AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Rob Marshall (Dir)
Release Date:   7 Feb 2003
Duration (in mins):  113
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Cast: Taye Diggs  (Bandleader)
  Cliff Saunders  (Stage manager)
  Catherine Zeta-Jones  (Velma Kelly)

Summary: On a January night in 1920s Chicago, Velma Kelly is arrested at the Onyx Club for murdering her husband and dancing-partner sister, who were having an affair. That same night, aspiring performer Roxie Hart begins an affair with furniture salesman Fred Casely, after Fred promises to introduce her to the club’s manager. A month later, Fred has had enough of Roxie and callously tells her he does not know the manager, she has no talent and they are through. When Roxie loudly protests, Fred pushes and threatens her, prompting her to grab a gun and shoot him three times. By the time the police arrive, Roxie has convinced her gullible husband Amos that the dead man was an intruder. Amos tells the police that he arrived home from his job at a garage and shot a burglar to protect his sleeping wife. However, when Amos learns that the dead man is Fred, who sold them their furniture, he knows Roxie has lied and lashes out at her, revealing everything. The police immediately arrest the defiant Roxie, and as she is taken away, Assistant District Attorney Harrison tells her that she has committed a hanging offense. Now frightened, Roxie is taken to the women’s prison where she is held on “murderesses’ row” with several other women accused of killing their lovers or husbands. Roxie’s spirits are temporarily revived by meeting the shrewish Velma, but she quickly learns that life in jail will be miserable unless she has money to bribe the prison matron, Mama Morton. Roxie learns how to advance herself, and although Velma remains hostile, Mama advises that she could use all of the publicity she has gotten not only to win her case, but fulfill her dream of going on the stage. For one hundred dollars, Mama says she will call criminal lawyer Billy Flynn, who has never lost a case. The still-loyal Amos goes to see Billy in his swank office, but has to admit that he can only raise $2,000 of Billy’s $5,000 fee. The high-living, greedy Billy initially refuses, then decides to take the case anyway, figuring he can raise the rest by auctioning off Roxie’s personal belongings through an intense publicity campaign. Velma is incensed that Billy, who is also her lawyer, would take the case and disgusted when she sees the change in Roxie that Billy has effected. Following Roxie’s arraignment, Billy tells eager reporters at a press conference on the courthouse steps, that Roxie, who now sports marcelled, light blonde hair, admits to shooting Fred, but it was self-defense: they both reached for the gun at the same time. Giving Roxie a fabricated background as an orphaned Southern belle reared in a convent school, Billy tells the press that her innocence was corrupted in Chicago by a combination of liquor and jazz. He tries to orchestrate Roxie’s remarks, but Roxie, who has decided to heed Velma’s warning that Billy is only out for himself, blurts out “I bet ya wanta know why I shot the bastard.” Reporter Mary Sunshine and the others love the tale that she and Billy concoct, and soon Roxie is headline news, pushing Velma’s story to the back pages. Everyone in Chicago seems to be enchanted by the innocent-looking Roxie, and the auction of her belongings brings in enough money to cover Billy’s fee and ensure Roxie a comfortable existence in jail. One night, Hawaiian pineapple heiress Kitty Baxter kills her lover and two women when she finds them in bed together. Seeing the press and Billy swarm around the snarling Kitty as she is brought into jail, Roxie feels her fame slipping away and feigns a collapse. When Mary Sunshine and Billy rush to her, Roxie shyly says she hopes the fall did not hurt “the baby.” Now a media darling again, Roxie tells the press that she is now only interested in protecting her unborn child. Velma is enraged by Roxie’s publicity, especially as Billy has lost interest in her own case, and complains to Mama, who tells her that she needs to play up to Roxie. Although Velma initially refuses to do that, she soon relents and asks Roxie if she would like to take over her sister’s part in her act. No longer impressed by Velma, Roxie coldly turns her down. Preparing for the start of her trial, Roxie objects to the demure-looking dress that Billy wants her to wear in court. The two argue over who is in charge and Roxie fires Billy, confident that her fame will get her acquitted without his help. A short time later, Katalin Hunyak, the only innocent woman on murderesses’ row, loses her last conviction appeal and is hanged, the first woman executed in Chicago in forty-seven years. Frightened now, Roxie gets Billy back on her case and promises to do whatever he wants to win. Despite Harrison’s best efforts, Billy dazzles the jurors and the judge with his tactics during Roxie's trial. While Roxie sweetly knits baby clothes, Amos takes the stand and admits that he has started divorce proceedings against her because he is not the father of her unborn child. Billy seizes the moment to make the befuddled Amos believe that he is the father, and after testifying, Amos embraces the misty-eyed Roxie and says that he wants to take her back. When Roxie takes the stand, she coyly raises her skirt to the all-male jury and testifies that she killed Fred in self-defense after she tried to break off their affair and he threatened her. Meanwhile, as Velma and Mama listen to Mary Sunshine’s radio broadcast of the trial, Velma seethes and Mama says that Roxie has abandoned all of her friends. They both brighten, though, when Mama shows her that she has Roxie’s diary in her possession. In court the next day, Velma is called by Harrison as a surprise rebuttal witness. During her testimony, she reads pages from Roxie’s diary that state she deliberately shot Fred and would do it again. Now faced with seemingly damning testimony, Billy cross-examines Velma and makes her admit that Harrison got her testimony in exchange for dropping all charges against her. Billy then suggests that Harrison concocted the phony diary pages to falsely convict Roxie. The jury quickly finds Roxie not guilty, but immediately after the verdict is read, shots ring out on the courthouse steps as a woman shoots her attorney dead. The reporters rush away, leaving the perplexed Roxie to ask what went wrong. Billy, who reveals that he arranged for the diary testimony, shrugs and tells her "this is Chicago" before leaving. Once alone with Roxie, Amos asks her to reconcile with him for the sake of the baby, but she turns him down, snarling that there was no baby and with all of her publicity, she will soon be a star. Over the next few weeks, Roxie tries to get a nightclub job but has no luck. After an unsuccessful audition at the Onyx, Velma grudgingly admits to her that she has talent and suggests that they team up because one "jazz killer" is nothing anymore, while the two of them together would be sensational. Roxie is reluctant at first, because she hates Velma, but Velma assures her that there is only one business in which that is not a problem. A short time later, Roxie and Velma are headliners at the Chicago Club, much to the delight of Billy, Mama and everyone else in Chicago. 

Distribution Company: Miramax Film Corp.
Production Company: Producer Circle Co.
Director: Rob Marshall (Dir)
  Myron Hoffert (1st asst dir)
  John DeLuca (2d unit dir)
  Tom Quinn (1st asst dir, 2d unit)
  Felix Gray (1st asst dir, addl photog 2d unit)
  Grant Lucibello (2d asst dir)
  Michele Rakich (2d asst dir, 2d unit)
  Catherine Gourdier (2d asst dir, rehearsal unit)
  Tyler Delben (3rd asst dir)
  Joel Hay (3rd asst dir, 2d unit)
  Michael Manzato (Training asst dir)
  Joseph Finkleman (Training asst dir)
  Michaela Hudson (Training asst dir)
  Adam Bocknek (Trailer asst dir)
  Beverly Morgan (Trailer asst dir)
  David C. Sparkes (D.G.C. trainee, rehearsal unit)
  Barbara McCullam (D.G.C. trainee, rehearsal unit)
  Edney Hendrickson (D.G.C. trainee, 2d unit)
Producer: Martin Richards and the MMX-M Unit (Prod)
  Craig Zadan (Exec prod)
  Neil Meron (Exec prod)
  Sam Crothers (Exec prod)
  Bob Weinstein (Exec prod)
  Harvey Weinstein (Co-exec prod)
  Meryl Poster (Co-exec prod)
  Julie Goldstein (Co-exec prod)
  Jennifer Berman (Co-exec prod)
  Don Carmody (Co-prod)
  Dan Gallagher (Producer Circle Co. exec)
  Michael Milton (Producer Circle Co. exec)
  Jake Myers (Exec in charge of phys prod)
  Jennifer Lane (Exec in charge of post prod)
  Linda Borgeson (Exec in charge of post prod)
  John Eckert (Line prod, addl photog)
Writer: Bill Condon (Scr)

Subject Major: Chicago (IL)
  Prison matrons
  United States--History--Social life and customs, 1921-1929
Subject Minor: Arrests
  False arrests
  Impersonation and imposture
  Jazz music
  Love affairs
  Press conferences
  Radio broadcasting

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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