Dick Tracy Wiki

Dick Tracy was a feature film released in 1990. It was directed by and starred Warren Beatty.

Synopsis (Includes Significant Plot Details)[]

The City is at the mercy of gangland mobsters spreading their massive crime wave. Five gangsters (The Brow, Stooge Viller, Little Face, Shoulders, and Rhodent) holding a poker game at an abandoned garage are interrupted when a car driven by Itchy breaks through a wall and Flattop kills the men. Flattop shoots a message into the wall while Itchy takes their identification.

Dick Tracy and his girlfriend Tess Trueheart are attending an opera when Pat Patton call on the 2-Way Wrist Radio saying to meet at the garage. The murders were a message to Tracy from Big Boy. Reporters hound Tracy when he leaves the Opera House again asking if Tracy was considering becoming Chief of Police or possibly running for Mayor.

Later at Club Ritz, Breathless Mahoney is singing when Lips Manlis gets word that his men at the garage have been killed. Lips and Breathless are seemingly arrested by two uniformed police officers. When they are taken to their unmarked car, Lips sees that Flattop is in the back seat with a gun and realizes that they aren't actually policemen. Lips and Breathless are taken to the Southside warehouse on the river where Big Boy forces Lips to sign over the club to him. Big Boy then encases Lips in cement and drops him to the bottom of the river. Big Boy announces that he is now in charge of and owns everything that Lips had, including Breathless.

Tracy and Tess enter Mike's Diner but Tracy soon runs after a street urchin who stole a man's watch, following him to a shantytown at the railroad yards. There, the Kid's guardian, Steve the Tramp, beats him. Tracy enters and fights Steve until the shanty collapses. Tracy takes the Kid with him back to the diner when the Kid eats ravenously. Tracy is then summoned to the Southside warehouse by Sam Catchem.

At the warehouse, Tracy examines the body of a policeman who had been killed there by Itchy (the unwitting officer had nearly interrupted Big Boy's murder of Lips Manlis). Tracy also finds a sapphire earring and some walnuts (Big Boy's favorite snack), causing Tracy to suspect that there had been a second murder as well. Tracy arrests Flattop, Itchy, and Mumbles, interrogating Mumbles to try to learn Lips' whereabouts. Going on a hunch, Tracy has Big Boy arrested while Big Boy is preparing for his new club's reopening. Big Boy is released the next morning after the walnuts were found to be insufficient evidence. Both Tracy and Chief Brandon are called into D.A. Fletcher's office, where Tracy is warned to stop "harassing" Big Boy, who had already been arrested and released 5 times.

Tracy takes the Kid under his wing and, after getting him some new clothes, goes on an outing with the Kid and Tess. Tracy later calls Breathless to his office, to see if she will testify against Big Boy for Manlis' murder. Breathless attempts to seduce him, but Tracy resists. After she leaves, he follows her to the Club Ritz where Big Boy is organizing an alliance with every major crime figure in town to form a new crime syndicate in the city, with himself him as the boss. Tracy is observing from a third floor ledge when he witnesses a car explosion causing the death of Spaldoni, who had refused to work under Big Boy.

Tracy is then abducted from his apartment by Flattop and Itchy and taken to the basement of Tess' apartment building while she is at work. Big Boy attempts to bribe Tracy with $15,000. Tracy refuses and is tied to a chair while Big Boy leaves and Flattop and itchy overload the heating system. The Kid rescues Tracy at the risk of his own life and is made an honorary police detective. The Kid is presented with a temporary certificate until he picks a name for himself.

Meanwhile, 88 Keyes (Big Boy's piano player) receives a call from a mysterious stranger to meet at the city car park. When Keyes gets there, he sees a suitcase with a payment of $5,000 dollars and a letter. The stranger instructs him to give that letter to Big Boy saying that for 10 percent of his organization's profits, Tracy will be taken care of. When Keyes asks who he is, the man is revealed to have no face. Keyes relays the offer to Big Boy, who refuses and dismisses Keyes.

Tracy and the police prepare their next move against Big Boy. Tracy and some uniformed officers raid the club during a gala. Sam and Bug Bailey go through the roof to Big Boy's attic and drill a hole in the floor to the top of his main conference room, while Pat (disguised as a waiter) plants a listening device in the room's chandelier. After that is accomplished, Tracy and crew leave, leaving Big Boy confused as to why Tracy didn't investigate more thoroughly.

The listening device works and the police stay one step ahead of Big Boy and put most of his subordinates in jail. After arguing in the conference room, Big Boy and Pruneface discover Bug in his hiding place. Big Boy uses it to his advantage and makes a fake call to an underling to go to the Southside warehouse. Bug relays this information to Tracy, who leaves an important conversation with Tess about their future.

Bug is captured and a trap is set for Tracy at the warehouse by Pruneface and Influence. Tracy frees Bug and tries to shoot the criminals. Tracy's gun jams, and he is almost shot before the faceless mobster kills Pruneface and Influence flees. Tess has a heart-to-heart discussion with her mother in her country home with Mrs. Trueheart telling her that it takes a lot of understanding to love a man like Tracy. Tess goes back to the city to try to work things out with Tracy.

Meanwhile, the Kid has been taken to the orphanage by the Welfare Society and Big Boy agrees to the deal offered by 88 Keyes to remove Tracy as a threat. Keyes and the Blank kill D.A. Fletcher (who had been working for Big Boy) and frame Tracy for the murder. Tracy is arrested, but the Kid believes that Tracy is innocent. At the same time, Tess goes missing without a ransom request. Meanwhile, Big Boy's empire prospers again.

Tracy, about to be transferred from the city jail to the county jail is put in Pat and Sam's car, with 8 hours to prove his innocence. Tracy storms into Mumbles' apartment demanding to find out who set him up. Threatening to play a recording in which Mumbles implicates Big Boy if he doesn't comply, Mumbles reveals the truth about Big Boy's arrangement with the Blank.

The Blank makes calls to both Chief Brandon and Big Boy, telling Brandon that Big Boy kidnapped Tess Trueheart and telling Big Boy to check his attic. Flattop and Big Boy find Tess bound and gagged in an upper-level vault of the club. Tracy and Pat arrive on the roof and observe Tess through a skylight. Alarmed that he has now been framed for a federal crime, Big Boy has Flattop take Tess out of the room. Tracy jumps down through a skylight but cannot catch Big Boy and Flattop before they lock him inside the vault. Tracy escapes back up to the roof with Pat's help.

At the same time, a squad of police arrive to raid Club Ritz. A deadly firefight ensues as the mobsters attempt to drive off in their cars. Influence, Flattop, Itchy, and several others are killed by machine gun fire. Big Boy and Tess go back into the club and escape through a passageway hidden in the wine room. Breathless points Tracy to where Big Boy took Tess, but the entrance is blocked.

Big Boy makes his way with Tess to the drawbridge outside the city. He ties Tess to a series of gears which will crush her if she is not freed in time. Tracy arrives and corners Big Boy, who is about to shoot Tracy until the Blank intervenes and tells Big Boy to drop his gun. Big Boy tries to make a deal with the Blank, but the Blank refuses and tells Tracy that both of them (Tracy and the Blank) could work together and control all of the organized crime in town. Tracy notices something familiar about the Blank and paces slowly towards him. The Blank is frozen, and Big Boy takes this opportunity to shoot the Blank. Tracy pushes Big Boy away, and Big Boy falls to his death in the gear works. Tracy unties Tess, then tries to tend to the Blank, who is revealed to be Breathless. With her dying breath, she gives Tracy a kiss.

Tracy and Tess resume their lives, with the Kid (who had selected the name Dick Tracy Jr.) as Tracy's ward. Tracy makes an abrupt marriage proposal to Tess at Mike's Diner, and it is implied she will accept. Tracy and the Kid then respond to another urgent call.

Main Characters[]

  • Dick Tracy: a hard-nosed and dedicated crime fighter and the last hope of the city. Tracy meets and befriends the kid and tries to summon the courage to propose to Tess. Tracy is a loyal caring person who would do whatever it takes to do what is right, and cannot be tempted by the other side. (portrayed by Warren Beatty)
  • Tess Trueheart: Tracy's longtime girlfriend, Tess struggles with accepting the fact that she can't have Tracy all to herself, that he belongs to the world and knows that Tracy would rather risk his neck than settle with a desk job. Just like in the comics, she is also the damsel in distress when kidnapped by the Blank and Big Boy, she also becomes good friends with the Kid. (portrayed by Glenne Headly)
  • The Kid: (aka Junior Tracy) A street urchin who had to go through trash cans for food and steal to keep from being beat up by his ruthless guardian, the Kid is taken under the wing of Dick Tracy and tags along on his adventures (even without Tracy realizing it). He saved Tracy's life and was one of the loudest voices in Tracy's defense in his so-called involvement in the murder of D.A. Fletcher. The Kid idolized Tracy so much that he decided to name himself after his hero; Dick Tracy Jr. (portrayed by Charlie Korsmo)
  • Pat Patton and Sam Catchem: Tracy's loyal lieutenants, Sam is the more vocal of the two and Pat often repeats what Sam says. They more often than not follow Tracy's orders to the letter but aren't afraid to stand up to Tracy when they know he is doing something wrong. The movie versions of these characters are the only ones who work together on equal footing under Chief Brandon, in contrast to the strip where Pat is the Chief. (portrayed by James Keane and Seymour Cassel respectively)
  • Chief Brandon: an Irish accented and longtime Chief of Police, Brandon works very closely with Tracy, Pat, and Sam. Tracy's maverick behavior has caused Brandon to quite often answer to corrupt D.A. Fletcher. Brandon also helped Tracy take care of the Kid when necessary, and was instrumental in the raid on the Club Ritz. (portrayed by Charles Durning, who resembles Police Chief Patton more than the comic strip version of Chief Brandon)
  • Breathless Mahoney: Singer and reluctant moll of Lips Manlis and then Big Boy Caprice. Breathless had no allegiance to anyone but herself. She was extremely attracted to Dick Tracy because he was the first man to not treat her as an object. Abused emotionally and physically by Big Boy, she was not vocal about it and mainly shed quiet tears. Secretly she successfully plotted against Big Boy and Tracy, in order to get Big Boy toppled off his throne and Tracy on her side. It nearly worked, but she died with one last kiss from the man she could never have. (portrayed by Madonna)
  • Big Boy Caprice: High powered mobster and murderer of Lips Manlis after seizing his empire. Big Boy formed an alliance with many other of the city's most notorious criminals, most of whom he was rivals with. Big Boy ran gambling parlors, brothels and shook down practically every small business person in the city. Big Boy met his end at the bottom of a deep chasm in the gear works of a draw bridge. (portrayed by Al Pacino, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor)



  • Director- Warren Beatty
  • Producer- Jon Landau
  • Composer- Danny Elfman
  • Original Songs- Stephen Sondheim
  • Screenplay- Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr.
  • Distributed by Buena Vista
  • Rated- PG


Information from BoxOfficeMojo.com

  • Domestic Total Gross- $103,738,726
  • Foreign Gross- $59,000,000
  • Total Worldwide Gross- $162,738,726
  • Production Budget- $47,000,000
  • In the top 500 All-Time Domestic US Films
  • 9th Highest Gross of 1990
  • Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, Won 3 (Art Direction, Makeup, Original Song - "Sooner or Later")
  • Ranked 64% Fresh on RottenTomatoes.com

Film reviewer Gene Siskel (of the Chicago Tribune) described the film as "...A truly original creation" and "an extraordinary film". Siskel's colleague Roger Ebert also praised the film, particularly its aesthetic, though both men found Beatty bland as Tracy.


Differences between a 1988 draft of the script and the final film include:

  • The film was originally set in the 1920s during Prohibition.
  • The poker game in the beginning of the film had The Brow, Shoulders, Stooge Viller, Little Face, and The Rodent. In the original script, The Rodent's role was held by B-B Eyes, a villain from the comic strip who was a notorious bootlegger.
  • The Kid steals a woman's purse at Mike's Diner instead of a man's watch as seen in the movie. Also, Dick Tracy's fist fight with Steve the Tramp was much more intense than seen in the film.
  • Club Ritz was originally called Club Lavender.
  • 88 Keyes was originally described as a tall, thin, African-American man (even though he wasn't in the comic strip).
  • The Mole was featured as one of Big Boy's underlings along with Flattop and Itchy. In the film, Mumbles replaced The Mole. This remains in the Audio Action Adventure tie-in books of the film.
  • Many of the same criminal figures featured in the conference room scene all appeared in the earlier script as they were in the film, except Influence. This character did not appear in the earlier draft.
  • When Bug Bailey is discovered by Big Boy's men in the film, he's taken to the South Side Warehouse as a means for Pruneface and Influence to trap Dick Tracy. In the earlier draft, Bug is murdered and taken to a boat house on the riverfront and hung on a meat hook. When Tracy arrives and sees what has happened, Flattop and Pruneface throw gasoline on him and try to light him on fire. The Blank arrives and kills Pruneface, which scares off Flattop, saving Tracy.

Additionally, Tess' reconciling with Tracy before her kidnapping was not originally part of the story. That element was added (and additional scenes were shot) after producers read the novelization by Max Allan Collins, in which Mrs. Trueheart encouraged Tess to make up with Dick.

In a much earlier draft, The Blank was to be the main antagonist with Flattop as the secondary one.

Soundtrack Releases[]

  • Similar to Batman's two-album soundtrack release, three albums were released with Dick Tracy: one of Danny Elfman's score, another of songs related to or inspired by the film (including "Dick Tracy" by hip-hop artist Ice-T, who would later gain notoriety for recording the song "Cop Killer"); and Madonna released "I'm Breathless". This album featured her songs from the film, including "What Can You Lose?", her duet with Mandy Patinkin. The song "Live Alone and Like It" was not included on any of these albums.
  • Re-recorded versions of "Sooner Or Later", "Live Alone And Like It", "What Can You Lose?" and "More" were included on "The Story So Far...", a four-disc collection of Stephen Sondheim songs released in 2008.
  • Intrada Records released an expanded version of Danny Elfman's score in 2016. This release included a disc of the 1990 version, plus an extra disc of the entire score with alternate and rejected cues. None of the Madonna/Sondheim material was included.


  • 26993245 920240758153039 3774022120812786772 n

    The special pages from the 6th edition, from the collection of Derek Pagel

    A novelization was published, written by Max Allan Collins. The novelization was released before the film came out in theaters. The book did not reveal the Blank's identity, in order to avoid ruining the surprise in the film. A later printing featured some altered text that DID indicate the Blank's identity, and this version has become highly collectible.
  • A 3-issue tie-in comic was published, written by John Moore and drawn by Kyle Baker. The first issues served a prequel to the film (featuring several characters that do not appear in the film and providing a significant amount of backstory), with issue 3 being an adaptation of the film.
  • The film attempted to duplicate the success of the previous summer's Batman feature film, and was heavily merchandised. A wide variety of tie-in products were released, including toys, games, books, tablewear, school supplies, apparel & accessories, and many more. Additionally, a promotional game was offered through the fast-food restaurant McDonalds in which patrons could win food and other prizes.
  • The opera Tracy is watching is called "Die Schlumpf", a joking reference to Elmer Schlumpf, a deceased villain who caused endless trouble for Fearless Fosdick - cartoonist Al Capp's parody of Dick Tracy.
  • One of the news reporters who questions Big Boy after his release from jail was played by actor Charles Fleischer. Fleischer had provided the voice of the cartoon character Roger Rabbit in the 1988 feature film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Fleischer also voiced Roger in 3 subsequent theatrical shorts, one of which (Roller Coaster Rabbit) was shown before Dick Tracy during its original theatrical release.
    • The pairing of Dick Tracy with Roller Coaster Rabbit supposedly led to friction between director Steven Spielberg and Disney/Buena Vista executives, as Spielberg believed the short would have helped the box office performance of his production company's film Arachnophobia. This may have contributed to the delay in the production of a Roger Rabbit sequel.
  • The film features the voice of actor John Moschitta Jr. as a radio announcer. Moschitta previously held the world record for fast-speaking. He was also known for appearing in commercials for Federal Express and Micro Machines, as well as being the voice of Blurr in Transformers: The Movie.
  • The film inspired a live stage show at Disney's theme parks called "Dick Tracy Starring in Diamond Double Cross". The stage show duplicated the aesthetic of the film and included many of the same characters, but the plot was significantly different and is non-continuous with the film.
  • 20161204 160254
    A nod to the Dick Tracy film can be found at the Disney's California Adventure theme park in the form of a newspaper placed inside a car parked at Oswald's Gas on Buena Vista St. The headline reads "Tracy Triumphs; Bad Night for Big Boy". It is still there as of November 2016.
  • The film inspired a storyline in the strip in which Tracy goes to Hollywood to act as a consultant on a film being made about his life. The storyline featured the villain Haf-and-Haf, who was not a character in the film. Another storyline in the strip featured juvenile analogs of Big Boy, Flattop, and Breathless in roles that were apparently inspired by the characters' relationships in the film (boss-henchman-moll).