Roxie Hart (1942)

72 or 74 mins | Comedy | 20 February 1942

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Chicago and Chicago Gal . Opening credits include a written statement dedicating the picture to "all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique." Nunnally Johnson's onscreen credit reads: "Produced and Written for the Screen by Nunnally Johnson." According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Walter Catlett was originally signed for the part of "E. Clay Benham." According to letters in the film's file, however, the studio decided to replace Catlett because "the character has now been changed and we are going to use another man." The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, contains notes for a 4 Sep 1941 conference with executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck, during which Dana Andrews and John Shepperd were considered for the role of "Homer Howard." A HR news item stated that Thomas Mitchell was cast in the picture, but he does not appear in the finished film and it has not been determined what part he was to play. Ginger Rogers was borrowed from RKO and Lynne Overman was borrowed from Paramount for this production. A 9 Dec 1941 HR news item includes Vernon Rickard in the cast but his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a 13 Oct 1941 studio press release, Erich von Stroheim, Jr. was to assist director William Wellman, but his contribution to the finished picture has also not been confirmed. A 29 Dec 1941 HR news item noted that ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Chicago and Chicago Gal . Opening credits include a written statement dedicating the picture to "all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique." Nunnally Johnson's onscreen credit reads: "Produced and Written for the Screen by Nunnally Johnson." According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, Walter Catlett was originally signed for the part of "E. Clay Benham." According to letters in the film's file, however, the studio decided to replace Catlett because "the character has now been changed and we are going to use another man." The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, contains notes for a 4 Sep 1941 conference with executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck, during which Dana Andrews and John Shepperd were considered for the role of "Homer Howard." A HR news item stated that Thomas Mitchell was cast in the picture, but he does not appear in the finished film and it has not been determined what part he was to play. Ginger Rogers was borrowed from RKO and Lynne Overman was borrowed from Paramount for this production. A 9 Dec 1941 HR news item includes Vernon Rickard in the cast but his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a 13 Oct 1941 studio press release, Erich von Stroheim, Jr. was to assist director William Wellman, but his contribution to the finished picture has also not been confirmed. A 29 Dec 1941 HR news item noted that the picture was going back into production for a new ending. According to the news item, producer Nunnally Johnson "decided on a different tag after seeing the rough cut." Rogers and George Montgomery were to be included in the different ending. It has not been determined what the original ending was.
       According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in early 1941, Columbia was interested in producing a picture based on Maurine Watkins' play Chicago . The PCA advised Columbia that "a picture based on this material would be in violation of the provisions of the Production Code and that we could not approve it." The PCA's objections were based on the nature of the characters and the story throwing "a very discreditable light upon the court process of our country." Studio legal records reveal that Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the film rights from Columbia, Watkins and the estate of producer Sam H. Harris. When the studio sent its 19 Jul 1941 version of the script, entitled Chicago Gal , to the PCA, the PCA rejected the script because "the story seems to be a travesty on the administration of justice and on the courts in this country which would undoubtedly tend to weaken respect for law and order generally." The PCA objected to the characters, notably "Roxie Hart" and "Billy Flynn," committing perjury and subornation of perjury; the script "condoning, if not glorifying, female murderesses, and of minimizing the seriousness of the crime of homicide"; and wondered "whether this picture will not be considered an attack on American institutions and way of life, and, if so taken, will not inevitably call down condemnation on the whole motion picture industry." Subsequent versions of the script were approved by the PCA, although the studio was repeatedly cautioned not to make the judge and court process in general objects of ridicule.
       Maurine Watkins' play was first filmed in 1927 as Chicago by De Mille Pictures. It was directed by Frank Urson and starred Phyllis Haver and Victor Varconi. On 3 Jun 1975, the musical Chicago , directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, opened on Broadway. It starred Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. In 2002, Miramax Films released a motion picture based on the musical, also entitled Chicago , which was directed by Rob Marshall and starred Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Feb 1942.
---
Daily Variety
3 Feb 42
p. 3, 10
Film Daily
3 Feb 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 41
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 41
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 41
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 41
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 42
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
3 Feb 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Feb 42
p. 493.
New York Times
14 Dec 1941.
---
New York Times
20 Feb 42
p. 21.
Variety
4 Feb 42
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
DANCE
Dances staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Title card designer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Chicago by Maurine Watkins, produced by Sam H. Harris (New York, 30 Dec 1926).
MUSIC
"Black Bottom," music by Ray Henderson.
SONGS
"Here Am I Broken Hearted," music and lyrics by B. G. DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson
"Chicago (That Toddling Town)," music and lyrics by Fred Fisher.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Chicago Gal
Chicago
Release Date:
20 February 1942
Production Date:
late October--early December 1941
retakes and addl scenes shot on 2 January 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
20 February 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11111
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
72 or 74
Length(in feet):
6,680
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7888
SYNOPSIS

In 1942, Chicago reporters Homer Howard and Stuart Chapman investigate a murder on Stuart's first day on the job. Homer disparages the case as mundane, and as they drink in a nearby bar, reminisces about a famous case, that of would-be dancer Roxie Hart. Homer then describes how, in 1927, theatrical booking agent Fred Casely was murdered: The police discover Casely's body in the apartment belonging to Roxie and her husband Amos. While the police question Amos, who did not know that Roxie was Casely's client, reporter Jake Callahan and Casely's partner, E. Clay Benham, convince Roxie to allow herself to be arrested for the crime. They tell Roxie that a pretty woman is never convicted in Chicago, and that the notoriety will be a terrific springboard for her career. Even though Roxie knows that Amos is guilty, she lets him tell the police that she is responsible and poses for photographs as she is arrested. While in prison, Roxie receives reporters, including Homer, who had just started as a reporter, and Amos hires flashy lawyer Billy Flynn. Realizing what a publicity bonanza the case will be, Billy instructs Roxie to plead self-defense and engineers interviews for her, during which she entertains the reporters with "The Black Hula," a dance that she concocted. Homer is entranced by the lovely Roxie, and during his investigation, learns from janitor Michael Finnegan that Amos is the real killer. After a month passes, Roxie is knocked off the front pages by the exploits of tough thief "Two-Gun" Gertie Baxter. Concerned about editorials decrying leniency toward women, Roxie decides to regain public sympathy by pretending to be pregnant. The ... +


In 1942, Chicago reporters Homer Howard and Stuart Chapman investigate a murder on Stuart's first day on the job. Homer disparages the case as mundane, and as they drink in a nearby bar, reminisces about a famous case, that of would-be dancer Roxie Hart. Homer then describes how, in 1927, theatrical booking agent Fred Casely was murdered: The police discover Casely's body in the apartment belonging to Roxie and her husband Amos. While the police question Amos, who did not know that Roxie was Casely's client, reporter Jake Callahan and Casely's partner, E. Clay Benham, convince Roxie to allow herself to be arrested for the crime. They tell Roxie that a pretty woman is never convicted in Chicago, and that the notoriety will be a terrific springboard for her career. Even though Roxie knows that Amos is guilty, she lets him tell the police that she is responsible and poses for photographs as she is arrested. While in prison, Roxie receives reporters, including Homer, who had just started as a reporter, and Amos hires flashy lawyer Billy Flynn. Realizing what a publicity bonanza the case will be, Billy instructs Roxie to plead self-defense and engineers interviews for her, during which she entertains the reporters with "The Black Hula," a dance that she concocted. Homer is entranced by the lovely Roxie, and during his investigation, learns from janitor Michael Finnegan that Amos is the real killer. After a month passes, Roxie is knocked off the front pages by the exploits of tough thief "Two-Gun" Gertie Baxter. Concerned about editorials decrying leniency toward women, Roxie decides to regain public sympathy by pretending to be pregnant. The press once again makes Roxie its darling, and Billy furthers her cause by getting her trial moved up and tricking Amos, whom Roxie does not love anyway, into divorcing her. Despite Billy's grandstanding tactics, Roxie becomes nervous during the trial and demands that Billy contact Finnegan to get the truth. Finnegan has died though, and the judge rules that Homer's testimony about his interview with Finnegan, which implicates Amos, is hearsay and therefore inadmissable. Billy's theatrics and Roxie's acting ability save the day, however, and after she swoons in front of the jury box at the end of her testimony, the jury acquits her. Just after the verdict is read, Amos tries to escape arrest, and the press instantly forgets Roxie and takes up his case. Bewildered to find herself deserted, Roxie must chose between the honest but poor Homer and O'Malley, the rich jury foreman. As Homer finishes the story, he reveals to Stuart that the bartender of the saloon they are in is none other than O'Malley, who lost his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929. Homer is then picked up by his wife, Roxie, and their six children, and Roxie informs Homer that they will need a bigger car next year. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.