Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948). Director: Henry Hathaway.

"Did it ever occur to you that everyone might be selling that dead cop short? He might have had a mother who scrubbed floors, too."

Chicago Times reporter P. J. McNeal (James Stewart) is assigned to look into an ad offering a $5000 reward for information about an old murder case. Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte), a small-timer, was convicted of shooting a cop and has spent eleven years in jail. His mother, Tillie (Kasia Orzazewski), who scrubs floors for a living, has saved up her money in the hopes someone will come forward with info that may exonerate her son. Initially skeptical, and told by his editor, Kelly (Lee J. Cobb) to keep the human interest story going to sell papers, McNeal eventually comes to believe in Wiecek's innocence and does all he can to overturn his conviction. Call Northside 777, which was based on real-life events, features solid performances from the principals (with especially good work from Orzazewski), as well as Betty Garde [Mr. Lucky] as Wanda Skutnick, the primary witness against Wiecek, and Otto Waldis [Unknown World] as her husband, Boris. Joanne De Bergh has a nice turn as Wiecek's ex-wife, but Helen Walker [Impact] has hardly any screen time as Mrs. McNeal. The picture is briefly stolen by an uncredited actress who certainly delivers in her role as a drunken barfly who gives McNeal much-needed information. The film builds up much suspense as it goes along, has interesting details (even if some are suspect), and a nice score by Alfred Newman. However, you're left with the nagging feeling that this new evidence might well mean Wiecek should get a new trial, but it doesn't absolutely prove his innocence!

Verdict: Real-life suspense story holds the attention. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - don't you just love Jimmy Stewart? I have nto seen this one in years, but need to see it again. I also greatly admire Lee J. Cobb, and Conte is in my DVD collection tormeting Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow. James Stewart films in my collection include Philadelphia Story, Rope, Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, and of course, It's a Wonderful Life. What a superstar!

William said...

Yes, Stewart gave many memorable performances, especially in Vertigo, and the others are great as well. Don't forget "Rear Window" -- another excellent performance in a Hitch film. "Northside" is not in the same league but it's entertaining.