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Based on a true crime story, the movie is about a wild jazz-loving and boozing wife Roxie Hart who kills her boyfriend in cold blood after he leaves her, and how she finagles her way out being convicted. Remade once as a movie, and as a Broadway musical. Written by
Jonah Falcon <email@example.com>
This film opened on the same day that the famous musical "Show Boat", written by Jerome Kern' and Oscar Hammerstein II, and which has a lengthy sequence set in Chicago, first opened on Broadway. See more »
Yes, the 1927 silent film 'Chicago' is the same story that became the big-budget Oscar-winning musical of 2002. (There was a remake in between, 'Roxie Hart': starring Ginger Rogers.) Apart from the obvious difference that one 'Chicago' is silent and the other is a musical, both films tell exactly the same story. The major difference is that murderess Velma is a minor character in the silent version. Also, in the silent version, Roxie's husband is presented more sympathetically rather than as a fall guy.
When I saw the 2002 'Chicago', set in the Jazz Age 1920s, I was annoyed by a couple of musical numbers in which the dancers were wearing blatantly modern disco-era outfits, which would never have been tolerated in 1927. Yet, ironically, the 2002 'Chicago' does a much better job than the 1927 original in evoking the 1920s period settings. The silent-film 'Chicago' is conceived as a MODERN story, set in the jazz-baby present day, and so it makes little effort to evoke its own period. Much of this movie takes place in cramped studio sets which are supposed to be dingy walk-up flats or courtrooms, but which fail to convince.
If you've seen the recent 'Chicago', then you already know the plot of this 1927 movie, including all the surprises and plot twists. During Roxie's trial for homicide, the prosecutor (Warner Richmond) has a larger and more sympathetic role than in the musical remake. Fans of Eugene Pallette will be impressed with him here, but disappointed by how little he has to do. Phyllis Haver is excellent in the lead role, and sexier than Rene Zellweger. (Though not nearly as sexy as Catherine Zeta-Jones.)
This 'Chicago' was produced in 1927, the first year of the Academy Awards. I wonder what the people connected with this movie would have thought if someone had told them that this story would win the Oscar for Best Picture... but not until 75 years later.
I'm a silent-film fan. When a silent film is remade as a talkie, I often enjoy the silent version much more than the remake. In this case, I don't. I'll rate the 2002 'Chicago' 10 out of 10, very much deserving its Academy Award for Best Picture. I'll rate this 1927 'Chicago' only 5 out of 10. I recommend it as a curiosity, but it inevitably suffers in comparison with the musical version. Quite apart from all those razzle-dazzle dance numbers, the 2002 version actually told the STORY better.
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