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Tess Tracy

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Tess Trueheart Tracy

First Appearance:

October 12th, 1931

Known Relatives:

Emil Trueheart, Father (Deceased)
Mrs. Trueheart, Mother
Unnamed Uncle (Deceased)
Dick Tracy, Husband
Junior Tracy, Adoptive Son
Bonnie Tracy, Daughter
Joe Tracy, Son
Moon Maid, Daughter-in-Law (Deceased)
Sparkle Plenty, Daughter-in-Law
Honeymoon Tracy, Granddaughter
Jewel Tracy, Granddaughter

Created by:

Chester Gould

Tess Tracy (nee Trueheart) is the wife and sweetheart of Dick Tracy. She is an attractive blonde. She has worked in her family's delicatessen, served in the U.S. Army as a non-commissioned officer, operated a photographer's studio, been a full-time homemaker and mother, and is currently a private investigator.

Early AppearancesEdit

When Tess was still a young woman, she had her then-boyfriend over for a meal with her and her parents. While doing the dishes, Dick proposed to Tess and were about to tell her parents when two mobsters broke in and shot Emil Trueheart for money that he kept in his safe upstairs. Stealing the money, kidnapping Tess and knocking Tracy out, the thugs made their getaway. Mrs. Trueheart was placed in the hospital from shock and Tracy told Chief Brandon of the police department what happened. Seeing that Tracy had a vested interest in this case, Brandon asked him if he wanted to join the police department as a plainclothes detective, to which Tracy quickly responded "yes". (During the flashback story celebrating the strip's 80th anniversary, Tracy was shown to already be a member of the police force who Brandon had been observing as a potential plainclothesman.)

Tess had been kidnapped by the henchmen of the mob boss Big Boy. Tracy, posing as a gangster was taken into Big Boy's confidence and rescued Tess. Tess didn't know about her father's death for sure until she reunited with her mother in the hospital. Tess was one of the most vital characters in the early years of the strip, she was often kidnapped or nearly killed by mobsters and crooks that were gunning for Tracy. Tess soon also became a mother figure to Tracy's newly adopted son, Junior Tracy. Tess and Tracy now and then had their falling-outs, when for example; in January 1932, Tess accidentally told one of her girlfriends about Tracy's newest case and word had spread to Big Boy who got wise to the cops before they could make their move. Tracy got into a fight with Tess and he was busted down to a uniform officer on a temporary basis. Tess broke up with Tracy and threw his ring into the river. Tess later left a note under his door saying where to find the mobsters. Right after she left, she was clipped by a passing cab and put into the hospital. After the crooks were caught, Tracy was back in plainclothes and he and Tess reconciled in her hospital room.

Tracy's Best GirlEdit

When Tracy was framed for counterfeiting by Stooge Viller, Tess found it hard to believe Tracy's innocence and sadly broke up with him again. Viller had his sights on Tess and started dating her. Tess discovered evidence that Stooge had framed Tracy. Stooge panicked and shot Tess just as she was about to call police headquarters. Chief Brandon and Pat Patton found her in her apartment, the bullet having hit her in the arm. Before she passed out said that Tracy was framed and she had proof. Tracy and Junior apprehended Stooge and Tracy reconciled with Tess again. She recovered from her injury shortly thereafter.

Tess was kidnapped on multiple occasions during the 1930s, including as part of plots by Big Boy and Bookie Joe. She was always rescued or managed to escape relatively unharmed. 

During the Tracy's encounter with the writer Jean Penfield, Penfield planted a story in the newspaper that she and Tracy were engaged to be married. Despite Tracy's objections, Tess believed the story and confronted Penfield. This dispute was later used by the lawyer Spaldoni to lure Tess to Penfield's home, where he shot Penfield and frmaed Tess for the murder. Tess was arrested, but was later freed when Spaldoni confessed.

At one point, Tess and Dick grew apart and Tess started seeing an ex-baseball player named Edward Nuremoh ("Homerun" spelt backwards). Dick and Tess had a brief conversation during which their engagement was broken off. Unbeknownst to Tess, her marriage to Nuremoh was part of a scheme he concocted so he could collect a wealthy aunt's money. Nuremoh killed his aunt and framed a dim-witted cousin for her murder. Tracy was assigned to the investigation, and he and Tess were rather cold and distant to each other.

Acting on her own, Tess discovered evidence linking Edward to the murder. Edward admitted in a crazed, sinister voice that he had indeed killed his aunt. He chased Tess through the craggy heights of his family's land, throwing rocks and pointing a gun at her. Nuremoh's real girlfriend Lola prevented him from killing Tess by inadvertently jumping in front of a bullet. Realizing what he had done, Nuremoh held his dead girlfriend in his arms and jumped off a 130 ft. cliff. Tracy and the police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and attempted to console the distraught Tess.

Upon leaving the Nuremoh houshold, Tess was confronted by John Lavir ("Rival" spelt backwards), Lola's brother who was seeking to avenge his sister. Tess had become somewhat mentally unhinged and she took a liking to Lavir. She forgave him for attempting to force her car off the road, and the two went off together. Tess became a partner in Lavir's dog training business, but soon discovered that he dealt in stolen dogs. She began to surrepticiously return the stolen dogs at night, but Lavir disovered this and confronted her. The two struggled in Lavir's kennel. During the struggle, one of Lavir's attack dogs was freed and a window was broken. Tess grabbed a piece of broken glass and forced Lavir off her. Lavir died of a severe neck wound, and Tess was held on suspicious of manslaughter. Tracy, using forensic evidence, was able to prove that Lavir's wounds were caused by the dog, and Tess was freed. She and Tracy reconciled.

Later, Tess was the leader of the girl scout troop that discovered the weaked Tracy, following his escape from Stooge Viller's abandoned well death-trap. She would also go on to aid ion the investigation of Yogee Yamma, posing a sa broken-hearted woman seeking advice.

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Tess encountered the criminal Pruneface when he rented a room from her mother. Tess became suspicious of his activities and informed Tracy of her concerns.

During the second World War, Tess became a member of the Women's Army Corps as an NCO and wasn't seen for a while, until the Brow storyline. When the Brow was hiding on the beach, he encountered Tess and got ahold of her gas coupons. His accomplice Doc then stole her license plates and knocked her out with a pair of bolt cutters. However her stolen plates proved helpful in bring the Brow to justice.

Marriage and FamilyEdit

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After leaving the service, Tess and Tracy finally got married on Christmas Eve 1949. Tess opened up her own professional photography studio and one of her biggest clients was baby-clothing designer Talcum Freely. Tess recommended that Sparkle Plenty, the 2 year-old daughter of B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie, would be the perfect model. Freely agreed wholeheartedly, but had a difficult time with the parents. Unfortunately, Freely was killed by rival clothing designer Sketch Paree and B.O. was framed for the murder. He was later exonerated.

A year after Tess and Dick got married, Blowtop Jones (the older brother of the late Flattop Jones Sr.) blew up Tracy's house with him and Tess in it and kidnapped Junior. The house was eventually rebuilt using designs by Tess' friend Jean Ellen.

Tess became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter Bonnie Braids Tracy in the back of a car. Tess convinced Tracy to hire child-photographer Louise Brown (aka "Crewy Lou") to take Bonny's pictures in spite of the fact that Tracy found Brown to be untrustworthy. After Tracy and his squad learned of Crewy Lou's dealings with the King Crime Syndicate, her brother Brainerd Brown (a college professor) confronted her. Brainerd sought to kill Crewy Lou for disgracing their family. Lou managed to escape the attemped-murder/suicide in the river by stealing Tracy's car, not knowing that Bonny Braids was asleep in the back seat. After finding out that her baby was missing, Tess fell apart very quickly and was on the verge of a permanent emotional breakdown. Crewy Lou left the baby in the car and fled to an observation tower, only to be killed by falling out the window after being bombed by tear gas granades. Before she died, she revealed that little Bonny was still in the car. When they got to the car, there was no baby, and wolf prints. Everyone feared the worst but then happily found out that Bonny had been rescued and fed goat's milk by an amish farm couple. They intended to keep Bonny but Tracy was able to prove that she was his child and explained everything. Tess finally held her precious baby in her arms again and was overjoyed to tears.

Tess served as a strong and loving mother to Junior and was there to support him when he fell in love with a girl named Model Jones, who was later killed by her brother Larry.

Tess was also present when Moon Maid married Junior and she welcomed her new daughter-in-law into the family..

Tess' Second ChildEdit

In 1978, Big Boy (the man whose underlings had killed Tess' father) issued a million dollar Open Contract on Dick Tracy's life. Lizz learned about this from her street sources and informed the Tracys. Tess was understandably worried, but measures were taken to ensure Tracy's safety. One night, Tracy and Tess were invited to dinner at Junior and Moon Maid's house. Moon Maid remembered she forgot something at the grocery store and asked Tess if she could move her car. Tess instead insisted that she take their car instead. Unknown to anybody, a man named Little Littel was trying to collect the Million by setting a plastic explosive under the dash of Tracy's car, so when Moon Maid turned the key, she was instantly killed. At her funeral, Tess held a grief stricken Junior at her side, comforting him. She offered for Junior and Honey to stay with them for a few days to get himself back on track, Junior politely refused and declared to his adoptive parents that he was going to find the scoundrels who killed his beloved wife.

Tracy and Tess were worried about what Junior would do, but Tess couldn't help but be reminded of Tracy's similar speech over the body of her father after she was kidnapped. This gave Tracy a vital clue to the investigation. Fearing for his family's safety during the Big Boy/Apparatus investigation, Tracy contacted Vitamin Flintheart in California asking if he would take in his wife, son and granddaughter. Vitamin happily volunteered. Junior bravely decided to stay and do his share in the investigation, saying that he would send Honey with Tess since he didn't want to lose either of them. Big Boy finally died in his mansion after Tracy came with a warrant for his arrest.

Tess called Tracy on their anniversary and said she wanted to stay in California for a while longer. This saddened Tracy, but Chief Patton cured his depression with a plane ticket to California so that he could spend New Year's with his wife. Tracy happily accepted.

After landing in California, Tess gave Tracy a gift, a brand new baby-photo album. Tracy was confused at first with the pages being blank, but he figured it out; Tess was pregnant and wanted to stay in California with the doctor she had been seeing. After Tracy got back to his hometown and finished up the Computer Killer and Mumbles cloning case, Tracy took his accrued vacation time and went back to California. Wanting to see their daughter Bonny again (who was now living in Washington State). She, Dick, Honey and Vitamin journeyed there. Now a young woman, Bonny was living above a pharmacy and seeing a Native American Police Detective named Joe Sampson. After seeing the indian reservation where she was teaching, Tess and Vitamin took a drive in the woods where they happened to pick up an injured crook named Bony (who was a wannabe guitar player stealing money to pay for a recording session). Bony and his girlfriend Claudine carjacked Vitamin and Tess, but Tess got ahold of Bony's gun and held it on him. Vitamin took the oppotunity to reveal that "mama-to-be" was Mrs. Dick Tracy. Tess began to go into labor and Claudine and Vitamin helped deliver her new son (the second child of Tess's to be born in the back of a car).

Tracy and Sampson found Tess in the woods after Vitamin signaled the police with Bony's gun. Tess was taken to the hospital with their son. Out of gratitude, Tess and Tracy made Vitamin the godfather and named the kid after both Vitamin and Joe Sampson. Tess, Tracy, Honey and Joe left by plane back to New York, saying goodbye to their grown-up daughter. Before the Plane could take off the family sadly ran afoul of Quiver Trembly posing as a college student named Amy Jones. Quiver took a flash picture of Joe while he was sleeping, blinding the couple momentarily while she slipped her gun into Joe's metal baby carrier so she could smuggle it onto the plane. Tracy was suspicious of her and noticed that her trembling was similar to Shaky's. In midflight, Quiver got her gun back and held the plane hostage. Tracy quickly thwarted her and both Tess and Tracy landed safely with their family meeting an anxious Junior at the airport with Sam, Lizz and Chief Patton (and controversy-seeking reporter Wendy Wichell).

Tess was present during the incident with Junior's wedding to Sparkle Plenty. Bonnie flew in from Washington to be Sparkle's maid of honor, and Sparkle happily told her husband during the ceremony that she would cherish this moment as long as she lived. Unknown to anybody, Angeltop Jones had planted a bomb in the church basement that was set to go off during the reception. Fortunately Lizz was freed from Angeltop's c
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aptivity thanks to the Brow's Son and Tracy was able to defuse the bomb. Tess and the other guests were safe, and Junior's wedding to Sparkle proceeded.

Turmoil in Later YearsEdit

Tess and Dick filed for divorce in the early 90's but reconciled.

In the mid-2000s, Tess encouraged Tracy to consult with the cosmetic surgeon Dr. Beau Tox, which led Tracy to an encounter with the artistic-themed criminal Dab Stract.

In 2006 a wealthy uncle of Tess' passed away and left her 5 million dollars. After an abortive attempt by Dr. Figment Froid to steal the money, Tess decided to donate most of the inheritance to Alzheimer's research.

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Tess was later shown to be working at the Tracy Agency, a Private Detective firm started by Dick and former police officer Johnny Adonis. She participated in the raid on the Panda Talent Agency, and was shown to be skilled at the use of a firearm.  It should be noted that, though she is depicted as a full partner with Johnny, she does not have the requisite number of hours of law enforcement or investigative experience to qualify for an investigator's license in her state.  Presumably, at least on paper, Tess is "employed" as an operative, uner Johnny's license, and will obtain her own once she has logged enough hours of experience

Tess's role as resident female character was taken over by Lizz in the mid-50s, but she remained a staple in the strip, always there to love, care for, and support her number one man. Tess has not been shown to have aged significantly, just like her husband and many of the other characters in the strip, and continues to be depicted as youthful, vital and attractive.

Appearances in Other MediaEdit

40s Feature Film ContinuityEdit

Anne Jeffreys as Tess
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Tess was a supporting character in several of the early Dick Tracy films. She was shown to be Tracy's steady girlfriend. In "Dick Tracy, Detective" (1945) Tess was played by Anne Jeffreys, opposite Morgan Conway as Dick Tracy. Both actors reprised their roles for "Dick Tracy Vs. Cueball" (1946).

In 1947, actor Ralph Byrd (1909-1952) returned to the role of Dick Tracy for "Dick Tracy's Dilemma" (1947), in which Tess was played by Kay Christopher . In "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome" (1947) she was played by Anne Gwynne (1918-2003).

"Dick Tracy in B Flat"Edit

Tess was a character in the humorous radio play "Dick Tracy in B Flat", produced for Armed Forces Radio in February of 1945. She was played by Dinah Shore.

1950s TV SeriesEdit

Tess was a recurring character on the 1950s Dick Tracy Live-Action TV series starring Ralph Byrd. She was played by actress Angela Greene (1922-1978). Tess and Dick were married on the show.

Archie's TV FunniesEdit

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Tess was a character in the "Dick Tracy" segments of the 1971 animated television series "Archie's TV Funnies", produced by Filmation Associates. Tess' appearance closely resembled her depiction in the comic strip. She was portrayed as Dick's wife, and she spent a lot of time at Police Headquarters during Tracy's adventures.

1990 Movie ContinuityEdit

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Tess was a supporting character in the 1990 film "Dick Tracy". She was played by actress Glenne Headly. Tess was shown operating a flower shop/greenhouse business. She was loyal to Tracy, even when she encountered Breathless Mahoney flirting with him, and after he was framed for murder. She was occasionally exasperated with his devotion to his job, and often found herself caring for The Kid when Tracy was suddenly called away.

At the film's climax, Tess is abducted from her greenhouse by The Blank. She is then hidden at the Club Ritz on New Year's Eve, with the implication that she will be found and Big Boy will be arrested for kidnapping. Big Boy discovers her and takes her through a secret passage to the nearby lift bridge control room. Tracy finds them and rescues Tess. At the end of the film, Tracy makes an interrupted marriage proposal, and it is implied that Tess accepts.

In the film continuity, Tess' father had already been murdered. This back story is shown in the comic book prequel to the film released by Disney.

Tess was also a character in the follow-up novel Dick Tracy Goes to War, written by Max Allan Collins. In the novel, Tess had gone to work at a military aircraft plant operated by Diet Smith. She was befriended by a co-worker named Bessie, a heavy set African-American woman.

A rift developed between Tess and Tracy, which resulted in her calling off their engagement. She then found herself spending time in the company of 88 Keyes, who had seemingly reformed and was playing piano at the Stage-Door Canteen. Tess came to trust 88, which eventually allowed him to kidnap her and deliver her to the Nazi agent Mrs. Pruneface

Mrs. Pruneface made a mask based on Tess' face, which allowed the singer Black Pearl to impersonate Tess and plant a bomb at the aircraft plant. The bomb was found and diffused with the help of Bessie. Mrs. Pruneface instructed 88 to kill Tess and dispose of the body. 88, having grown fond of Tess, could not bring himself to harm her. He left her in a warehouse and made anonymous phone call to the police, telling them where she could be found. Dick arrived and discovered Tess, safe and unharmed. The couple soon reconciled and their engagement resumed.

Tess was also a character in the second follow-up novel by Collins Dick Tracy Meets His Match. In the novel, Tess was hired by Diet Smith to be the programming director for his fledgling television network. She agreed to allow her wedding to Dick be broadcast as part of a new TV series, but the wedding was disrupted by a sniper. Further attempts were also disrupted, ultimately embroiling the network (and Tess) in a murder investigation. By the end of the novel, she and Dick were successfully married.


  • Tess is one of the main characters in the film not to be made into an action figure by Playmates Toys.
  • In the film, Tess has red hair. In the follow-up novels, she is described as blonde.
  • During Dick Locher's time as artist on the strip, Tess was often drawn with a heavy eye-lidded facial expression. This was presumably intended to make her look alluring, but more often had the effect of making her appear tired or bored, regardless of the situation.

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