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Call Northside 777 (1948)

Approved | | Drama, Film-Noir | March 1948 (USA)
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Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal re-opens a ten year old murder case.

Director:

Henry Hathaway

Writers:

Jerome Cady (screen play), Jay Dratler (screen play) | 3 more credits »
Reviews
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
James Stewart ... P.J. McNeal
Richard Conte ... Frank Wiecek
Lee J. Cobb ... Brian Kelly
Helen Walker ... Laura McNeal
Betty Garde ... Wanda Skutnik
Kasia Orzazewski Kasia Orzazewski ... Tillie Wiecek
Joanne De Bergh Joanne De Bergh ... Helen Wiecek (as Joanne de Bergh)
Howard Smith ... K.L. Palmer
Moroni Olsen ... Parole Board Chairman
John McIntire ... Sam Faxon
Paul Harvey ... Martin Burns
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Storyline

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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

There's a beat in the pulse of this picture that becomes your very own! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Polish

Release Date:

March 1948 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Calling Northside 777 See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

ON SCREEN: "This film was photographed in the State of Illinois, using wherever possible, the actual locales associated with the story." This was the first Hollywood-produced feature film to be shot entirely on-location in Chicago. Many famous landmarks, such as the Chicago Merchandise Mart, Holy Trinity Polish Mission, and the Wrigley Building (of chewing gum fame) on North Michigan Avenue, can be seen throughout the film. See more »

Goofs

Continually throughout the film, McNeal incorrectly refers to Springfield and Joliet as "up there", when really these cities are southwest of Chicago. Then, when visiting Springfield, he incorrectly refers to Chicago as "down there" while Chicago is really to his north. This is the opposite of how Illinoisans would refer to these areas. Springfield and Joliet are south of Chicago and are always referred to as "down there" or, more often, "downstate," from a Chicagoan's point of view. When visiting Springfield, you'd go back "up" to Chicago. Illinoisans' terminology of "up there" and "down there" always respectively follow the north and south directions of the map. In addition, when Kelly says he stopped at the prison outside Joliet while on his way to Decatur, McNeal suggests this is just an excuse as Decatur is in the opposite direction; in fact, Decatur is in central Illinois, and Joliet would indeed be on the way there from Chicago. See more »

Quotes

[McNeal is trying to get Zaleska to name his real partner in the crime and get a chance at parole]
P.J. McNeal: What have you got to lose? You're in for life now. C'mon, tell us the truth.
Tomek Zaleska: 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.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery at the Burlesque (1949) See more »

Soundtracks

Please Don't Say
No""
(1944) (uncredited)
Music by Sammy Fain
Words by Ralph Freed
Played at the bar where McNeal orders a bourbon
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Solid Cinematic Effort
4 February 2006 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

Based on a true story, "Call Northside 777" follows P.J. McNeal, a newspaper reporter played by James Stewart, as he investigates a decade old murder case. The setting is Chicago in the 1930s and 40s.

Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) has been convicted of a cop killing and sentenced to 99 years in prison. Convinced of her son's innocence, Frank's mother, an elderly and lowly cleaning lady, takes out an ad in the newspaper for information that will help free her son. McNeal grudgingly looks into the case, but doubts Wiecek's innocence. As the film moves along, McNeal slowly changes his perception of Wiecek.

Some viewers consider this to be a film-noir. To me, it is more of a docudrama, a staging of a real life story. The dialogue seems realistic. And the acting is low-key and credible. The film also highlights the technology of the era, including the use of the printing press, the polygraph, and a miniature camera.

But what impressed me most was the use of the Chicago locations where the real life story took place. Further, the B&W visuals are appropriately drab, dreary, and depressing, which reflects the tone of the actual events. There's very little background music, which also adds authenticity to the film. The only downside is the matter-of-fact procedural style in which the story is told, especially relative to the fatherly VO narration at the film's beginning and end. The film comes across at times as dry, and lacking emotional depth.

Devoid of cinematic hype, and told in a straightforward and plodding manner, "Call Northside 777" will appeal to people who seek realism in films. And, of course, the film's basis in fact, vis-a-vis fiction, adds to its credibility.


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