Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dick Tracy And Madonna

Madonna played "Breathless Mahoney" in the movie DICK TRACY. Madonna usually tries to be like Marilyn Monroe. But there's a story she tried to be Thelma Todd in this one.


Another rip off: this time Madonna targeted it to Thelma Todd. Thelma Todd was a popular American actress of the late 1920s and early 1930s - so during those very "handy" decades Madonna loves so much. During her career, Thelma appeared in over 40 films (between the years 1926 and 1935) but Madonna put her on only for one: Dick Tracy and the role of Breathless Mahoney.

Now one could speculate that her look was spontaneus and it came together because it was a typical look of the time period Dick Tracy was portraying... However when you think about it a moment longer and put it in line with Madonna's rip off behaviour - the possibility of mere coincidence taking place turns into an unlikely scene. Madonna has been able to influence her movie roles especially through fashion and look and she has admitted it in interviews. She has been allowed that freedom because "she knows about those things". Obviously she is listened very, very carefully!

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She got to be breathless from all the cigars.

"And I say SHE'S Flat Top!"

That's Thelma, all right!

The joke was that Robert Woolsey ordinarily had the glasses and the cigar.

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The Dick Tracy comic strip's "Tess Trueheart" can be seen as a typical thirties blonde. In the pulps, "Sally the Sleuth" had adventures with characters who resembled Dick Tracy and Junior, while resembling Thelma Todd somewhat in that she frequently happened to lose some of her clothing as part of the story.


Sally's supporting cast bore a remarkable resemblance to Dick Tracy and Junior.

Sally Rand was popular at the time, leading us to suspect that Sally the Sleuth could actually have been named after her.

The fan dance already existed before Sally Rand made it famous at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. Here we see an early portrait of Thelma Todd that shows her doing a fan dance.

Loni Anderson made the movie WHITE HOT, which was based on the book HOT TODDY by Andy Edmonds. According to the internet movie database:

The costumes used in the film are mostly re-used Giorgio Armani originals from The Untouchables (1987).   

I would tend to think of "The Untouchables" as being similar to Dick Tracy and the comic strip Dick Tracy was actually inspired by the real-life fight against prohibition-era crime.

Here is an autographed picture that Loni Anderson sent me.

Writer Max Allan Collins, who at one time wrote the Dick Tracy comic strip, wrote a murder mystery with Thelma Todd as the victim - THE PERFECT CRIME, which is one of the stories included in his book KISSES OF DEATH.

I haven't read this book, just the idea of it sounds awful. Not being an expert and not wishing to rely solely on my own biased opinion, I tried asking a number of others for their opinion of Max Allan Collins. Here is one reply I recieved from a professional writer and editor:

"I keep remembering him as a comic strip scriptwriter whose work I didn't care for --Ted White"

I mentioned that Collins had been writing Dick Tracy and that I felt he hadn't been doing a good job, and that eventually he'd been taken off of it. Ted White replied, "Exactly."

I guess that will do.

My Fan Club for Dick Tracy:


  1. As if Madonna had complete control over how her character was portrayed. I'm sure she exerted some influence but hello, there were make up and hair people and a wardrobe department, and they would have outlined the way Breathless was supposed to look. So stop blaming Madonna and get real.

  2. I'm afraid I never saw the Dick Tracy movie and am not too familiar with it, although as I know something about how movies are made ( having been in one myself ), I understand that the star is not entirely responsible for everything. But the point is that Madonna was supposed to be like Thelma Todd, not that she was the sole individual responsible for that idea.