Call Northside 777 (1948) starring Jimmy Stewart, Richard Conte
In 1932, a cop is killed and Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) sentenced to life. Eleven years later, a newspaper ad by Frank’s mother leads Chicago reporter P.J. O’Neal (Jimmy Stewart) to look into the case. When he begins to investigate he meets increased resistance from authorities unwilling to be proved wrong.
Editorial Review of Call Northside 777 (1948), courtesy of Amazon.com
The postwar vogue for documentary-style realism, prompted by The March of Time and the critical success of Roberto Rossellini’s Open City, cross bred with film noir to create a compelling strain of crime films; this is one of the most low-key and credible, based on the true story of a Chicago reporter (James Stewart) who became convinced of the innocence of a death-row inmate (Richard Conte).
Director Henry Hathaway (whose Kiss of Death started the trend) stages the action on the actual Chicago locations, providing a fascinating documentary record of an underfilmed metropolis (the convict’s mother is a washerwoman at the Wrigley Building), and leads his cast to appropriately restrained, naturalistic performances. Stewart is just beginning to explore his newfound, postwar maturity here, and there’s an undercurrent of obsessiveness in his performance that anticipates the haunted figures he would soon be playing for Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock. —Dave Kehr
Movie quotes from Call Northside 777
P.J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart): You look nice. Will you marry me?
Laura McNeal (Helen Walker): I did.
P.J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart): Oh yeah, yeah, that’s right… Thanks.
Laura McNeal: (Helen Walker) You’re welcome.
[McNeal is trying to get Zaleska to name his real partner in the crime and get a chance at parole]
P.J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart): What have you got to lose? You’re in for life now. C’mon, tell us the truth.
Tomek Zaleska (George Tyne): Sure, I could say I did it. Then maybe have a chance of getting out, like you say. And if I confessed, who would I name as my partner, Joe Doaks? I couldn’t make it stick for one minute. That’s the trouble with being innocent – you don’t know what really happened.
Laura McNeal (Helen Walker): What’s the matter, won’t the pieces fit together?
P.J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart): Some of them, but they make the wrong picture.
Laura McNeal (Helen Walker): Pieces never make the wrong picture. Maybe you’re looking at them from the wrong angle.
P.J. McNeal (Jimmy Stewart): [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!
- James Stewart (Dear Brigitte) … P.J. McNeal
- Richard Conte (I’ll Cry Tomorrow) … Frank Wiecek
- Lee J. Cobb … Brian Kelly
- Helen Walker … Laura McNeal
- Betty Garde … Wanda Skutnik
- Kasia Orzazewski … Tillie Wiecek
- Joanne De Bergh … Helen Wiecek