Call Northside 777 [1948]

Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
The postwar vogue for documentary-style realism, prompted by The March of Time and the critical success of Roberto Rossellini's Open City, cross bred with film noir to create a compelling strain of crime films; this is one of the most low-key and credible, based on the true story of a Chicago reporter (James Stewart) who became convinced of the innocence of a death-row inmate (Richard Conte). Director Henry Hathaway (whose Kiss of Death started the trend) stages the action on the actual Chicago locations, providing a fascinating documentary record of an underfilmed metropolis (the convict's mother is a washerwoman at the Wrigley Building), and leads his cast to appropriately restrained, naturalistic performances. Stewart is just beginning to explore his newfound, postwar maturity here, and there's an undercurrent of obsessiveness in his performance that anticipates the haunted figures he would soon be playing for Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock. --Dave Kehr

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