Dick Tracy's G-Men

Dick Tracy's G-Men (1939) is a 15-Chapter Republic movie serial based on the Dick Tracy comic strip by Chester Gould. It was directed by William Witney and John English.

Dick Tracy's G-Men
Directed byWilliam Witney
John English
Produced byRobert M Beche
Written byFranklin Adreon
Ronald Davidson
Barry Shipman
Sol Shor
Chester Gould (comic strip)
StarringRalph Byrd
Irving Pichel
Ted Pearson
Phyllis Isley
Walter Miller
George Douglas
CinematographyWilliam Nobles
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
  • September 2, 1939 (1939-09-02) (U.S.)[1]
  • September 19, 1955 (1955-09-19) (U.S. re-release)[1]
Running time
15 chapters / 263 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$159,876 (negative cost: $163,530)[1]

This serial was the fifteenth of the sixty-six produced by Republic and the third Dick Tracy serial (there would be one more, Dick Tracy vs. Crime, Inc., in 1941). As with all four Dick Tracy serials, Ralph Byrd plays the lead. This time he faces Irving Pichel as the spy with a vendetta, Zarnoff. Future Academy Award winner Jennifer Jones co-stars as Gwen Andrews.

"G-Man" is a contemporary slang term for an agent of the FBI. In the comic strip, Dick Tracy is actually a detective in the police force of an unnamed Midwestern city resembling Chicago. This was changed for the serial.


International spy, Zarnoff, in the employ of "The Three Powers" (presumably a fictionalized reference to the Axis) is captured by Dick Tracy at the start of the serial, tried and sentenced to death. However, through the use of a rare drug embedded by his agents in the evening newspaper, he escapes from the gas chamber. His men pick up his "corpse" by ambushing the hearse and administering another counter-drug. He continues his espionage plans, while taking the opportunity of revenge on Tracy.



Dick Tracy's G-Men was budgeted at $159,876 although the final negative cost was $163,530 (a $3,654, or 2.3%, overspend).[1] Although the previous serial, Daredevils of the Red Circle, came in under budget that was an exception to the rule. Most Republic serials were slightly overbudget and this one was not significantly so in comparison.

It was filmed between 17 June and 27 July 1939 under the working title Dick Tracy and his G-Men.[1] The serial's production number was 896.[1]

This serial, like all the sequels to the 1937 original Dick Tracy serial, was permitted by an interpretation of the original contract, which allowed a "series or serial". Therefore, Chester Gould was not paid again for the right to produce this serial.[3]



Dick Tracy's G-Men's official release date is 2 September 1939, although this is actually the date the seventh chapter was made available to film exchanges.[1]

The serial was re-released on 19 September 1955 following the release of Republic's final serial, King of the Carnival. Dick Tracy's G-Men began a series of re-releases that accounted for all of Republic's remaining serial releases, finishing with a re-release of Zorro's Fighting Legion in March 1958.[1]

VCI released the serial on 2 dvd discs in 2008. It was later released together with the other three Dick Tracy serials in a boxed dvd set by VCI in 2013.

Critical reception

Movie serial historian William C. Cline states that the Dick Tracy serials were "unexcelled in the action field," adding that "in any listing of serials released after 1930, the four Dick Tracy adventures from Republic must stand out as classics of the suspense detective thrillers, and the models for many others to follow."[4]

Chapter titles

  1. The Master Spy (29min 55s)
  2. Captured (16min 42s)
  3. The False Signal (16min 38s)
  4. The Enemy Strikes (16min 44s)
  5. Crack-up! (16min 39s)
  6. Sunken Peril (16min 39s)
  7. Tracking the Enemy (16min 40s)
  8. Chamber of Doom (16min 41s)
  9. Flames of Jeopardy (16min 37s)
  10. Crackling Fury (16min 40s)
  11. Caverns of Peril (16min 39s)
  12. Fight in the Sky (16min 39s)
  13. The Fatal Ride (16min 40s) - a re-cap chapter
  14. Getaway (16min 38s)
  15. The Last Stand (16min 41s)



  1. Mathis, Jack (1995). Valley of the Cliffhangers Supplement. Jack Mathis Advertising. pp. 3, 10, 40–41. ISBN 0-9632878-1-8.
  2. Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "4. Perilous Saturdays". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5.
  3. Images Journal Article, last checked 19/03/07
  4. Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 20. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  5. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 225. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
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