The Roth family leads a quiet life in a small village in the German Alps during the early 1930s. When the Nazis come to power, the family is divided and Martin Brietner, a family friend is caught up in the turmoil.
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. McNeal to look into the case. For some time, McNeal 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>
James P. McGuire served as a Technical Advisor on this film. He is the Chicago Times reporter who wrote the articles on which this film is based, and was the basis of the character played by James Stewart. See more »
When P.J. MacNeal (James Stewart) is talking with Wanda Skutnik (Betty Garde), James Stewart mispronounces "libel" as "liable". See more »
[McNeal is trying to get Zaleska to name his real partner in the crime and get a chance at parole]
What have you got to lose? You're in for life now. C'mon, tell us the truth.
Sure, I could say I did it. Then maybe have a chance of getting out, like you say. But if I confessed, who would I name as my partner, Joe Doakes? I couldn't make it stick for one minute. That's the trouble with being innocent. You don't know what really happened. I didn't do it. Me and Frank had nothin' to do with it.
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"Call Northside 777" is a well made crime drama shot in semi-documentary style. It benefits from a solid script, and tight direction (by Henry Hathaway). It also features a naturalistic James Stewart as a sharp investigative reporter; much of the success of the film is due to his thoroughly convincing performance. A fine support cast includes Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb and Helen Walker. What ages the film a bit is the now somewhat dated technology featured (a lengthy episode in which the lie detector is treated in detail, along with certain photographic reproduction and transference techniques). Yet, one can view these aspects as historically accurate representations, and enjoy the total production, which is on a commendably high level.
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