The Dick Tracy TV Series 1950-52

DickTracyTvPic

The Dick Tracy TV series ran over two seasons from 1950-1953 on the ABC channel and starred Ralph Byrd as the famous detective Tracy.  P.K. Palmer and  Herbert Moulton are recognized producers of the series which featured Gould-created villains and storylines.  In fact, the first season of 13 episodes was not produced by P.K. Palmer.  These original episodes are notable for their lack of an opening Dick Tracy graphic and music.  The second season consisted of 39 episodes, and included among them were the original 13 episodes recut and modified to include additional footage and music. 

Famous villains included Flattop, Shaky, the Mole, Breathless Mahoney, Heels Beals and Influence.  Other cast members included Joe Devlin as Sam Catchem, Angela Greene as Tess Tracy (Trueheart), Martin Dean as Junior and Pierre Watkin as Chief Patton.  Criticized for its violence the series remained popular but ended unexpectedly when Byrd died of a heart attack in 1952. 

In all, 13 original season episodes and 39 P.K Palmer episodes were produced and aired by ABC between 1950 and 1953.  The original air date of episodes is not altogether clear because initial broadcast cities of New York and Los Angeles aired on different days and after the first year additional cities had their own initial air dates.  According to some guides, the first episode aired Monday, September 11th, 1950 while according to the New York Times (WJZ-TV) and Chicago Daily Tribune (WENR-TV) Dick Tracy first aired on Wednesday, September 13th, 1950.

This series’ copyright has never been renewed and so is now in the public domain.  Unfortunately original film stock is not known to exist and the only source for Dick Tracy television episodes is from 16mm film owned by collectors.  These films were once the VHS/DVD of the day but it’s unclear how many episodes were copied and sold on 16mm.  The Depot has been collecting video from sources it can find and all episodes (full or partial) we’ve found have been made available online and are linked below.

Note: Since the second season of Dick Tracy included all re-cut episodes from the original season, I have chosen to list those episodes only one time.  

EpisodeTitleSummaryWatch
1The Brain: Part 1The Brain (Lyle Talbot) and his accomplices mastermind a series of crimes whereby they short-circuit the city’s burglar alarm system and confuse the police by setting off false alarms all over the city. The Brain and Mrs. Volts plan a raid on a gambling club posing as B.R. Ayne a stock broker and the Brain hires Diet Smith to the club.
2The Brain: Part 2One of criminal mastermind the Brain’s men, the Lifter, has stolen a check from Diet Smith for $10,000 and Dick and Sam are close to tracking him down. The Brain sends the monstrous Angel to kill Lifter and Dick Tracy if he gets in the way.YouTube
3The Brain: Part 3The Brain plans to have his mob hijack a box car and sends Choo-choo Lawless to plant a time bomb on the axle of the train he wants to hijack.
4The Brain: Part 4Choo-choo and the Angel are both in jail and the Brain fears they may decide to expose his part in the recent crime wave.
5The Brain: Part 5While listening to a short wave radio, Tracy overhears the Brain and Mrs. Volts discuss killing him with an explosive gas device.
6Dick Tracy and the Stolen EmeraldsDiet Smith’s emerald is stolen by Blowtop Jones.  Breathless Mahoney hires a fence by the name of Pickets to handle the hot Emerald.
7Breathless MahoneyCon and Turk are pursued by Tracy.
8The Missing BondsPicket the fence conspires with Shoulders and Breathless Mahoney.  Dr. Weasel works on Shoulders gunshot wound.  Shoulders played by Dennis Moore and Breathless by Elisha Cook.
9The Mole: Part 1Tracy and Catchem investigate the murder of a counterfeiter and trace the engraving plates to the lair of a hoodlum known only as ‘The Mole’.YouTube
10The Mole: Part 2The Mole hires a crook to run his counterfeiting operation, and Dick Tracy snoops around the gangster’s operation. When he is drugged and taken hostage, two of the Mole’s men keep him company.YouTube
11The Mole: Part 3Counterfeiter Wheels tries to swindle the Mole out of his stolen plates by tricking his muscle, Mountain. Meanwhile Tracy tries to track down Wheels and lawyer Springem visits the jail.YouTube
12The Mole: Part 4The Joker attacks the Mole in his lair and the villain goes above ground looking for revenge while Tracy is looking for him and eventually uses smoke to flush him out of his tunnels.YouTube
13The Payroll RobberyTracy and Sam Catchem pose as bank officers in order to capture notorious bank robber Coffeehead.
14Dick Tracy vs. The SwamiTracy deals with the mysteries of hypnotism used in robberies and must save Sam Catchem from a death trap arranged by a villain named Swami.
YouTube
15Dick Tracy and FlattopTracy is kidnapped from his home by Flattop who has been hired to kill the detective. Flattop figures he can get more than $10,000 for the hit and tells Criminal kingpin Namgib he will kill Tracy for $50,000 giving Sam Catchem extra time to search for him.YouTube
16Dick Tracy and Hi JackTracy and Catchem investigate a series of car thefts and discover of gang who specialize in changing the vehicle appearance and serial numbers. This episode also includes a retelling of the Dick Tracy and Flat Top episode conclusion.YouTube
17The Foreign Agents Part 1Dick Tracy battle foreign agents to protect the high tech Z93 formula and lab samples developed by Professor B. Lough Mines from a foreign agent named Karl Kirk. Kirk is initially captured by his fellow agents help him take Tracy captive and return him to their boss, a man who they call Excellency.YouTube
18The Foreign Agents Part 2Tracy looks for Memory Long, who posed as a janitor and stole the Z93 sample at the same time as Kirk. Memory is under the control of the spy Mr. Influence, who can control people using mind control. Influence kills Professor Mines while stealing the Z93 formula and then attempts to escape with Memory.YouTube
19B.B. Eyes Part 1After a wealthy widow named Carrie Cash who is in Vitamin Flintheart’s acting school gets suspicious and calls the police, the criminal B.B. Eyes arranges a scenario wherein Vitamin thinks he has killed her.YouTube
20B.B. Eyes Part 2Two of B.B. Eyes henchmen (Twister and Knuckles) are told to get a murder confession out of Vitamin Flintheart while Tracy is suspicious of B.B. Eyes story that Flintheart beat him up trying to escape.YouTube
21Dick Tray and the BrowDick investigates a $250,000 radium theft and saves Sam Catchem who has been framed by the Brow for murder.
22Junior and the Sapphire MysteryTracy stumbles on a jewel smuggling racket when the criminal mistakenly sells him a genuine sapphire instead of an imitation.
23Dick Tracy and Pruneface Part 1Dr. Cutter, head of the Gem Research Laboratory has been using his lab to fence gems and Tracy’s arch-enemy Pruneface attempts to steal the formula for creating synthetic diamonds.
24Dick Tracy and Pruneface Part 2With his prisoner, Pruneface and Soup await Tracy’s arrival at his hideout, planning to lure Dick Tracy into a trap where he will be killed by a powerful electrical current.
25Return of Pruneface Part 1Pruneface plans to take over the stolen jewelry racket.
26Return of Pruneface Part 2Dick almost falls into another trap set by Pruneface.
27Dick Tracy meets Heels BealsHeels Beals and Hefty work as antique store delivery men to case and rob the homes of wealthy individuals. Isabel Randolph guest stars as Miss Varnish to steal the show.YouTube
28Tess and the SmugglersTess is framed by smugglers who plant sapphires in her luggage in an effort to discredit and keep Dick Tracy for testifying at an approaching trail.
29Tracy is Missing!Dick is locked in a trunk which is to be fumigated with cyanide gas.
30The Brow ReturnsA brilliant criminal plants one of his men on the police force with instructions to get Dick Tracy in trouble.
31B.O. Plenty’s FollyThis episode introduces Tracy’s friend B.O. Plenty who sets out to buy a birthday gift for his wife Gravel Gertie while Dick Tracy works to solve a series of art museum robberies.YouTube
32Shaky’s Secret TreasureThe criminal Shaky is released from prison and searches with Buck for the $100,000 Blowtop hid before his incarceration while Dick Tracy watching his every step.YouTube
33The Mosquito MurdersDick Tracy faces death from mosquito’s infected with a rare tropical disease as part of a scheme to steel the formula for tripling the power of gasoline.
34The Egyptian Mummy CaseTracy hides in an Egyptian mummy case in order to trap museum thieves, but faces death when the mummy case in which he’s hiding is about to be thrown into an incinerator.
35Dick Tracy meets The SharkDick foils a daring plot to defraud an insurance company and encounters a Countess and notorious swindler known as the Shark.
36The Ghost of Gravel GertieGravel Gertie is tricked into taking part in a phony séance after quarreling with her husband B.O. Plenty.  She winds up helping Tracy save a wealthy woman’s fortune.
37Dick Tracy and Big FrostTracy comes to grips with Big Frost, a criminal responsible for the sale of poisoned alcohol that has caused a number of deaths.
38The Teen MobNo summary available
39The Case of the Dangerous DollarsTracy tries to foil the heir of one of the members of a land holding syndicate who has worked out an ingenious scheme to murder all the other partners.

25 Responses to The Dick Tracy TV Series 1950-52

  1. Mike Curtis says:

    Any stills of the villains not available on YouTube? Like the Brow and Pruneface?

    • admin says:

      I do have an unlisted YouTube Dick Tracy promo video here that includes clips not in any of the videos above, and shows Blowtop, Breathless Mahoney, Shoulders and Coffeehead and a few other people who I don’t think were in the strip like Gadgets and Dr. Weasel.

      I haven’t been able to find any video of either Pruneface or the Brow, and google image searches on the actors who played them (Alan Keys and Norman Rice) aren’t very helpful. Neither acted much outside 1950-1954 according to imdb.

      Earlier this year I tried to track down entities that might have more episodes, but companies I looked at for those recordings are long gone and I hit alot of dead ends.

      If I find any more I’ll let you know,

      Jeremy

  2. Mike Newton says:

    This was the first TV show I saw on our TV. My dad had brought it home on a trial basis, since we could not afford one. My mother allowed me to eat in front of the TV as a speiclal treat. The theme song was the same as the radio Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in the early Sixties. If I am not mistaken, the original sponsor for Dick Tracy was Chunky Chocolate, a big chunk of chocolate with nuts that sold for $.02. Arnold Stang, who at that time worked with Milton Berle, did the commercial.

  3. Johan says:

    According to this website it has the episode called bo’s, http://encorehomevideo.com/tv-kids/comic_strips_on_television.html.

  4. Johan says:

    And if this description is correct then the pilot episode should be on this vhs http://www.amazon.com/Dick-Tracy-Series-Ralph-Byrd/dp/6302759269

    • admin says:

      Thanks Johan, I’m totally going to check some of these out, looks promising. Stay tuned!

      • admin says:

        Here’s a review of the above links.

        The Amazon VHS titled Dick Tracy Series includes the Flattop and Hi-Jack episodes, which aired in the middle of the first season, I believe the “pilot” episode description on Amazon is misleading.

        The DVD on sell.com is a nice set of Episodes with a couple repeats that over-inflate their count. Unfortunatly I have everything they do, so nothing new. I suspect the disk creator is unaware of the repeating episodes on multiple disks, he/she probably had seperate copies of the same episode and didn’t realize they were the same.

        Finally the Ebay Gruesome plus 7 Episodes has nothing new as well, the 7 episodes are all ones we’ve seen before and can be had from the above DVD. Gruesome of course is the 1947 movie which I think sells with the other 3 Dick Tracy movies from that decade in a set on Amazon.

        I still need to check out the disk that is supposed to have B.O.’s Folley, the ordering off that sight requires snail-mailing in an order form with a check/credit card, which makes me a bit uncomfortable.

  5. Paul says:

    Here’s a photo of Norman Rice I found on eBay a while back:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/AaSDd9HCQAAModo.jpg:large

  6. gad says:

    Great list
    the link to flattop put 1 is to episode 2.
    Does part 1 exist?

    • admin says:

      Ahh, you are right, I don’t know why I messed that up. Sadly there is only 1 Flattop episode I’ve ever found, but I have two different copies of it. I wish I could find part 1 but there have been no sightings.

  7. DC says:

    HELLO THERE. I HAVE A FEW 16MM DICK TRACY FILM REELS:
    “GANGTOWN” BEBE BYES AND FLAT TOP,GO GO GOMER. AND A FEW MORE TITLES. IF INTERESTED GIVE ME CALL OR TEXT 503 6 ONE 6 6 EIGHT 6 FIVE. THANKS

  8. Wayne Moises says:

    Popular detective & comic strip hero/protagonist created by Chester Gould in 1931 became a serialized comic strip/comicbooks television films animated cartoons & media throughout the world celebrated its 75 years of adventures of a long running comicbook crimefighter series throughout the years of extraordinary adventures & a story continues. Thanks for the information. From:Wayne

  9. Andrew Sordoni says:

    Great stuff for the time and with skimpy budgets.

  10. Pingback: Captain Video with Vitamin Flintheart

    • admin says:

      Thank you so much for bringing it up and asking! I got pretty excited that it might be a new one but based on the eBay pictures this is the Dick Tracy vs. Hi-Jack episode.

  11. Sean says:

    If 41 episodes are known to have been produced, how come only 39 are listed?

  12. Sean Bossman says:

    I see there is no link for the episode “Dick Tracy vs The Swami” (episode 1.13). Here is the link to the video on YouTube.
    https://youtu.be/UYyjc5T1_cc

  13. Mike N says:

    Hi! Love this listing and the links. Thanks.
    But both links from Dick Tracy Meets Flattop go to the same episode – they aren’t to a part 1 and a part 2.

  14. Bill Delzell says:

    Do you know of any outlet that has every single one of the Ralph Byrd television Dick Tracy episodes? I was born shortly after the program started. I have an historical interest in television drama and news programs taken during the early fifties.

    • admin says:

      Hi Bill. I wish there was an outlet, but there is not. To my knowledge, the episodes I have above are the only ones publicly available to date. There may be some held privately on a reel video, but unless the owner(s) brings them out, it is very likely some of the old episodes are truly lost at this point. So sad!

  15. Greg W says:

    Thank you for this comprehensive list, you obviously put a lot of work into this. I’ve been researching the Dick Tracy television series as my great grandfather was one of the actors, and I noticed your lineup differs from IMDB, however yours seems be more accurate. What sources of information did you use to assemble the list? Also, I understand the Season 2 producer (Lou Snader) reshot six episodes originally shot by Season 1’s producer (P. K. Palmer), which could account for some of the variations.

    • admin says:

      Hey Greg,

      I’ve also compared to IMDB, and stared at the dates trying to make it all match out. In the end I went with what I felt was right. My initial source was Garyn Roberts, “Dick Tracy and American Culture” which gave me a good start, and he seemed to have done his research. But it wasn’t perfect, for example he only had 3 listed Mole episodes, but I very clearly had 4. So I started to look through newspaper archives for tv listings. That helped me figure out some things out. You are right about the alternate versions. I had a fellow share me a a different version of the Flattop episode, which would be explained by the same episode being rehashed in the second season. It also explains why every listing has two Flattop episodes but the plot is very clearly resolved in one episode.

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