Call Northside 777

Synopsis: In 1932, a cop is killed and Frank Wiecek sentenced to life. Eleven years later, a newspaper ad by Frank's mother leads Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal to look into the case. For some time, McNeal continues to believe Frank guilty. But when he starts to change his mind, he meets increased resistance from authorities unwilling to be proved wrong.
Genre: Drama, Film-Noir
Director(s): Henry Hathaway
Production: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation
  1 win & 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
112 min

[ Man Narrating ] In the year 1871...

- [ Alarms Blaring ]...

...the great fire nearly destroyed Chicago.

But out of the ashes of that catastrophe

rose a new Chicago...

...a city ofbrick and brawn,

concrete and guts...

...with a short history of violence

beating in its pulse.

That history is on record, and the record

is kept by the newspapermen...

...who have made Chicago's papers great.

No period in Chicago's history

was more violent...

...than the years of Prohibition.

The rise and fall

of the bootlegging empires...

...was written in blood and bullets.

In 1932, there were 365 murders

committed in Chicago--... for each day of the year.

Eight policemen were shot down

in the line of duty.

One of the most ruthless

of these murders...

...occurred on December 9, 1932,

on South Ashland Avenue... a place operated

by a woman named Wanda Skutnik.

Wanda Skutnik's store

in the Polish district...

...was the front for a speakeasy.

[ Wind Whistling ]...

You got change for 20?

- That's all right. Pay me next time.

[ Bell Dinging ]

Wanda, you're lookin' at a guy

that's comin' down with a cold.

Sit down.

- Oh, thanks.


- Hi.

[ Sighs ]...

For a cold, this is good.

- Thanks, Wanda.

[ Door Chimes Chiming ]...

...[ Engine Starts ]...

...[ Speaking In Polish ]

- The police, Wanda. Get the police. Quick.

Hello. Hello, Central.

Get me the police.

Yeah. Quick, please.

[ Narrator ] This cornered,

frightened bootlegger...

...gave information that pointed suspicion

towards a man named Tomek Zaleska.

Tomek Zaleska couldn't be found.

But two weeks later,

a tip from another source...

...revealed that Zaleska

had spent the night of the murder...

...with his friend Frank Wiecek.

The police closed in on the home

of Helen and Frank Wiecek.

Helen and Frank were taken

into custody for questioning.

Frank Wiecek admitted

that Tomek Zaleska...

...had spent the night

of the murder at his home...

...but insisted he knew

nothing about the crime.

Why did Tomek want

to sleep at your house?

Well, he was having trouble with

his old man. He was afraid to go home.

When did you last report

to your probation officer?

Last Friday.

- You're sure it wasn't Thursday?

No, I know it was Friday,

because that was the day... wife told me

she was gonna have a baby.

You went to the probation officer

on Thursday, not Friday.

There's your report card.

- You're confused, son.

Try to be a little more accurate.

Where were you at 3:30 on December 9?

I was-- I was with my wife.

I remember because I was helping her

shell walnuts for a cake she was making.

You were wrong about the day

you saw the probation officer.

Maybe you're wrong about being home...

...shelling walnuts for

your wife on December 9.

l-- I know I made a mistake

about the probation officer...

...but I know I'm right about the other thing.

This statement was signed

by your wife an hour ago.

'My husband was home with me

on the ninth of December.

I remember because he was helping me

pit dates for a cake.'

You sure it was walnuts?

I don't know.

I'm sure she must be mistaken.

[ Narrator ] His wife, Helen,

was released.

But because of Frank's confused testimony

on insignificant points...

...and his minor police record...

...he was held as a suspect.

Eventually, after hiding out for six weeks...

Tomek Zaleska, protesting his innocence,

surrendered to the police.

You knew we were lookin' for you.

You knew we'd picked up your good friends

Helen and Frank Wiecek.

Then why didn't you give yourself up

if you were innocent as you claimed?

I was- I was scared.

Sometimes I used to hang around

Wanda's place.

When I heard they were

picking up everybody she knew...

...well, I figured nobody would miss me,

so I just beat it.

I know now I made a mistake.

But I came in on my own hook, didn't I?

When you went

to Wiecek's house that night...

...what reason did you give

for wanting to sleep there?

l-I didn't give any reason.

I used to spend the night

there once in a while.

[ Cop ] You didn't give them any reason?

[ Zaleska ] No, I just asked them to let

me stay there and they did.

And you're sure you gave them no reason?


[ Narrator ] After identification

by an eyewitness...

Frank Wiecek and Tomek Zaleska...

...were indicted for the murder

of Officer Bundy...

...and swiftly brought to trial.

I will ask you, Mrs. Skutnik,

if you see in this courtroom...

...the two men that murdered

Policeman John Bundy.

Yes, sir.

Him... and him.

[ Prosecutor ] Had you ever seen either

of these men prior to the time of shooting?

Oh, sure. Tomek used to come around

my place all the time.

The other fella,

I never saw before.

And the first time you saw Frank Wiecek...

...was on the day of the murder?

- Yes, sir.

And the next time you saw him was the day

you picked him out of the police lineup.

Yes, sir.

Thank you, Your Honor.

The People rest.

[ Narrator ] Both men received

a sentence of 99 years... be served in Stateville Penitentiary.

This happened in November 1933.

Frank and Tomek went to prison.

The case was forgotten for 11 years.

Forgotten until October 10, 1944...

...when a small advertisement appeared in

the classified section of the Chicago Times.


Yes, sir?

- Get me the file on John W. Bundy...

...cop killed in '32.

- All right.

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Jerome Cady

Jerome Cady (August 15, 1903 – November 7, 1948) was a Hollywood screenwriter. What promised to be a lucrative and successful career as a film writer - graduating up from Charlie Chan movies in the late 1930s to such well respected war films as Guadalcanal Diary (1943), a successful adaptation of Forever Amber (1947) and the police procedural Call Northside 777 (1948) - came to an abrupt end when he died of a sleeping pill overdose onboard his yacht off Catalina Island in 1948. At the time of his death, he was doing a treatment for a documentary on the Northwest Mounted Police. There was a Masonic funeral service for him. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Wing and a Prayer in 1944. A native of West Virginia, Cady started as a newspaper copy boy. He was later a reporter with the Los Angeles Record, before joining the continuity staff of KECA-KFI, Los Angeles in June 1932. He spent time in New York in the 1930s with Fletcher & Ellis Inc. as its director of radio, returning to Los Angeles in 1936. He joined 20th Century Fox in 1940, having previously been employed at RKO between radio jobs.. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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