One of the first films I ever saw was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It still remains a favorite. Hollywood now sees fit to remake Snow White, and by 2012 it appears there will be three new versions of this classic tale. I don't see any reason why we need another adaptation. There is, however, one franchise I've been aching to see continued. After seeing Dick Tracy in 1990 my mother assured me that there would be sequel. It was a success, of course, there would be a sequel. Over twenty years have come and gone and no new Dick Tracy. Warren Beatty seems to have retained the rights to the character after spending a few years in court battling Tribune Co. Beatty will be celebrating a birthday on the 30th of March, which would make this a wonderful gift for the actor, and hopefully for me too.
Dick Tracy, thankfully, isn't solely a film character. There are comics, cartoons, games, tv serials, and radio programs to enjoy. Chester Gould was the creator of Dick Tracy. The character first appeared as a comic back in 1931. Gould had been quoted saying, "I decided that if the police couldn't catch the gangsters, I'd create a fellow who could." A reference to the organized crime invading Chicago at the time. Tracy was a character obsessed with catching the bad guys and making sure they received punishment for their crimes. The character often pushed the bounds of what was legal. The evil is conspicuous in Tracy's world and he occasionally saw the law as a hinderance. This gave the character a Western-type feel. A character that would function better as a marshal in an old Western town, than a detective in a metropolitan city. Tracy was seriously dedicated to the cause, and having a pinch of rogue mixed into his personality certainly added to his appeal.
Apart from the square cut jaw and the two-way wrist radios, the one thing identified with Dick Tracy is the grotesque villain. The central villain in Beatty's version is portrayed by Al Pacino - one my all-time favorite performances from an actor. I find it quite amazing that he could play the role of Big Boy Caprice, who is full of life, energy, and zeal, while also reprising the role of Michael Corleone right around the same time. Dick Tracy and The Godfather Pt. III were released in the same year. Pacino moves from wild, crazy, and exuberant to stoic and subtle with apparent ease. The performance Pacino delivers makes Big Boy just as appealing a character, actually much more interesting, than Tracy himself. Tracy is the strong silent type with commitment issues. Big Boy is a true leader who demands your constant attention. Regardless of their personalities, the sense of justice that Tracy required made for a very suitable hero figure.
The moral code I picked up from Tracy was seared into me, particularly from the radio broadcast in which Bing Crosby is Tracy, and Bob Hope was the villain Flattop. I received the original broadcast CD as a gift, and can recite many of its passages today. I can see now, that Dick Tracy did indeed impact my view on many things, and including personal preferences on style and taste. I do have a strict moral code that was cultivated from the Tracy character. I have also developed quite a fondness for detective, noir, and gangster material. Taking interest especially in the things from the time period of the 30s through the 50s.
Two films that came after filled a little part of the void I felt after Dick Tracy. The Rocketeer and The Shadow are also two characters from that era who shared a few similarities in trajectory. Sadly, none of the three seemed to have more than a slight resurgence in pop culture. Tracy was my childhood hero, and he remains my favorite fictitious hero. I don't see many of these types of heroes today, these unique and strong personalities. I wish there were more like him; moreover, I wish that Beatty gets to deliver on that promise for a sequel.
These are my thoughts on Dick Tracy.