Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 15: Brothers United

Brothers United, sadly, does not feature much in the way of brothers uniting. Much of the chapter is spent with Ralph Byrd begging Carleton Young to remember his identity and Young not remembering his identity and running away. There’s no uniting. It’s actually the most red herring of a chapter title as Dick Tracy gets.

The chapter does the Spider reveal just before the finish. It’s who was forecast in the previous chapter; a nonsensical reveal without any dramatic weight. There’s not much dramatic weight to anything in the chapter really. Well, except Francis X. Bushman telling Byrd he’s getting a promotion only it’s unclear to what rank. It’s also implied there’s more pay, which doesn’t make much sense because if Byrd’s not independently wealthy–I mean, Kay Hughes doesn’t work for the FBI, she’s Byrd’s home assistant, and so the airplane she flies in this one (winging little Lee Van Atta into great danger) must belong to Tracy. But who cares. It’s over.

John Picorri gets a good showdown with Byrd, even if it’s also without much dramatic weight. It’s a better fight scene than anything else in the chapter. The one between Young and Byrd–with Fred Hamilton and Smiley Burnette duking it out with Young’s thug sidekicks–is terribly cut. And all the FBI guys who couldn’t fight in the earlier chapters can somehow beat up the thugs here. Even the one who looks like an evil Harold Lloyd. The coincidental (I’m assuming) resemblance is more amusing than anything intentional in the chapter.

It all ends with a dumb joke, which the directors can’t pull off. Partially because they’re not very good at directing, partially because it’s a dumb joke, mostly because Burnette’s lousy.

There’s a lot of obvious stock footage, both from the serial’s early chapters and other sources. Kind of cuts into the dramatic effect, which is in dire straits already.

Brothers United still manages to be a disappointment, but it does give Young a single decent scene–his first in ages–and Byrd at least isn’t annoying. He’d been getting annoying.

I suppose, technically, it’s never too boring. The bad fight scenes in the second half do drag it down though.


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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