blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 10: The Gold Ship

The Gold Ship is the tenth chapter of Dick Tracy. It’s the first chapter where Ralph Byrd even entertains the notion his brother might still be alive, even though brainwashed and surgically disguised brother Carleton Young has been running afoul of Byrd since the second chapter.

Young just hasn’t said anything. Even though the big mystery villain said the reason for surgically altering him and brainwashing him was to hurt Byrd.

But that plot point goes away real quick when the action gets underway. Byrd goes out to a ship to investigate an apparent gold robbery. He becomes suspicious of some of the crew, who prove to be villains; a lengthy fistfight ensues.

Gold Ship has some good sets and good action set pieces. The cliffhanger’s undoubtedly going to have a weak resolution, but the fistfight until then is pretty good. It’s not great–the fight choreography is extremely wanting–but it’s pretty good. It’s exciting and feels dangerous, something Tracy has rarely managed lately.

Idiot sidekick Smiley Burnette, who Byrd intentionally brings along as backup to investigate the ship, turns out to be no help because he gets himself tied up in knots. Literally. If directors James and Taylor could do comedy, even with Burnette flopping on every beat, it would help. They cannot. All of Tracy’s okay scenes seem accidentally competent.

Except the miniature effects. They’re actually good.

The chapter’s not a recovery for the serial, but it’s effective on its own.


Directed by Ray Taylor and Alan James; screenplay by Barry Shipman and Winston Miller, based on a story by Morgan Cox and George Morgan and the comic strip by Chester Gould; directors of photography, Edgar Lyons and William Nobles; edited by Edward Todd, Helene Turner, and William Witney; produced by Nat Levine; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy), Kay Hughes (Gwen Andrews), Smiley Burnette (Mike McGurk), Lee Van Atta (Junior), John Picorri (Moloch), Carleton Young (Gordon), Fred Hamilton (Steve Lockwood), Francis X. Bushman (Chief Clive Anderson), Wedgwood Nowell (H.T. Clayton), Louis Morrell (Walter Potter), Edwin Stanley (Walter Odette), Ann Ainslee (Betty Clayton), and Milburn Morante (Death Valley Johnny).


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