Cast & Crew
After his cohorts, Sam and Fred, steal furs from the Flawless Furs warehouse, Steve Michel, a vicious, crippled killer known as The Claw, uses his prosthetic hook to murder the watchman. At the crime scene, police detective Dick Tracy interviews fur company owner Humphries, Peter Premium, the head of the insurance company that insured the furs, and Cudd, the insurance company's investigator. Premium and Cudd are anxious to catch the thieves quickly as Humphries' policy states that if the stolen goods are not found within twenty-four hours, the insurance company must pay a penalty. While examining the watchman's body at the morgue, Tracy and his bumbling assistant, Pat Patton, find a scribbled note and, with the help of the forensics laboratory, decipher it. The note indicates that the robbers are three men driving a truck with the name "Daisy" on it. Before Tracy can track the truck, however, the robbers change its facade at their junkyard hideout. The robbers then go to the Blinking Skull bar to telephone their boss and are overheard making plans to unload the furs that night by Sightless, a beggar who poses as a blind man. While eavesdropping, Sightless, a police informant, makes enough noise to attract the robbers' attention and barely escapes from The Claw. Sightless rushes to Dick Tracy's house with his tip, but Vitamin Flintheart, Tracy's pretentious but goodhearted friend, answers the door. Assuming that the terrified beggar is a raving pest, Vitamin sends him on his way after listening to his message about the robbers' rendezvous with a fence. Later, Vitamin passes on Sightless' tip, and Tracy and Pat apprehend the would-be fence, Longshot Lillie. While Tracy and Pat are questioning Lillie, who is unable to identify the robbers, The Claw kills Sightless in his apartment. The Claw then starts to make a telephone call in Sightless' building, but is scared off when Pat and Tracy arrive. Although Pat is unable to catch the fleeing Claw, he does shoot and wound him. Tracy notices that The Claw left scratch marks on the telephone dial indicating the first part of the number he was calling, and assigns Pat the task of discovering the missing digits. Tracy then visits Premium and Cudd and accuses them of stealing the furs. After the insurance men deny Tracy's charges, an exhausted Pat bursts in and announces that the phone number belongs to Humphries. From his home, meanwhile, Humphries, who hopes to sell the insurance company his own furs at a cut rate and collect the penalty money, contacts the robbers at the Blinking Skull, and they then call Premium and tell him to bring $50,000 to the bar. There Fred and Sam try to double-cross the wounded Claw, but he attacks and kills them. Their murder is witnessed by Vitamin, who, out of guilt over Sightless, is posing as a blind beggar. From his hiding place, Vitamin then overhears The Claw telephoning Humphries and telling him the location of the furs. After Humphries, who is being held at gunpoint by Pat and Cudd, alerts The Claw to his situation, Vitamin inadvertently attracts the killer's attention. Vitamin is saved by the arrival of Tracy, who then pursues The Claw to the junkyard. There Tracy corners The Claw next to a high-voltage generator, and the killer accidentally touches a charged wire with his hook and electrocutes himself. At home, Tracy is about to embrace his patient sweetheart, Tess Trueheart, when he is called to duty once more.
William B. Davidson
Robert Stephen Brode
Lucius O. Croxton
Russell A. Cully
Albert S. D'agostino
Jean L. Speak
Dick Tracy's Dilemma
RKO assigned producer Herman Schlom to the Dick Tracy films a logical choice, as Schlom had experience in producing the Gildersleeve series (1942-1944) based on Harold Peary's hit radio character, as well as serving as associate producer on a previous film based on a popular comic strip character: Li'l Abner (1940).
The first two movies in the RKO series, Dick Tracy (1945) and Dick Tracy vs. Cueball (1946) both starred contract player Morgan Conway. Conway received some glowing notices (and approval from Gould), but RKO did not renew the actor's contract after these outings. Ralph Byrd had been sidelined by an auto accident, but was fully recovered when RKO recruited him for the third film in the series. Dick Tracy's Dilemma features a plot and characters worthy of the Gould strip. Steve Michel (Jack Lambert) and a couple of other thugs hijack a valuable shipment of furs, but botch the job by killing a night watchman. Michel is more commonly known as The Claw because of the sharp appendage he wears in place of his missing hand. Because of the murder, police detective Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd) is called to the scene. Tracy investigates the higher-ups who may have ordered the robbery. He is helped by his assistant Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) and by colorful characters like the flamboyant Vitamin Flintheart (Ian Keith) and "Sightless" (Jimmy Conlin), a police informant who hangs out in front of the seedy club, the Blinking Skull. The Claw dispatches more victims in a gruesome manner before Tracy can unravel the bigger picture and the larger forces at work. The finale, in which The Claw's weapon of choice provides his own undoing, is both horrific and comic in the best tradition of Gould's unconventional strip.
Writing in Variety, "Brog" said that "Thrills are backed up with good budget production values by Herman Schlom and it's all aimed at satisfying demands of the Tracy fans as well as filling support bookings." Perhaps not quite aware of actor Byrd's pedigree as the character, this reviewer terms him only "okay... with enough resemblance to the fictional character to carry off the role." He also writes that "Jack Lambert gives expert study in his role as The Claw, [a] grotesque character right out of a Chester Gould strip."
The follow-up to Dick Tracy's Dilemma was Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), the fourth and last entry in the RKO series. It had the considerable advantage of star power over its predecessors; Boris Karloff was cast as Gruesome. With the RKO Tracy films wrapped up, producer Schlom proceeded to turn out dozens of B-Westerns for the studio, most often featuring Tim Holt as star. As for Dick Tracy, the character next made the move to television, and Ralph Byrd essayed the role a final time on ABC's Dick Tracy. The program ran for 39 episodes in the 1950-1951 season. Byrd may well have played Dick Tracy in further adventures had he not died unexpectedly, of a heart attack, on August 18, 1952 at age forty-three.
Producer: Herman Schlom
Director: John Rawlins
Screenplay: Robert Stephen Brode, based on the comic strip by Chester Gould
Cinematography: Frank Redman
Film Editing: Marvin Coil
Art Direction: Lucius O. Croxton, Albert S. D'Agostino
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera
Music: Paul Sawtell
Makeup: Gordon Bau
Cast: Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy), Lyle Latell (Pat Patton), Kay Christopher (Tess Trueheart), Jack Lambert (Steve Michel, aka The Claw), Ian Keith (Vitamin Flintheart), Bernadene Hayes (Longshot Lillie), Jimmy Conlin (Sightless), Wade Crosby (Jigger).
by John M. Miller
Dick Tracy's Dilemma
The working title of this film was Dick Tracy vs. The Claw. Dick Tracy's Dilemma was the third film in RKO's Dick Tracy series. Ralph Byrd, who had starred in Republic's 1937 Dick Tracy serial, took over the title role from Morgan Conway for the production. He also played Tracy in the fourth and last picture of the RKO series, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome. Early pre-production Hollywood Reporter news item lists Douglas Walton as a cast member, but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. For more information on the series, see entry above for Dick Tracy and consult the Series Index.