Jimmy Stewart: Call Northside 777 (1948)

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The year 1948 brought us a number of great performances from Jimmy Stewart. Call Northside 777 shows Stewart’s ability to work in suspense films. This film features Jimmy alongside Richard Conte, and Lee J. Cobb. Cobb might best be known for his outstanding performance in 12 Angry Men. The film was directed by Henry Hathaway, the same man who worked on several segments of How the West Was Won. This is definitely a departure from the westerns that Hathaway is most known for. In addition to being a mystery film this is also a true story. Much of the film was filmed on location in Chicago.

In Chicago a policeman is murdered and Frank Wiecek (Conte) is put on trial. After a trial filled with shaky evidence the young man finds himself behind bars for life. Eleven years after his incarceration his mother has placed an ad in the newspaper looking for information that will help free him. This ad catches the eye of a young reporter Jim McNeal (Stewart) who seeks out the woman after prodding from his editor Brian Kelly (Cobb). What they discover is a woman who has worked tirelessly to prove the innocence of her son. His conviction was hinged entirely on the statement of one eye-witness. As McNeal searches further he finds a number of disturbing facts that point to the innocence of Frank.

This is a classic mystery film. Stewart plays the role of a skeptic and a quiet observer quite well. His pairing with Cobb works wonderfully. They would be featured together only one more time in How the West Was Won. Cobb has a natural grit that seems so opposite to the soft touch Stewart seems to have. Richard Conte is amazing in his role as the convicted man Frank Wiecek. He managed to play the role with feeling and quietly express the emotions that come along with his life sentence.

As a whole this was an amazing film. The story is interesting and also carries suspense with it. The pace is not quick but it never seems to move too slowly. Along with Rope Jimmy Stewart had a great year in the suspense department. He was 40 years old now and in the prime of his career. He would also star in Rope in 1948 which would showcase the talents of himself and Alfred Hitchcock. The paring would offer up some of Hollywood’s greatest films.

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