U.S., 1927, 105 min, DCP, Dir. Frank Urson, Not Rated, Silent, Flicker Alley
“A fairly unique mixture of comedy and drama.” —Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
“The murder and aftermath are black comedy gems while the climactic courtroom scenes are wonderful bits of satire.” —Fritzi Kramer, Movies Silently
The story is set in Prohibition-era Chicago and revolves around two women, Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, who are both accused of murder. Roxie is a young aspiring singer who kills her lover in a fit of rage after he threatens to leave her. Velma is a vaudeville performer who has already gained notoriety for killing her husband and sister upon discovering their affair.
Both women become celebrities in the media due to their sensational trials, with the slick and unscrupulous lawyer Billy Flynn representing them. Flynn manipulates the media to create sympathetic public images for Roxie and Velma, turning them into antiheroines and exploiting their cases for personal gain. As the trials unfold, the women's stories become intertwined, and they find themselves competing for the public's attention.
Chicago is significant for its groundbreaking, darkly comic exploration of the media and stardom. While the silent original may not be as widely known as its 1975 musical adaptation, it laid the foundation with its prescient look at celebrity culture, manipulation, and the justice system that would become the cornerstone of the musical and its subsequent adaptations.
Silent Movie Day is an annual celebration of silent movies, a vastly misunderstood and neglected cinematic art form. We believe that silent motion pictures are a vital, beautiful, and often powerful part of film history, and we are united with others in the goal to advocate for their presentation and preservation. Extend the silence to the weekend with our full program, from September 29 to October 1!