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In 1932, a cop is killed and Frank Wiecek sentenced to life. Eleven years later, a newspaper ad by Frank's mother leads Chicago reporter P.J. O'Neal to look into the case. For some time, O'Neal continues to believe Frank guilty. But when he starts to change his mind, he meets increased resistance from authorities unwilling to be proved wrong. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
When McNeal first visits Tillie, he has no camera nor a photographer with him. The next morning, city editor Kelly is holding a paper with a photo of Tillie scrubbing the stairs. However, it is possible that McNeal sent a photographer back after meeting Tillie, since when he first met her he wasn't sure she was the right person. See more »
[to warden, after trying to talk Tomek into confessing to get parole]
You must run a nice jail: this guy doesn't want to get out either!
See more »
Stewart is in top form, but the movie is all talk, no noir.
Call Northside 777 (1948)
Henry Hathaway has several noir and noirish films to his credit, and this one is smack in the key, classic post-War noir period. But don't expect a thriller, or any of those great Mitchum or Bogart deliveries, or lots of moody night scenes with hard shadows, or a femme fatale of any kind. In fact, don't expect a film noir. Call Northside 777 is in some ways a very interesting film, but it's crime drama, and a surprisingly slow one, filled with talk and persuasion and almost no action, almost no suspense.
It does have two first rate actors, the impeccable James Stewart who makes the most of this (and saves the film from mediocrity), and James Lee Cobb playing a news editor, a great secondary to Stewart's role as a determined reporter. The man in jail, Richard Conte, is also a sympathetic actor, better known for other crime dramas from the time, including Thieves' Highway, an underrated gem also starring Cobb).
There is also the often mentioned documentary feel to the film, which might translate to the steady and factual way the scenes try to be realistic, step by step. This isn't really the best way to make a movie hum, and the events are told to us, generally, and the characters rarely have a chance to flesh out. Even the two leads are richly painted caricatures, really--it's just lucky they are both compelling actors.
The photographic trump card played at the end is also a cheap stab. You can tell from the print they are working from that the date would never really become clear, not even a close call. But even more, they would have been able to tell what day the newspaper was published by the layout of the pictures, which are clearly visible in the newsboy's grip. A trip to the library would have solved that one.
No one minds a tale of justice triumphing, and here it is. It's not a bad film, but drink some coffee first.
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