In the original comic strip, she more closely resembled Veronica Lake or Lauren Bacall.
  • The action figure of The Blank produced by Playmates Toys features a removable mask with a likeness of Madonna as Breathless underneath.
  • The Celebrated Cases of Dick Tracy does not include the complete storyline. It ends when B.O.Plenty flees after choking Breathless. Her subsequent death in the prison hospital is not shown.
  • The disease that killed Breathless was never identified. Her symptoms are consistent with those of the endocrine illness known as Addison's Disease.
  • A profile of Breathless from the comic book Dick Tracy Monthly #21 (published in 1949) gave her occupation as "glamour girl".
  • BreathlessArticle
    The "Left Breathless" storyline of 2020 gave conflicting evidence that Breathless' claim of being a journalism student was legitimate. It also implied that she had been a career criminal and that there had been a relationship between Breathless and Lips Manlis (similar to the 1990 feature film), though the nature and timeframe of this relationship was not made clear.