Warren Beatty just received an early birthday gift. (He turns 74 next week.) A federal judge in Los Angeles has stopped Tribune Co from reclaiming the television and movie rights to comic-strip detective Dick Tracy from Warren Beatty. U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson granted summary judgment in the producer/director/actor’s favor yesterday, ruling that the fact Beatty had begun work on a half-hour TV special, which had Warren dressed as the Dick Tracy character answering questions from film critic Leonard Maltin, satisfied a use-it-or-lose-it clause in an agreement with Tribune to produce a Dick Tracy movie or TV show or lose the rights to the character. Now, what Warren wants to do with the Dick Tracy character whose rights he acquired from Tribune Media Services in 1985 going forward I can’t imagine.
The expensive 1990 movie he produced, directed and starred in for Disney’s Touchstone pictures was no blockbuster despite a stellar cast that included Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and even a well-hyped romance between Madonna and himself. But it did collect seven Academy Award nominations, winning Oscars for Best Original Song, Best Makeup, and Best Art Direction. As for that TV special which featured Beatty discussing how Dick Tracy has been portrayed on film over the years, it only ran on Turner Classic Movies in July 2009. Beatty only made it to keep his rights intact. It’s hard to imagine today’s younger audiences caring about the detective, yet Tribune Co has said in bankruptcy filings that unfettered rights to Dick Tracy are potentially worth millions” to the company and its creditors.