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DICK TRACY VS. CUEBALL (director: Gordon M. Douglas; screenwriters: story by Luci Ward/Dane Lussier/Robert E. Kent/based on the comic strip by Chester Gould; cinematographer: George E. Diskant; editor: Philip Martin; music: Phil Ohman; cast: Morgan Conway (Dick Tracy), Anne Jeffreys (Tess Trueheart), Lyle Latell (Pat Patton), Rita Corday (Mona Clyde), Ian Keith (Vitamin Flintheart), Dick Wessel (Harry ‘Cueball’ Lake), Skelton Knaggs (Rudolph, Little’s Assocate), Byron Foulger (Simon Little, Sparkle’s Diamond Cutter), Esther Howard (Filthy Flora, Dripping Dagger Proprietor), Douglas Walton (Percival Priceless, Antique Store Owner), Trevor Bardette (Lester Abbott), Harry Cheshire (Jules Sparkle), Joseph Crehan (Chief Brandon), Jimmy Crane (Junior); Runtime: 62; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sig Rogell/Herman Schlom; RKO; 1946)
“One of the more lively and entertaining crime dramas in the Dick Tracy series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gordon M. Douglas (“Girl Rush”/”The Falcon in Hollywood”/”Zombies on Broadway”) directs one of the more lively and entertaining crime dramas in the Dick Tracy series, which happened to be the only one he directed in the series. It’s based on the comic strip by Chester Gould and the story by Luci Ward. Dane Lussier and Robert E. Kent provide the taut screenplay. Morgan Conway plays Tracy for the last time, as hereafter Ralph Byrd returns by popular demand to play the role he started.

This one has as its heavy a brute nicknamed Cueball (Dick Wesson), who is a baldheaded and dim criminal just released from prison. He boards the stateroom of an ocean liner that just docked at the New York harbor and strangles to death with his hat band gem buyer Lester Abbott and then steals the rare diamonds he purchased in South America for his boss, the jeweler Jules Sparkle. Dick Tracy and his partner Pat Patton (Lyle Latell) investigate the crime and put a tail on the suspicious Sparkle employees, the jittery secretary Mona Clyde (Rita Corday) and the nervous diamond cutter Simon Little (Byron Foulger).

Cueball is undetected as he meets with Little in his home and demands his $10,000 cut in exchange for the diamonds. This leads to Cueball setting up a meeting with the buyer of the stolen diamonds, antique dealer Percival Priceless (Milton Parsons), in the Dripping Dagger saloon–owned by career petty criminal Filthy Flora (Esther Howard), who provides safe havens for criminals for a fee. When Priceless tries to welsh on his deal and offer Cueball only half that, Cueball strangles him. Tracy and Patton have tailed the antique dealer to the saloon, after the secretary secretly slipped him a note, and this forces Cueball to hide the diamonds under the sink of the meeting room as he flees. Flora finds the diamonds, and when she won’t return them Cueball strangles her.

Tracy uses his long-suffering girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Anne Jeffreys), who can’t get her man away from his work long enough so that he can even attend his own birthday party, to impersonate a wealthy aristocratic diamond buyer to smoke out the killer. Tracy has Tess drop into Sparkles’ jewelry office and make sure his secretary knows she’s interested in purchasing rare diamonds. In the meantime, Tracy brilliantly deduces the killer is Cueball by tracing the murder weapon hat band back to Cueball’s prison. This leads to a dragnet put out for Cueball and the exciting climax, where Tracy rushes to rescue Tess from Cueball and then chases him to a train yard.

There’s a good comic strip tone set in this programmer and the film is filled with colorfully named characters and eccentrics, from the hammy and foppish pill-popping orator friend of Tracy’s, Vitamin Flintheart (Ian Keith), to the creepy looking associate of the diamond cutter’s Rudolph (Skelton Knaggs).

REVIEWED ON 11/15/2007 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”