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With: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, Helen Walker
Written by: Jerome Cady and Jay Dratler; adaptation by Leonard Hoffman, Quentin Reynolds
Directed by: Henry Hathaway
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 111
Date: 02/01/1948

Call Northside 777 (1948)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Super Scoop

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

James Stewart gives a hard-edged performance as a jaded newspaper reporter who turns a classified ad into the story of the century. P.J. "Mac" McNeal (Stewart) investigates an ad in which a woman offers $5000 for new evidence to clear her son, Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte), who has been imprisoned for 11 years for killing a cop. As Mac reluctantly files his stories, he becomes increasingly convinced that, indeed, Wiecek is truly innocent. (The real-life Mac won a Pulitzer for his efforts.) Like All the President's Men three decades later, Call Northside 777 delves passionately into the mundane details of reporting, pouring through files and photos, pounding the pavement and asking questions that are rarely answered. Even the climactic breakthrough scene, which hinges on a rather unfortunate plot coincidence, relies on facts rather than sensation. Director Henry Hathaway (Kiss of Death) shoots in the realistic documentary style that was popular at the time; Anthony Mann made two terrific "B" movies the same year using this technique, Raw Deal and T-Men. Stewart, on the other hand, was in the middle of a slump, having just returned from duty in WWII, and slogged through a string of flops, including It's a Wonderful Life. Two years later he would hit the big time again with two hits, Harvey and Winchester '73. Despite the box office, there's no question that he was at the top of his game.

DVD Details: Fox's DVD is part of an ongoing series of films noir. Extras include a commentary track by historians James Ursini and Alain Silver, as well as "Fox Movietone News" footage of the film's world premiere and the theatrical trailer.

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