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The Distinctive Look and Music of Dick Tracy
May 9, 2012 9:08 PM   Subscribe

Dick Tracy is a 1990 Walt Disney film directed by and starring Warren Beatty based on Chester Gould's 1930s comic strip about a detective fighting crime in a city inhabited by oddly deformed gangsters.

The movie had a legion of other stars in the cast (all shown here in character for the film): Al Pacino, Charles Durning, Madonna, Dustin Hoffman, James Caan, Henry Silva, William Forsythe, Glenne Headly, Mandy Patinkin, Kathy Bates, Paul Sorvino, Dick Van Dyke, and Charlie Korsmo were all part of the production.

The film's distinctive look (created by a severely limited color palette and lack of camera movement, plus extensive use of latex prosthetics) are in evidence in a collection of clips from the movie (meant to showcase William Forsythe as Flattop Jones). Also, Madonna and Beatty were "involved" around this time, and there's a bit of might be called their chemistry present in this clip.

Dick Tracy was a Walt Disney Pictures film, and had the full juggernaut of that corporate behind it. This included a 7-minute segment on Entertainment Tonight about the movie, and a half-hour long musical stage piece at Disneyland (in four parts: 1 2 3 4). The (then a new concept) midnight premiere of the film could only be attended by purchasing a special ticket in the form of a t-shirt, which would allow the wearer in to the screening.

The film was also accompanied by not one, but THREE soundtrack albums, one by Madonna, one by Various Artists, and the score by Danny Elfman (hot on the heels of his previous year's Batman score).

Madonna - I'm Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film "Dick Tracy":
He's A Man, Sooner Or Later (Stephen Sondheim), Hanky Panky, I'm Going Bananas, Cry Baby, Something To Remember, Back In Business, More (Stephen Sondheim), What Can You Lose (Stephen Sondheim) (with Mandy Patinkin), Now I'm Following You Parts 1 and 2 (with Warren Beatty), Vogue [video (directed by David Fincher), infamous 1990 MTV Music Awards performance, Pop-Up Video version

Bonus: Madonna's stunning performance of Sooner Or Later at the Oscars in 1991. (It won Best Original Song that year for Stephen Sondheim.)
Dick Tracy (Soundtrack Album) [Featuring songs by Andy Paley]:
Ridin' The Rails [k.d. lang, Take 6], Pep, Vim, And Verve (Grooveshark link) [Jeff Vincent, Andy Paley], It Was The Whiskey Talkin' (Not Me) [Jerry Lee Lewis], You're In The Doghouse Now (live television performance) [Brenda Lee], Some Lucky Day (Grooveshark link) [Andy Paley], Blue Nights [Tommy Page], Wicked Woman, Foolish Man (Grooveshark link) [August Darnell], The Confidence Man (Grooveshark link) [Patti Austin], Looking Glass Sea [Erasure], Dick Tracy (Grooveshark link) [Ice-T]*, Slow Rollin' Mama [LaVern Baker], Rompin' & Stompin' [Al Jarreau], Mr. Fix It (1930s Version) [Darlene Love], Mr. Fix It (Grooveshark link) [Darlene Love], It Was The Whiskey Talkin' (Not Me) (Rock & Roll Version) [Jerry Lee Lewis], Dick Tracy (90s Mix) (Grooveshark link) [Ice-T]

Not included: Back In Business (Stephen Sondheim) (soundcloud link) [Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne, and Lorraine Feather], Live Alone And Like It (Stephen Sondheim) (soundcloud link) [Mel Tormé]

*Not to be confused with Dick Tracy, the single from Ice-T released in conjunction with the film.
Dick Tracy Original Score (Danny Elfman):
Main Titles, After The Kid, Crime Spree, Breathless' Theme, Big Boy/Bad Boys, Tess' Theme, Slimy D.A., Breathless Comes On, Meet The Blank, The Story Unfolds, Blank Gets The Goods, Rooftops, Tess' Theme (Reprise), The Chase, Showdown/Reunited, Finale

This album also available in a convenient YouTube playlist.
In the end the film did okay at the box office, and ended up winning three Academy Awards (Art Direction, Makeup, and Original Song).
posted by hippybear (98 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
I recently came across my t-shirt ticket from the midnight release. It looks great on Elder Monster. Still have the Madonna album, too.
posted by MissySedai at 9:20 PM on May 9, 2012


What, exactly, is an Elder Monster?
posted by item at 9:22 PM on May 9, 2012


What, exactly, is an Elder Monster?

H.P. Lovecraft asked the question once. He was sorry.
posted by hippybear at 9:25 PM on May 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


oldest child.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:25 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kyle Baker did a three-issue comics adaptation/expansion that featured two prequels that lead into the final part, which adapted the film. It's cheap enough if you can find it in a collected form and worth if it you, like me, love his work from that period.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 9:29 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Dick Tracy is under-appreciated and one of my favorite films. It's visually amazing, it's got great characters, and Warren Beatty is one of the most charismatic actors ever.
posted by Praxis at 9:31 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


item, Elder Monster is my 20 year-old son. His 16 year-old brother is Younger Monster. The name comes from Younger Monster's declaration at age 4 that they were not little boys, but rather, Scary Monsters.

Apt noms de net, I think.
posted by MissySedai at 9:32 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aah, seeing that trailer makes me realize I remember so much of that movie. I was 12.
posted by sweetkid at 9:35 PM on May 9, 2012


This movie has a lot of fantastic visual effects, all done with optical printing, matte paintings, and models -- pretty much no CGI (this was pre-T2 and Jurassic Park, two of the biggest movies to herald the end of the analog effects era). The effects were largely the work of Harrison Ellenshaw, son of long-time Disney effects man Peter Ellenshaw (who was responsible for the effects in classic Disney movies such as Mary Poppins). Harrison is also known for his work on the original Tron, which actually had a great deal of analog effects (in addition to its ground-breaking CG effects).
posted by Potsy at 9:41 PM on May 9, 2012


You know, the movie where every five minutes they stopped the film and
a Disney executive came out and said "HEY, DID YOU HEAR THERE ARE ONLY
SEVEN COLORS IN HERE YET?" for a total of sixteen times during the film.

And, of course, I spent the whole time just sitting there shouting
"That stripe on his necktie's yellowish-orange! His shoes are a different
brown! The cardboard sky has a gradient painted on it!"
-- Kibo
posted by straight at 9:42 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who can forget the NES video game that involved a lot of driving?
posted by drezdn at 9:43 PM on May 9, 2012


This thread has ended my decade-long desire for a link to the omitted "Back In Business" song. Many, many thanks. (Yes, I've been that gay for that long.)
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:43 PM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I have a fondness for this film, because when I was eleven I realized this and Batman (which had come out the summer prior) shared the same basic plot structure. You always remember your first time, when you think "Wait, I can do something just as good (or better) than this!"

You simply couldn't get scripts for films outside of NY or LA at the time, so for film geeks who didn't even know they were film geeks yet, novelizations were the order of the day. Max Allan Collins, who wrote the weekly Sunday Dick Tracy comic strip, wrote a hell of an adaptation. In the movie, Lips Manlis is around basically to provide an initial event of conflict, a blubbering plot device with a latex appliance. In the novel, Manlis's murder is told from his point of view. It's fucking harrowing.

Disney was looking for a tentpole franchise, a foundation to sell yellow plastic ancillaries. The only thing bright and plastic about Collins's retelling of the story was the cover. (It also didn't have the movie's ridiculous ending, and that's all I'll say about that.)
posted by infinitewindow at 9:44 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's really interesting that in the late 80s and early 90s there was a small burst of movies with this kind of "gangland psychedelia" art direction and lighting: this thing, the Batmans, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Mask, and, possibly, Robin Williams's Toys and the first Spy Kids, if you want to think of them as part of the same set.

And then this sort of thing was gone. Not to say I miss it much, but it's curious how visual styles come and then go away.
posted by Nomyte at 9:45 PM on May 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Thinking on it, I still have my date from that night, too!

I loved the hell out of that movie, in no small part for Madonna singing while Mandy Patinkin - as 88 Keys - plays. I still get shivers.
posted by MissySedai at 9:47 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember this movie confused the bejezus out of me when I saw it as a kid. I would have been about eight, I'd never read the original comics, hadn't yet seen Roger Rabbit for that matter, and I had no idea who any of these allegedly-famous people were or why their heads were shaped so funny.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:53 PM on May 9, 2012


Holy crap, I went to the premiere and had one of those tee-shirts FOREVER.

I totally forgot, thanks! And I do remember it being an entertaining movie at the time, I should check Netflix for it.
posted by rhizome at 9:53 PM on May 9, 2012


More is actually a great number, and Madonna sings it okay. For some reason it got seared in my brain but I forgot the rest of the movie.

Sooner Or Later is a lost torch song from the 40/ that really needs a decent singer to tackle it cause it is actually an embryonic standard and Mdinnas nasally Not Singing is obscuring how good it could be.
posted by The Whelk at 9:57 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having this framed as a nostagia post is infinitely terrifying.
posted by mwhybark at 9:59 PM on May 9, 2012 [27 favorites]


Sooner Or Later is a lost torch song from the 40/ that really needs a decent singer to tackle it cause it is actually an embryonic standard

Bernadette Peters has got you covered, my friend.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:03 PM on May 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


Sooner Or Later is a lost torch song from the 40/ that really needs a decent singer to tackle it cause it is actually an embryonic standard and Mdinnas nasally Not Singing is obscuring how good it could be.

Will this suit your needs for this?
posted by hippybear at 10:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


watching this makes me wish the'd do the to dick tracy the same thing they did for batman with the latest iteration. gritty, realistic. it would be like the wire, but a movie.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dammit, His thoughts were red thoughts.
posted by hippybear at 10:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Having this framed as a nostagia post is infinitely terrifying.

More terrifying? Children conceived on the night of this movie's premiere are now old enough to drink.
posted by hippybear at 10:06 PM on May 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


When I think of movies my family and I saw on vacation, this and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves come to mind. AND I LIKED THEM. They were great mindless family fodder at age 12, despite not being perfect. I remember soft-serve cones in Lake Tahoe, and life is good. I am neither proud nor ashamed. Sometimes shitty movies are awesome, provided a good enough context.
posted by smirkette at 10:09 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


My WASP grandmother bought me school clothes the year that this came out, and she got me little polos and khakis, and gasped in horror when i wanted a dick tracy t shirt--one with madonna, it had a kind of hitrash glamour that she thot was beneath her grandson (it wasnt)
posted by PinkMoose at 10:10 PM on May 9, 2012


This was the movie that made me realize that camp is not just a gay phenomenon, but that there is such a thing as straight camp. This film has all the archness and vamping of, say, Forbidden Broadway, but does it with a weird, square-jawed, scenery chewing gusto. The biggest example from the film: Al Pacino, who I legitimately think is brilliant in it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:12 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


We do not need a gritty realistic Dick Tracy cause that is called all police/ PI stuff since forever. The thing that makes Dick interesting is the stylization and abstraction and oddness, we need lie Dick Tracy in a Brecht play with expressionist sets and an atonal score. Dick Travy's whole appeal is in hus pop art garish emptiess.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 PM on May 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


I avoided this movie like the plague when it came out. And that was hard to do (iirc) heavily-hyped as it was. I was much snarkier then.
posted by not_on_display at 10:17 PM on May 9, 2012


Two decades later. We really should all have watch phones by now. And fedoras.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:21 PM on May 9, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh wait I caught the memetic virus that causes one spelling error per sentence. Yes that is my justification. Yes. Go with that.
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I keep waiting for Apple to institute Facetime on their little square iPod Nanos so the Dick Tracy two-way video watch thing can be reality.
posted by hippybear at 10:22 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wait a fucking minute - Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy is 22 years old?!?

WTF? I feel so very, very old all of a sudden...
posted by mosk at 10:23 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm enjoying the superhero movie renaissance we've got going on right now, but man, I can't wait until we hit another slew of golden age two-fisted pulp style comic flicks like we had in the early 90s. This, The Rocketeer, The Shadow, even The Phantom. The latter two are nowhere near as good as the former two, but I still enjoyed them all.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:26 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


The weird part is, the only thing I recall about this movie is that my younger brother was absolutely obsessed with it. And I HATED the movie. Just now, for this post, I figured I'd watch some of the clips, which is probably the first time I've seen it since I was a kid and I'm still bothered...

Nomyte's comment on ""gangland psychedelia" art direction and lighting" might be part of the key but I think he points to a group of movies with not only a primary and sharp color scheme, but a cartoonish manipulation of human features. I guess part of it is artistic and technical experimentation with the media, which I like in concept, but to me, the end result of all of those = all creepy.

Maybe there's something along the lines of age-related/cognitive development at which point we first become aware of the uncanny valley, which my brother wasn't to yet but I was acutely aware of.
posted by cobaltnine at 10:27 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh wait I caught the memetic virus that causes one spelling error per sentence. Yes that is my justification. Yes. Go with that.

I don't often drink, but when I do, I drink Memetic Virus. /mostinterestingmanintheworld
posted by hippybear at 10:31 PM on May 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


I saw this in high school. It was a Big Event at the time, something you just kind of had to go see, the movie everyone was talking about for a while. It's visually interesting, but I think I forgot everything about after about a day. Maybe I'll try again.
posted by zardoz at 10:48 PM on May 9, 2012


That NES game, though, that thing ruined a perfectly good sick day sympathy trip to Blockbuster.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:52 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


i just think a hyper-realistic dick tracy would be awesome. it would be an opportunity to show how the 1% are sticking it to the rest of us.

imagine a dick tracy where he fights the good fight but is ultimately fucked over by the crime bosses who are actually in allegiance with his own bosses. what does dick tracy do in that situation? that is an interesting story.

or, what does dick tracy do when he realizes that the criminals will just keep coming, it doesn't matter how fast he's able to put then in jail?

these same two ideas would work well with superman too. the idea of a the super person who can solve any problem inside of their universe, but is then thrown out of wack with a meta criticism of their whole good vs. bad universe.

i think this is the next step in terms of raising the stakes for these types of characters.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:55 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


INFINITE MEANS NONE GREATER STOP SCARING ME LA LA LA

Gritty Dick Tracy with lavish period production? You are after Boardwalk Empire, my friends. No wrist phones, mind.
posted by mwhybark at 11:00 PM on May 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


That or go entirely in the other direction and remake it as Nomyte's "gangland psychedelia" notion through the lens of the Wachowskis' Speed Racer.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:00 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I too had the midnight screening ticket! I was distributing films in Chicago at the time and it was a BIG DEAL for sure. I remember the producing teams behind this and Days of Thunder had a good-natured taunting thing going on the press.

I don't remember where I read this but there was a fair amount of gossip about how Al Pacino and Madonna did not get along and that some of his "man handling" of her was a bit too realistic including the slap she received during the night club practice number.

Don Simpson, producer of Days of Thunder, which opened Memorial Day against Dick Tracy was friends with Beatty and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was heading Disney was Simpson's former assistant. He tauntingly faxed (!) Katzenberg "You can't escape the Thunder!". Katzenberg hit back with "You won't believe how big my Dick is!" Simpson may have gotten the last word when he had shirts made up that read "Don't fuck with the Thunder". Dick Tracy racked up over $100m (9th most successful release of the year beating out the likes of Back to the Future 3, Kindergarten Cop and Another 48 hours) during it's release. Thunder topped out in the low $80m range.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:18 PM on May 9, 2012


Sorry, edited and bungled the start of the last paragraph. I'm sure you'll all make sense of it though.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:21 PM on May 9, 2012


Everything made sense except that Dick Tracy opened on June 15, which as far as I know has never been a part of Memorial Day weekend.
posted by hippybear at 11:51 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The original comics are really remarkable. The whole Flattop narrative is really grim. He's an incredibly nasty piece of work. I was given a giant, phone book-sized collection of the original strips when I was a boy and read through them in astonishment. They were just brutal, with passers-by dying in hallways gunfights, cleaning salesmen immolated with their products, and little boys drowning after breaking through the ice with ill-gotten ice skates.

Now I want to read them again.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:57 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


@hippybear - you are correct. I don't remember if they were originally scheduled to go head to head or if they were just being competitive over the summer season.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:02 AM on May 10, 2012


Wait! I'm having a thought.

Nope, it's gone.
posted by jscott at 12:10 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, my favorite was the strip where 88 Keyes was holed up in a railroad shed. How does our Dick subdue the dastardly pianist? The answer was helpfully indicated by a square caption balloon: Tracy used his Thompson to stitch an 'X' in bullets from the top left corner to the bottom right corner and vice versa, ensuring that 88 would be hit.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:30 AM on May 10, 2012


Haven't seen it, does Beatty get with the chick?
posted by mattoxic at 12:33 AM on May 10, 2012


Speaking of distinctive looks go back 32 years to Popeye by a red hot Robert Altman. I think this was part inspiration for the later Dick Tracy being a musical to boot.
posted by pdxpogo at 12:58 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


For all the hype and media attention this movie got, most of which I got through comics Scene (remember that?), boy was this a crappy movie when I finally got to see it. Lots of talented actors, most of whom were stuck in a five second cameo, almost unrecognisable under their makeup.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:08 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Two decades later. We really should all have watch phones by now.

Twenty years later, people stop wearing watches because they've got the time on their phones.
posted by straight at 1:38 AM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Twenty years later, people stop wearing watches because they've got the time on their phones.

Actually, I'm going watch shopping this weekend because I'm sick of having to pull out my iphone and press a button to get the time, and then have to put it away again. Just such a hassle compared to a quick glance at a watch on my wrist. Plus, shiny!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:56 AM on May 10, 2012


I remember well when this came out because I was a teen-ager working at a movie theater and we got passes to every single thing that played in town. I thought it was terrible then. Particularly offensive was the oozing vanity of Beatty who made every baddie wear their wildly non-human faces verbatim but would not, for his own part, put on even a hint of the iconic nose of his hero. The whole thing seemed like such a smarmy mess.

I guess if it's been twenty years I can give it another try.
posted by damehex at 2:24 AM on May 10, 2012


More terrifying? Children conceived on the night of this movie's premiere are now old enough to drink.

Well, technically, but the children conceived on the night of this movie are afflicted with "Enormous Forehead Disease" as a side effect of the radiation from the film's limited palette. This cruel disease has rendered them embittered, and they can only drink in speakeasies while dreaming of outlandish crime.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:52 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Particularly offensive was the oozing vanity of Beatty who made every baddie wear their wildly non-human faces verbatim but would not, for his own part, put on even a hint of the iconic nose of his hero.

The oozing vanity of Beatty (not to mention, well, Madonna's) is what really made this movie for me. Of course, I was rooting for the baddies, who were also the best actors by far.
posted by Skeptic at 3:22 AM on May 10, 2012


And after all, Beatty's vanity is such a well-known issue there's even a song about it. Or not.
posted by Skeptic at 3:25 AM on May 10, 2012


What I really remember from the movie is the huge licensing push at retail to sell men the ridiculous, oversized bright yellow Tracy trench coat. Somewhere, there must be an abandoned warehouse stuffed to the rafters with thousands of unsold coats.

If you've never seen the movie, it's worth wading-through simply for the design and art-direction. As is mentioned in the op, the limited palette of cartoon colors is quite striking and effective. The movie itself...meh.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:59 AM on May 10, 2012


At the time Dick Tracy came out, I worked with a guy who absolutely insisted on seeing films on the first night they were released. His reasoning was that the film stock was pristine on the first run through the projector, but every showing scratched the film stock just a little more. So, if you watch the film night on the first night of its release, you are watching perfect, un-scratched film stock.

So, after work, we all went out to the pub, had dinner and a couple of pints, and then went to the theatre to get the tshirts see Dick Tracy. After 3 pints of Smithwicks, I found Dick Tracy to be very disorienting. I agree with Thorzdad... the visuals are very striking, but I was underwhelmed by the film. I still have the tshirt.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:47 AM on May 10, 2012


Is it just me, or is one of those films like Howard The Duck and 1941 that you just never see on TV for some reason.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:01 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


i just clicked on william forsythe's imdb page and saw 'raging bull 2' and now i don't feel so good
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:06 AM on May 10, 2012


Is it just me, or is one of those films like Howard The Duck and 1941 that you just never see on TV for some reason.

I'm some combination of ashamed and proud that I came across Howard the Duck while channel surfing a couple weekends ago, and watched just about the whole thing.
posted by inigo2 at 5:19 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is the complete set of the Dick Tracy Serial by Republic Pictures, Produced by Nat Levine in 1937. Redundant credits for Chapters 2~15 have been edited out..
posted by curious nu at 5:20 AM on May 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I remember this coming out and thinking they'd just taken the idea of 'make a movie just like a comic' far too literally.

Do they have those big signs that say POW! when they fight, like the in the Batman TV show? Christopher Nolan missed a trick there.
posted by colie at 5:27 AM on May 10, 2012


Very much worth mentioning that the DOP on this film is Vittorio Storaro, he of Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist and the Last Emperor. Vitorrio is the man.
posted by timshel at 5:39 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember when this came out and I didn't see it. Funny how some things never change.
posted by tommasz at 5:39 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now you've gone and done it. I smell a Hollywood remake just in time for summer of '14. I promise to be just as cooly disdainful of it as its predecessor.
posted by nowhere man at 5:45 AM on May 10, 2012


I remember when this came out and I didn't see it. Funny how some things never change.

Very true. Around that time I also bought one of those wannabe-screenwriting manuals called 'How NOT to write a screenplay', and since then I have NOT written loads of screenplays.
posted by colie at 6:01 AM on May 10, 2012


The Madonna soundtrack for this was one of the first CDs I ever owned (even before any other Madonna album!). I still have it, even, and it's in frequent rotation. I just don't usually stop to think about how old it is... yeesh.
posted by marginaliana at 6:30 AM on May 10, 2012


A couple of thoughts after looking at the clips:


a) Madonna was a better actress than her reputation would suggest (this, A League of Their Own, Evita)
b) This lost a pile didn't it--and didn't Beatty's movies often lose money (Town and Country, Ishtar, Bulworth)
posted by PinkMoose at 6:49 AM on May 10, 2012


It didn't lose a pile. $162million worldwide across its run, plus another $60million in rental and video sales. In 1990 movie dollars, that ain't chicken feed.

Just, compared to Batman the previous summer, it didn't look like much.

As far as remakes go, Beatty continues to own (after lengthy litigation) all the film and television rights to Dick Tracy. He's hinted at doing another one, and probably would have done another one sooner if he hadn't had his rights challenged in court. Wikipedia has a bit of a rundown about this.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just going through my old tapes the other day, and was wondering how the heck I would replace my cassette of Madonna's album with either a CD or (preferably) digital tracks. I always found her slightly nasally voice perfect for the quasi 30s stuff she did on that album.
posted by LN at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2012


I was thinking, big deal, this film isn't that old. But then I remembered the Madonna documentary, Truth or Dare, and that scene with her hanging out with her Dick Tracy co-stars. She was still a huge star back then, maybe at the height of her popularity. So,it's not an old film in the history of cinema but in Madonna-years, it's ancient.
posted by cazoo at 8:07 AM on May 10, 2012


I had one of those t-shirts.
posted by Chuffy at 8:43 AM on May 10, 2012


> imagine a dick tracy where he fights the good fight but is ultimately fucked over by the crime
> bosses who are actually in allegiance with his own bosses. what does dick tracy do in that
> situation? that is an interesting story.

Among comic-book movies, that's Judge Dread.

When I heard the Dick Tracy movie was going to go for the comic-book look I hoped they would also stea--I mean adapt some stuff from Al Capp's Fearless Fosdick Tracy take-off that appeared in the L'il Abner strip now and then. Especially the very large, perfectly round, bloodless Swiss cheese bulletholes that shot people got. When I do the remake, these will appear.
posted by jfuller at 9:02 AM on May 10, 2012


Pacino as Caprice was genius in that movie. His speech about not being able to leave his mafia empire cracks me up to this day. Seriously, I was reciting it in my head last week while I was leaving work. His delivery was just spectacular.

"You're on my side. You're not out! You're NOT out! Whey you are dead, then you are out! You are mine, I own you!"
posted by 8dot3 at 9:47 AM on May 10, 2012


I forgot just how great Hoffman was as Mumbles, oh man.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:12 AM on May 10, 2012


Bernadette Peters has got you covered , my friend.

Jesus. If only. *howls, pounds table*
posted by cmoj at 10:24 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


A young Ned Flanders in the therapists office:
"Watch out Dick Tracy, here comes Pruneface"
"Look out, Pruneface, here comes Dick Tracy"
"look out, Prune Tracy, here comes....."
posted by Redhush at 10:24 AM on May 10, 2012


I too had a t-shirt ticket and went to the midnight screening. What a nerd I am.
posted by JBennett at 10:44 AM on May 10, 2012


I remember this movie strongly, if not well; must rewatch! My companion for the evening was a coworker who seethed with jealousy at Madonna; leaving the movie she hissed, "I don't see what the big deal is with Madonna - she's not that attractive and she can't sing!" Um, yeah. So, your husband really likes her, huh?

The movie resides in the same section of my memory as Bugsy Malone (previously). As mentioned above, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the first Spy Kids
belong in the same chunk.

--

And after all, Beatty's vanity is such a well-known issue there's even a song about it. Or not.

Smart money is on "not", Skeptic.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:00 AM on May 10, 2012


I'm so glad I came into this thread, it's fun.
posted by sweetkid at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2012


He probably thought it was about him. Didn' t he?
posted by drezdn at 11:12 AM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carly Simon has admitted that the song was about him, a little. It's pretty obvious the song is inspired by a bunch of men. Mick Jagger was sure it was about him, and he sang backup on it!
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:27 AM on May 10, 2012


The screenplay was credited to the writing team of Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr., who also wrote "Top Gun" (along with "The Secret of My Success," "Turner and Hooch," and the camptastic "Anaconda"). I took a film class taught by Cash at Michigan State Unversity back in 1989 (he was a great teacher and loved movies), but I don't remember any discussion about the soon-to-be-released "Dick Tracy" -- of course, that was years before a billion websites covered every minute detail of films in production.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:09 PM on May 10, 2012


Watching it now online. Wow, madge has never been any good at singing.
posted by damehex at 1:15 PM on May 10, 2012


I enjoyed this film when it came out but haven't thought about it since. Thanks for posting this. I go for films which go in unusual directions and this one surely did. Plus, I'd forgotten how much I love Glenne Headly.

Ten years prior to this came Popeye, the seriously strange Robert Altman/Jules Feiffer/Harry Nilsson film which I also enjoyed; Dick Tracy reminded me of Popeye for the same combination of live action, amazing casting and heavy use of prosthetics.

As an aside, I lunched with Feiffer while he was working on the script for Popeye. "This is going to be one weird movie," he commented mysteriously but would not elaborate. He was right.

Now I'll have to watch them both again.
posted by kinnakeet at 1:59 PM on May 10, 2012


Carly Simon has admitted that the song was about him, a little.

Um, where and when, Bunny Ultramod? She auctioned off the answer for charity, and whispered it into the winner's ear... but he's held his secret faithfully, AFAIK.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:38 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's hinted at doing another one

Oh, please. I'm ready for another 30s/40s serial revival.
posted by immlass at 3:03 PM on May 10, 2012


I'm not sure I'm ready for this film to be introduced as a sort of obscure "vintage" find! Related: YOU KIDS GET OFF OF MY LAWN!
posted by Alphagrrl at 4:20 PM on May 10, 2012


I was, and still am, annoyed that the Madonna album wasn't recorded with a full orchestra, because DAMN that would have been awesome. The synth horn work was technically impressive, but...
posted by Lazlo at 12:54 AM on May 11, 2012


FAME - 1989

For the record, Simon acknowledges the song is a little about Beatty; it's a composite of three men from her L.A. days. Warren, it seems, was not a particularly good boyfriend.

"And I never took him seriously," she says. "He was great fun and very, very, bright. But noooo ... as a boyfriend.

A lot of women like somebody who's that smooth. In the beginning Warren was pretty good at pretending he was only smooth on the outside and a bowl of jelly on the inside. But he doesn't do that secondary act very well now." Carly Simon

posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:16 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not a great movie, but certainly interesting, and the design was wonderful - still resonates lo these many years later.

Heh...fond memories of seeing it twice on opening day - with two different dates :-)
posted by davidmsc at 8:40 AM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: from later in your reference (CR = Charlie Rose):

CR: Warren Beatty?
Carly: Well.....not at all.
CR: Not at all?
Carly: Well, maybe a little bit.
CR: Was it one man? Was it Warren or was it a composite for you?
Carly: Most songs are a composite....most songs are.
CR: Was this one?
Carly: I don't know.


So, I think she's mostly messing with interviewers, and admitting the song isn't just a diatribe against a single man, but a type of man... based (IMO) on a particular lover in her life. After all, she repeatedly rejects both Mick Jagger & James Taylor for not fitting precise trivia of the lyrics - so she must have a singular antagonist in mind.

Also, this (same page, earlier) is a fascinating clue:

Carly: Hardly objectionable! I think it's a very attractive man. I think it's a very complicated man who is obviously concerned with his image, but obviously worthy of my love or my interest. I don't LOVE just anyone. You know, he's gotta have a certain amount of character. If he was only vain it would be boring, but there's a lot more to him. He hobknobs with the underworld.

Can't imagine Warren Beatty fitting that one. Hmm... Frank Sinatra? Did she ever date Al Capone? ;)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:04 PM on May 11, 2012


Oops, and:

Pure Oxygen - 2000
PO: Warren Beatty or Mick Jagger?
Carly: Neither
PO: You're kidding me?
Carly: I may be kidding you.
PO: You won't tell?
Carly: No, I won't tell.....well, it's certainly not, not about Warren.

posted by IAmBroom at 1:09 PM on May 11, 2012


Still reading thread, didn't see these already posted--two great covers of Sondheim's Dick Tracy songs: Ruthie Henshall doing More in the Sondheim revue Putting it Together, & Liza Minnelli's over-the-top Back In Business featuring Billy Stritch.
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 1:03 PM on May 13, 2012


(off-topic but must be said: CK Dexter Haven, your username is awesome. One of the best movie characters EVER, and one of the best films EVER)
posted by davidmsc at 1:35 PM on May 13, 2012


I've got the soundtrack music book; I've done Pep, Vim and Verve as well as Ridin' the Rails in recital. I just love that style of music and the enormous fun one can have as a vocalist.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:25 AM on May 17, 2012


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