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    Friday, July 17, 2009

    Miscellaneous: Dick Tracy Meets The Phantom

    In November 2008, the Los Angeles Times website featured this article on Warren Beatty’s federal lawsuit over control of the character Dick Tracy. Beatty bought the rights to the detective two decades ago and made the Oscar-winning 1990 film. According to the article:

    The sale allowed Tribune, the original publishers of the classic strip, to take back the rights if Beatty didn’t film another project.

    Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, recently sent Beatty a letter saying time is up and it is reasserting control of the character. But the actor claims he should retain the rights because he started filming a Dick Tracy TV special earlier this month.

    Imagine my joy upon opening the July issue of Now Playing, the Turner Classic Movies program guide, and seeing the following listed as airing as part of their salute to the character on July 18 at 7PM EST:

    Dick Tracy Special (2009). Leonard Maltin interviews Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy, while film clips trace the history of the comic strip detective. BW&C30m.

    I circled it in the schedule, and had the DVR ready to go.

    Check the schedule now. Airing at 7PM EST on July 18 is Role Model: Gene Wilder, an interview with the comic actor by Alec Baldwin. I saw it when it first aired. It’s a fine show, as Mark Evanier will tell you. But it lacks the zest that only contractual obligation can bring.

    In a March 25, 2009 Chicago Tribune article, Beatty’s attorney says, “He sold [the special], even though the contract doesn’t require him to do that. The contract doesn’t even require him to finish it. He just has to start it.” The article also notes that in promotional materials, “the half-hour movie chat between film critic Leonard Maltin and Tracy (played by Beatty), is simply called ‘innovative.’”

    The special is listed as being in post-production in the IMDb. I honestly hope that Beatty completes it, and that it turns up on TV eventually. Something tells me it’ll be a hoot.

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