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Call Northside 777 (1947)

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phil noir
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Call Northside 777 (1947)

Postby phil noir » April 11th, 2008, 8:57 am

This week I've watched Call Northside 777, one of Twentieth Century Fox's late '40s documentary style thrillers. Directed by Henry Hathaway and based on a true story, it stars James Stewart as a crusading journalist investigating the wrongful arrest of a man for the murder of a policeman at the end of the Prohibition era. Oh, and of course, it comes complete with that familiar booming-voiced narrator.

Well, I have to say I wasn't blown away. It was a 'solid' film - that's the word that sprang to mind. I didn't think it was a patch on the fairly similar Boomerang. One of the problems I had with it was James Stewart - I just didn't find him plausible in the role. I think someone with a less obviously 'virtuous' persona would have worked much better - Dana Andrews, for example. I liked a lot of the other performances - Richard Conte, Betty Garde, and the various bit part players. Kasia Orzazewski as Conte's faithful mother was excellent. It was also interesting to see Leonarde Keeler, the inventor of the polygraph (lie detector), playing himself - and actually, even thought I'd never heard of or seen him before viewing this film, I knew he was a real person and not an actor - he just had a completely different quality to him that the actors didn't have; the quality of not trying so hard, perhaps. I also spotted Thelma Ritter in a blink and you'll miss her role as someone's secretary.

It was a long film, and the plot wasn't really satisfactorily resolved: Conte and another man were arrested; the film led you to believe that both were innocent; and yet Conte was the only who got to walk out of prison and into the sunshine at the end. Nor was his character allowed to mind that he'd spent ten years of his life locked up for something he didn't do - James Stewart clapped him on the back and said something like, 'The state admitted it was wrong. Not many countries in the world would do that.' So that's alright then...

MikeBSG
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Postby MikeBSG » April 14th, 2008, 10:32 am

I like "Call Northside 777." It isn't my favorite noir by any stretch, but I think it is interesting and makes fine use of its settings.

As for the guy still left in prison, I have the impression that he was eventually released and that the movie was part of the process that led to a re-examination of the case that led to his release. Still, the fact that the movie ends with him behind bars gives this a "noirish" quality, the idea that not everything can be neatly corrected in a movie's running time.

Ollie
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Postby Ollie » April 16th, 2008, 8:44 am

I'm unsure why I so tepidly rate this film. It's fine, it's OK, but I hardly ever plug it in for a voluntary rewatching, and its been on our local film festival circuit 5 or 6 years, but I've only seen it twice on the big-screen.

Is this because Jimmy Stewart strikes me as the wrong-guy for his role? I'm not sure that's true - he's often great in a role where he's the overlooked, under-used character struggling for achievement or recognition.

This may be one of those films where all the elements are fine and should interest me more, but something is either a bit 'off' or I've always been in the wrong mood to be enthused by it.

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mongoII
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Postby mongoII » April 23rd, 2008, 12:03 pm

One of my favorite crime dramas. Stewart is grand and relentless in his quest to save Conte. Betty Garde who played Kitty Stark in "Caged" is a hoot as Wanda Skutnik. Love the 'blow up' ending.
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Vienna
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Re: Call Northside 777 (1947)

Postby Vienna » November 19th, 2012, 12:38 pm

I love this film and the climax at the end with the blow-up of the newspaper date.
What a performance from Kasia Orzazewski in that scene on the stairs with Stewart near the beginning. So real.
Unusual to see Richard Conte in a passive role but of course he did it well.
As for Bette Garde, I just love her character's name, "Wanda Skutnik".
Good development too of Stewart 's character as he goes from disbelief and disinterest to full commitment to proving Conte is innocent.

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Rita Hayworth
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Re: Call Northside 777 (1947)

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 19th, 2012, 12:51 pm

Vienna wrote:I love this film and the climax at the end with the blow-up of the newspaper date.
What a performance from Kasia Orzazewski in that scene on the stairs with Stewart near the beginning. So real.
Unusual to see Richard Conte in a passive role but of course he did it well.
As for Bette Garde, I just love her character's name, "Wanda Skutnik".
Good development too of Stewart 's character as he goes from disbelief and disinterest to full commitment to proving Conte is innocent.


Vienna ... you are right on the nose!

mongoII wrote:One of my favorite crime dramas. Stewart is grand and relentless in his quest to save Conte. Betty Garde who played Kitty Stark in "Caged" is a hoot as Wanda Skutnik. Love the 'blow up' ending.


MongoII ... the ending is a classic!


This is one of my favorite films ... and what both Vienna and MongoII written here ... I support these two members reviews 100%

RedRiver
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Re: Call Northside 777 (1947)

Postby RedRiver » November 19th, 2012, 1:36 pm

Vienna ... you are right on the nose!

Yes you are. Now please get off. I have to sneeze! This may be the most dramatic of the "procedural" thrillers, the genre well represented by Anthony Mann, Jules Dassin and in this case, Mr. Hathaway. It may or may not be realistic. I don't really care. It's highly entertaining. Another fine performance by one of the more believable actors Hollywood ever had to offer.


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