The guitar player known as Mumbles (real name unrevealed) was a light haired man who typically had a heavy eye-lidded expression. He did not have a speech impediment, merely sloppy speech habits. He was extremely greedy and treacherous.
- 1 First Appearance
- 2 The Return of Mumbles
- 3 The "Cloning" of Mumbles
- 4 Mumbles Goes to Hollywood
- 5 The "Death" of Mumbles
- 6 Not the Last of Mumbles
- 7 Appearances in Other Media
- 8 Notes
Part of a quartet, Mumbles and his band would perform for high society functions, then steal from the socialites they had entertained. Singer Kiss Andtel knew about Mumbles' crimes and broke their engagement. As revenge, Mumbles stole her car and had his gang kill Officer Ferris, a highway patrolman who was trying to stop them for speeding. Dick Tracy captured the Mumbles gang but had to release them after he couldn't prove their involvement in the death of Ferris.
Thereafter, Tracy made a point of attending every concert in which the band performed. In one concert Kiss was urged by Tracy to join Mumbles on the stage. It was a trap by Mumbles and he threatened to burn her face with acid.
Mumbles and his gang stole $60,000 in charity receipts. The other three members of the Mumbles Quartet grew resentful of Mumbles always keeping the biggest share of their stolen gains, and they threatened to inform on him about the highway patrolman's murder if he didn't give them more. Mumbles grudgingly agreed.
Mumbles and his quartet then boarded a yacht bound for the Caribbean, where Mumbles was planning to kill his band members with dynamite. Tracy arrived on the yacht in time to save the ship and all aboard. Tracy arrested the band members, but Kiss was not implicated. Mumbles, who had attempted to escape on an inflatable raft, was lost at sea for days with only a small paddle which eventually broke. He accidentally punctured the raft with the broken paddle and was presumed to have drowned.
The Return of Mumbles
Mumbles did not die at sea that night. In 1955, it was revealed that Mumbles had been rescued by elderly eccentric millionaire and health enthusiast George Ozone. Mumbles became a tutor for Ozone's wild young sons, who were known as the Neki Hokey Boys. He taught the two boys his same sloppy speech habits. Mumbles learned various yoga and exercise techniques from Ozone, and was forced to diet on the health foods that Ozone ate.
Mumbles suffered a series of indignities at the hands of Ozone and his sons, but he stayed with them to avoid police detection and because he had learned about a treasure cache that Ozone had buried in a salt-water marsh. Mumbles conspired with Ozone's ex-wife Cinn to kill Ozone and obtain a copy of the map to the treasure that Ozone had had tattooed on the soles of his sons' feet.
Cinn killed Ozone and, after confirming that the tattoos were legitimate, disguised Mumbles as a social worker friend of hers so that he could gain access to the boys, who were in protective custody. The boys were happy to see Mumbles, but were so frenetically active that Mumbles was forced to sedate them in order to copy the map off their feet.
Mumbles tried to retrieve the treasure himself, but found that the map was incomplete. Cinn had withheld a portion of it from him, predicting that he would betray her. The pair went to dig up the treasure together, but Cinn turned on Mumbles and forced him at gunpoint to dig his own grave. Mumbles surprised Cinn by throwing a shovelful of dirt in her face. He overpowered Cinn and killed her (July 7th, 1955).
Mumbles succeeded in finding the treasure, but by that time Dick Tracy had uncovered Mumbles' plot and was closing in on him. The swampy marshland where the treasure was hidden grew foggy with the rising tide, and Mumbles and Tracy staggered around blindly, narrowly avoiding each other in ever-deepening water. Ultimately, the two men collided and fought, but Tracy was able to draw his gun. A helicopter had been called in to airlift Tracy out of the fog. Mumbles refused to give up the treasure that he had slung over her his back (using his belt as a makeshift harness). The weight of the two men and the treasure was too much for the rope that had been lowered from the helicopter, which broke under the strain. The two men fell to the shore, where the tide had come in. Mumbles was weighed down by the treasure and again seemed to have drowned (July 24th, 1955).
The "Cloning" of Mumbles
Mumbles was later discovered to have survived. Dick Tracy and Diet Smith were on a talk show in California when Dr. Zy Ghote talked about his successful cloning experiments and brought in his subject, the "clone" of Mumbles. This shocked Tracy, and he became very suspicious of Ghote's cloning project. These suspicions proved to be well-founded when Mumbles tried to run down Dr. Will Carver, a plastic surgeon with underworld ties. Carver had given Mumbles plastic surgery to pass off as his own clone, so that Ghote could cheat Diet Smith out of millions in order to fund his cloning research.
Mumbles turned on Ghote and went to the hospital disguised as a doctor to finish off Carver. Tracy, who was posing as Carver, caught Mumbles in the act and arrested him, along with Ghote and Ghote's assistant Roundy. Tracy was confident that the charges of fraud would stick because of identifiable scars from the surgery and that Mumbles speech habits weren't hereditary. It was revealed that he had survived his apparent drowning in 1955 by using yoga breathing techniques that he had learned from Ozone to slow his heart rate and respiration, creating the appearance of death. Mumbles had later bribed the coroner to falsify the death certificate and made his escape.
Mumbles Goes to Hollywood
In 1990, Mumbles had been paroled, despite Tracy speaking against him at the hearing. He was living in Los Angeles, and was hired as a consultant on the feature film "The Dick Tracy Story". When Mumbles learned of the acts of sabotage being committed (by Haf-and-Haf) on the set, he decided to capitalize on the situation. He sent an anonymous note to the director, claiming that the sabotage would stop if he was paid $100,000 and that further instructions would follow.
Tracy, with the help of the LAPD, tapped the director's phone line. Mumbles called to tell the director his instructions on how to deliver the money, and Tracy was able to trace the call. Tracy and the police went to Mumbles' hotel room and confronted him. Mumbles slammed the door on them and attempted to escape out a window. A shoot-out ensued, and Mumbles fell several stories into the hotel pool. He survived unharmed, but returned to jail.
The "Death" of Mumbles
In 1994, an elderly, haggard-looking Mumbles returned to Dick Tracy's city. He was ill, and took up residence in a cheap hotel, from which he contacted a former associate. Mumbles was trying to find his closest relative so he could leave them something, as he believed that he would be dying soon.
Mumbles claimed that he had been rescued by a Canadian ore freighter on the night he had supposedly drowned at sea following the adventure with Kiss Andtel. He decided to stay in Canada, where he worked in an ore mine and followed the activities of his relatives and associates through the newspaper. When he learned that he was ill and probably dying, he decided to return to America to provide for his relative.
Mumbles' arrival in town attracted the attention of the jewel thief Feets Diamond, who believed that Mumbles had been responsible for the theft of the famous jewel The Star of Ranjipooie many years before. Diamond began abducting Mumbles' known relatives, attempting to beat information about the jewel from them. Mumbles, however, had not told anyone about the jewel.
Mumbles' associate learned that Mumbles had fathered an illegitimate daughter with Kiss Andtel, and he brought the girl to see Mumbles. The daughter, Kisme Quick, lived with Kiss Andtel, but had always been told that she was adopted. Kisme had recently met Bonnie Tracy and Mumbles told the two young women a riddle that led them to the Star of Ranjipooie. He apparently died after telling them, but his body soon disappeared.
Kisme and Bonnie visited Kiss, who revealed Kisme's true parentage. The girls then went to Marbleyard Cemetery, where Mumbles' clue led them to the jewel. They were confronted by Feets, who had followed them there, but Mumbles (who had not actually died) arrived in time to keep them from harm. The strain proved too much for the elderly criminal, though, and he died in the cemetery (October 30, 1994). Mumbles' body was later shown being buried at sea (See Notes below).
Not the Last of Mumbles
However, Mumbles (young, vital, and as dangerous as ever) was later seen as part of the criminal consortium assembled by the second Mr. Crime that also included Blaze Rize, B-B Eyes, Doubleup and some others.
Mumbles once again arranged for the murder of his former band-mates, as well as a record collector named Vincent Vinyl. This time, he was successful. He was present when the combined forces of the Major Crimes Unit and the Tracy Agency raided the Panda Agency, and was shot 3 times. Mumbles was wearing a bullet-proof vest and survived.
Mumbles was later shown to be out of police custody, presumably on bail. He met with B-B Eyes and Doubleup at a bar frequented by criminals, where B-B Eyes expressed his doubts that he and Mumbles would avoid serving time in prison for their part in the Mr. Crime gang. The group was then joined by Stiletta Jones (whom Mumbles antagonized) and Blackjack.
Mumbles managed to stay of of jail, and served as an enforcer for B-B Eyes, who had taken over the late Mr. Crime's seat on the board of the Apparatus. Mumbles joined B-B Eyes and Doubleup on a mission to the Wheaten family farm where he encountered Dr. Ghote. Mumbles shot the doctor in the arm, then fled.
When B-B Eyes was recruited into the criminal organization The Black Hearts, he brought his confederates with him, including Mumbles. During the raid of Black Hearts headquarters, Mumbles engaged in a brief standoff with police, but he eventually fled, leaving Doubleup and the injured B-B Eyes to be arrested. He was confronted by Punjab, who had come to the building to rescue Annie Warbucks and who claimed to have no time to waste on the criminal.
In 2021, Mumbles was seen alive investigating lost fortunes and missing treasures following the creation of Diet Smith's time drone. Since the fall of the Black Hearts and incarceration of Mr. Bribery, Mumbles was seen working for the Apparatus as their collection agent. Using information provided by Sterling Eliot, Mumbles located a hidden cache of $20 million from a robbery.
Appearances in Other Media
1960s TV Cartoon
Mumbles was one of the featured villains in the 1960s humorous cartoon version of Dick Tracy. Mumbles was usually paired with Stooge Viller, and had a voice that was electronically distorted to be completely incomprehensible. He did not interact with Tracy directly, but was instead foiled by Tracy's cartoon-ish subordinates. Although played for comedy, hints of Mumbles' sociopathic nature were evident, such as Stooge claiming he was "sick for two weeks" after one of the duo's previous jobs.
Mumbles also appeared in an episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, produced by UPA, the same company that made the Dick Tracy cartoon. In the episode "Dick Tracy and the Mob", (original air-date Feb. 6 1965) he was part of the gang assembled by Pruneface that hired Squinty Eyes (a doppelganger of Mr. Magoo, played by Jim Backus) to kill Dick Tracy (voiced by Everett Sloane). The same effect was used to create his voice. In both incarnations, Mumbles wore his signature bow-tie.
Archie's TV Funnies
Mumbles was a character in the "Dick Tracy" segments of the 1971 animated television series Archie's TV Funnies, produced by Filmation Associates. Mumbles' appearance closely resembled his depiction in the comic strip. His speech was depicted as incomprehensible grumbling, which only one other character (Professor Transo) could understand. Mumbles was one the villains featured in the show's opening and closing credits sequence.
Mumbles was a relatively minor character in the 1990 feature film Dick Tracy. He was played by Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman (a friend of producer and star Warren Beatty).
Tracy held Mumbles for interrogation during his investigation of Lips Manlis' death. Tracy believed Mumbles to be the weakest of the three and therefore most likely to give up information. Mumbles, who was sweating under hot lights, was taunted by Tracy with water held just out of reach. Mumbles finally gave a statement, but it was so high-pitched and garbled as to be incomprehensible.
Later, Tracy revealed to Mumbles that the water cooler had a tape recorder hidden inside it. He played the tape back as a slower speed, which made Mumbles' statement (which incriminated Big Boy) clearer and easier to understand. Fearing reprisal from Big Boy, Mumbles co-operated with Tracy and, speaking slowly and clearly, told the detective what he wanted to know.
Mumbles remained in custody, and as a result he avoided the climactic New Year's Eve shootout at Club Ritz. His ultimate fate is unknown.
Dick Tracy - The Secret Files
Mumbles was a character in the short story "Rockabilly" by F. Paul Wilson, which appeared in the short story collection Dick Tracy - The Secret Files. In the story, Dick Tracy encounters Mumbles while investigating the murder of a rock & roll singer.
Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive
- Mumbles' return from seeming death in 1955 was an uncommon practice for creator Chester Gould. He had previously revived the seemingly dead Shoulders, but that return took place within less than 2 years after Shoulders' original "death". The re-appearance of Mumbles after 7 years is matched only by Steve the Tramp in terms of a character's return after a long absence (during Gould's tenure on the strip).
- The 1994 storyline creates several continuity problems, inasmuch as it disregards Mumbles' previous 3 appearances (1 of which Dick Locher himself had drawn), and creates contradictions regarding several characters' ages. Bonnie Tracy, for example, is shown to be high-school age, where she had previously been depicted as an adult living on her own. Also, Mumbles and Kiss Andtel had both aged considerably, though Tracy himself is still fairly young and vital. Similarly, the current creative team has seemingly disregarded this storyline as non-canon, showing Mumbles as alive and in his prime. No explanation has been provided so far, and fan speculation is varied.
- Mumbles was consistently depicted as having yellow or blond hair, but in his recent comic strip appearances, his hair has been colored light brown.
- In 2015, it was revealed that Mumbles sloppy speech patterns carry over to his written/typed communications. This may be a recent development, for back during his original 1947 appearance, he gave a handwritten threatening note to Kiss Andtel that was entirely legible.
- Dustin Hoffman had limited availability during the filming of the Dick Tracy movie, which is why he appears in very few scenes, always in the same wardrobe.
- Mumbles appears to have a twisted lip in the movie.
- Hoffman later appeared with Dick Tracy co-star Charlie Korsmo in the feature film Hook.
- Mumbles was made into an action figure by Playmates Toys, and came with a set of leg irons.
- Mumbles 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 he was also a meet-and-greet character at Disneyland, often seen orchestrating the park's saxophone quartet to the theme of "Mos Eisley Cantina" from Star Wars). In the show, Mumbles was portrayed as a member of Big Boy's gang (as in the movie). Unlike Flattop, Mumbles was loyal to Big Boy and tried to help him steal a valuable diamond. At the conclusion of the plot, Mumbles was arrested along with the other criminals.
- Mumbles was the villain featured on the cover of IDW's The Complete Dick Tracy Volume 11.
- In the Midnite Mirror series, Mumbles was a corrupt police officer who was secretly employed by the criminal "Boss" Tracy. Officer Mumbles was especially well-spoken.