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‘Dick Tracy’ Movie Art: A Retrospective [Art]

News broke late last week that the film rights to the classic Dick Tracy comic strip character will be retained by actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty, thanks to a court ruling in a long-running legal battle with the copyright owner Tribune, Inc. The plaintiff’s argument was that Beatty hadn’t fulfilled contractual obligations to retain the Dick Tracy film rights, but a judge decided he had. And that was that.

While worth noting, this development isn’t particularly exciting, especially given the fact that it’s been over 20 years since Warren Beatty made a Dick Tracy film and there’s no indication that another is forthcoming. But the news did get us thinking about Beatty’s 1990 film, which if nothing else was an triumph of design. Perhaps more than the filmed images themselves, we remember the marketing imagery of Dick Tracy, which featured slick illustrations in a comic book/pop art style. We take a look back at that very cool material below.

Like the Batman film released only a year earlier, the iconography of Dick Tracy adorned every conceivable item: apparel, lunch boxes, books, toys — even products from McDonald’s. The one-sheet posters were especially memorable, featuring high contrast color illustrations of Warren Beatty and his co-stars Al Pacino and Madonna with pop/comic design elements that reflected the ambitious look of the film itself. While the concept of separate posters for individual characters is replicated frequently in the marketing of present-day “event” films, there’s a tastefulness to these portraits that you don’t see much anymore.

We haven’t been able to identify the creator of these images with 100% certainty, but Internet Movie Database lists a Michael Curtis as the uncredited designer of the one-sheets (although that doesn’t mean he actually created the artwork). Curtis is also credited as the designer of The Rocketeer’s one-sheet, which in our book makes him among the best creative artists of all time. We do have some inquiries out there but if anyone has any information about the creation of this material, please let us know.

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