Call Northside 777

Call Northside 777

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Produced by Otto Lang
Written by Leonard Hoffman
Quentin Reynolds
Screenplay by Jerome Cady
Jay Dratler
Based on 1944 Chicago Daily Times articles
by James P. McGuire
Jack McPhaulwriter
Starring James Stewart
Richard Conte
Lee J. Cobb
Helen Walker
Narrated by Truman Bradley
Music by Alfred Newman
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Edited by J. Watson Webb Jr.
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Release dates
  • February 1, 1948 (1948-02-01) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.7 million (US rentals)[1]

Call Northside 777 is a 1948 reality-based film noir directed by Henry Hathaway and starring James Stewart.[2] 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.


James Stewart in Call Northside 777 (1948)

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.


Production notes

This was the first Hollywood feature film to be shot on location in Chicago. Views of the Merchandise Mart as well as Holy Trinity Polish Mission can be seen throughout the film.


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.


Critical response

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."[3] 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."[4]




The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. "Top Grossers of 1948", Variety 5 January 1949 p 46
  2. Call Northside 777 at the Internet Movie Database.
  3. Murray, Noel. Onion AV Club Review, film review, March 29, 2005. Accessed: April 5, 2008.
  4. DVD Verdict. Film review, 2005. Accessed: April 5, 2008.
  5. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
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