Tag Archives: Morgan Cox

Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 5: Brother Against Brother

There’s no great action in Brother Against Brother. There’s what might be a real cliffhanger–Ralph Byrd shot (figure it’s safe to spoil since Byrd’s the lead and it’s chapter five of fifteen). I guess there’s some good effects at the beginning with some of the plane stuff. It doesn’t figure in much to the rest of the chapter, which has Byrd planting a necklace in a plane crash hoping to infiltrate the Spider Gang’s “hangout.”

Byrd and Dick Tracy are down with the hip lingo.

Meanwhile, most of the supporting cast is looking to rescue Byrd. Fred Hamilton has Lee Van Atta, who’s getting more annoying the more he has to do, while Kay Hughes is babysitting Smiley Burnette. The scenes with Hughes and Burnette are really, really rough. She’s amateurishly bad and he’s truly godawful.

Speaking of godawful, on the way to the Spider Gang’s hangout–a big house the dialogue explains to be a closed motel, which doesn’t track given the interiors or exteriors of the pad, but whatever–on the way Byrd hopes in the back of a passing jalopy. Who should be driving but Ed ‘Oscar’ Platt and Lou Fulton; they’re apparently the hillbilly comedy duo, “Oscar and Elmer.”

They’re godawful too.

Luckily they don’t have any scenes with Burnette.

The finale is a shootout around the house, with stuntmen climbing around the exterior. Editors Edward Todd, Helene Turner, and William Witney don’t do well with shootouts. All the good cutting (from the effects sequences) is missing.

It’s not a predictable chapter. It’s not an exciting chapter. But at least it’s not a repetitive one.

CREDITS

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.

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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Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 4: Death Rides the Sky

Death Rides the Sky does not follow the concerning pattern of the previous two chapters where information falls into Ralph Byrd’s lap and he ignores it only to discover it’s of vital importance.

In Rides, he knows the information of vital importance right off. Cuts down on later confusion.

The chapter opens with a predictably disappointing cliffhanger resolution. Not so much predictable in how it plays out–like, is Byrd ever supposed to be in any real danger–but predictable in being disappointing. There is some of the best direction in the serial during the resolution, however.

After a brief interlude back at Tracy Manor, where old white guys in matching gray suits (with matching pocket squares) show up to ask Byrd for a recap of the previous chapter. That exposition–and a predictably weak comedy sequence with Smiley Burnette and Lee Van Atta–are the last things before Death Rides the Sky goes airborne.

Once it does, the chapter’s pretty awesome. Byrd and sidekick Fred Hamilton (who’s better than I’ve been giving him credit for) have to intercept a dirigible to stop a jewel theft. So they dock in their biplane. The thief’s escape–by parachute–turns into a great chase sequence.

Lots of plane effects, lots of miniatures, all of the effects excellent. It’s a little silly when the bad guys shoot rifles out of their futuristic “Wing” aircraft but whatever.

The action keeps up from the middle to the end of Rides. Not even the return of Burnette and Van Atta can hurt it. Van Atta’s dopey kid behavior causes the cliffhanger, which I hope isn’t a frequent occurrence.

But, yeah, give Dick Tracy some achievable action to visualize and it’s spot on.

CREDITS

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.

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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Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 3: The Fur Pirates

With The Fur Pirates, Dick Tracy starts to show some problems; outside the obvious acting ones considering the supporting cast. There’s another fast cliffhanger resolve, with the disaster not being anywhere near as dangerous as originally suggested. After that resolution, there’s some decent special effects–miniature–of the bad guy’s Wing aircraft taking off.

Then the chapter hits the skids. With no investigative leads, Ralph Byrd heads home to hang out with the supporting cast. Smiley Burnette is once again terrible, Kay Hughes is once again underwhelming, Lee Van Atta is once again cloying. Oh, there’s some stuff with the villains, but the most amusing part of a serial chapter shouldn’t be John Picorri’s cat wanting to be let down.

Just like last time, someone gives Byrd a tip he dismisses. Just like last time, it turns out to be important. There’s a ship in the harbor and it’s got a million dollars worth of furs on it. What if someone rips them off?

Better, what if it turns out the Spider Gang is going to rip them off.

There’s some action at the end and it’s not badly conceived, just executed. There’s no way to do a small boat crushed between two big ships with stock footage and second unit stuff. Not without miniatures.

With no solid action in the cliffhanger lead-up, Pirates doesn’t have anything to keep it going. The story isn’t compelling and, while he’s more affable than anyone else, it’s not like Byrd can keep the energy up.

Hopefully something happens next chapter. It’s early for the serial to be in a formulaic rut.

CREDITS

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.

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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Dick Tracy (1937, Ray Taylor and Alan James), Chapter 2: The Bridge of Terror

The Bridge of Terror gets off to a somewhat rocky start. The special effects on the cliffhanger resolution are outstanding. The actual resolution itself? Pretty lazy stuff. It immediately goes into Ralph Byrd (as Dick Tracy) getting in a police plane to track the giant villain aircraft, just called “The Wing.” Little does Byrd know the commander of the Wing is his own brother–Carleton Young–albeit after both plastic surgery and brain surgery. The first to change his appearance, the second to make him evil.

It’s not a dramatic chase sequence, but the special effects are again great so it works out.

Far better than when it’s just Byrd sitting around his office with the supporting cast chewing the expository fat.

Similarly, the action at Byrd’s lab–he goes from the FBI office to his crime laboratory to work at night–is pretty boring. Dick Tracy relies way too heavily on Smiley Burnette and Lee Van Atta for comic relief. Burnette is the lovable, dimwit jackass FBI subordinate and Van Atta is the young orphan Byrd has adopted.

But there are also two men hanging around to tell Byrd he’s too busy to talk to them and then leave. Something similar happens in the office. It’s almost like Dick Tracy’s got too much production value and can’t reign it in.

None of it matters once Byrd and sidekick Fred Hamilton infiltrate the villain’s headquarters. There’s a strong chase sequence, a bunch of good stunts, and just really well-executed action. So well-executed the cliffhanger has to disappoint; it’s back to the models instead of Byrd’s stuntman swinging around a power plant.

Terror’s light on the plot; the action more than compensates and makes up for the draggy office and lab sequences.

Plus mad scientist John Picorri has a cute cat he cuddles while being fiendish.

CREDITS

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.

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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