DirectorHenry Hathaway Initial DVD releaseMarch 15, 2005 CountryUnited States
Release dateFebruary 1, 1948 (1948-02-01) (United States) Based on1944 Newspaper articles
by James P. McGuire
Jack McPhaulwriter WriterJerome Cady (screen play), Jay Dratler (screen play), Leonard Hoffman (adaptation), Quentin Reynolds (adaptation), James P. McGuire (based on articles by) Film series20th Century Fox Film Noir CastJames Stewart (P.J. 'Jim' McNeal), Richard Conte (Frank W. Wiecek), Lee J. Cobb (Brian Kelly), Helen Walker (Laura McNeal), Betty Garde (Wanda Skutnik), Kasia Orzazewski (Tillie Wiecek) Similar moviesNever Been Kissed, Zodiac, All the President's Men, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Les Vampires, Les Vampires: Episode Six - Hypnotic Eyes
TaglineIt couldn't happen . . . but it did!
Call northside 777
Call Northside 777 is a 1948 reality-based film noir directed by Henry Hathaway and starring James Stewart. The picture parallels a true story of a Chicago reporter who proved that a man in prison for murder was wrongly convicted 11 years before. The names of the real wrongly convicted men were Majczek and Marcinkiewicz for the murder of Chicago Traffic Police Officer William D. Lundy.
Stewart stars as the persistent journalist and Richard Conte plays the imprisoned Frank Wiecek. Wiecek is based on Joseph Majczek, who was wrongly convicted of the murder of a Chicago policeman in 1932, one of the worst years of organized crime during Prohibition.
Call northside 777
In Chicago in 1932, during Prohibition, a policeman is murdered inside a speakeasy. Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) and another man are quickly arrested, and are later sentenced to serve 99 years imprisonment each for the killing. Eleven years later, Wiecek's mother (Kasia Orzazewski) puts an ad in the newspaper offering a $5,000 reward for information about the true killers of the police officer.
This leads the city editor of the Chicago Times, Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb), to assign reporter P.J. McNeal (James Stewart) to look more closely into the case. McNeal is skeptical at first, believing Wiecek to be guilty. But he starts to change his mind, and meets increased resistance from the police and the state attorney's office, who are unwilling to be proved wrong. This is quickly followed by political pressure from the state capital, where politicians are anxious to end a story that might prove embarrassing to the administration. Eventually, Wiecek is proved innocent by, among other things, the enlarging of a photograph showing the date on a newspaper that proves that a key witness statement was false. In actuality, innocence was determined not as claimed in the film but when it was found out that the prosecution had suppressed the fact that the main witness had initially declared that she could not identify the two men involved in the police shooting.
For an episode of CBS Radio's "Hollywood Sound Stage", broadcast December 27, 1951, Harry Cronman adapted and directed a condensed 30-minute version of the film, casting Dana Andrews and Thomas Gomez in the leads. Tony Barrett, Bob Sweeney, Betty Lou Gerson, and Frank Nelson played supporting roles.
The April 17, 1951 audition episode of the radio program "Defense Attorney" (then titled "Defense Rests") starring Mercedes McCambridge was based on the same plot, with some modifications.
The film received mostly positive reviews when it was first released, and again when it was released on DVD in 2004. In 2004, the Onion AV Club Review argued that the film may not be a true film noir, but is good nonetheless: "Outstanding location shooting and Stewart's driven performance turn a sober film into a vibrant, exciting one, even though the hero and the jailbird he champions are really too noble for noir." The website DVD Verdict made the case that the lead actor may be the best reason to see the film: "Its value exists mainly in Stewart's finely drawn characterization of a cynical man with a nagging conscience."
Edgar Award: from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay; 1949.
Writers Guild of America: WGA Award; Best Written American Drama, Jerome Cady and Jay Dratler; The Robert Meltzer Award (Screenplay Dealing Most Ably with Problems of the American Scene), Jerome Cady and Jay Dratler; 1949.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: