Sexy, jazz-loving and dressed to kill, Roxie Hart (Phyllis Haver) has a doting, handsome husband in Victor Varconi not to mention a gold-digging affair on the side with Eugene Pallette, who pays and pays, eventually with his life. Put on trial for murder, Roxie secures lawyer Billy Flynn (Robert Edeson), equal part mob “mouthpiece” and publicity agent. When Roxie hits the headlines, the courtroom theatrics begin.
Like the musical Chicago that won the Best Picture Academy Award and five other Oscars in 2002, this original 1927 version descends from a 1926 hit Broadway play by Maurine Watkins. It’s a terrifically entertaining mix of humor and melodrama as well as a pungent critique of trash journalism. Frank Urson signed Chicago as director, although it is substantially the work of Cecil B. DeMille and his A-list technical staff. (DeMille apparently judged it unseemly to take full credit for this cynical and secular story while his religious spectacle The King of Kings was still in theatres!) Chicago is silent filmmaking at its peak, with an outstanding score for this edition by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The 1927 Chicago was long believed a lost film, but a perfect print survived in Cecil B. DeMille’s private collection. Restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in 2006, it has since been widely performed to rapturous audiences.
Chicago is mastered in high definition at 25 frames per second directly from Cecil B. DeMille’s original nitrate print, through the courtesy of the DeMille Estate. The Golden Twenties is also mastered in high definition from a 35mm duplicate negative and magnetic sound track, while The Flapper Story is mastered from a composite print by arrangement with producer-director Lauren Lazin. All three films are produced for DVD by David Shepard. Included are a brochure by Thomas Pauly on author Maurine Watkins and the factual background of Chicago, notes by Robert S. Birchard, author of Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, and a special documentary supplement, Chicago; The Real-Life Roxy Hart by Jeffery Masino and Silas Lesnick.
The Golden Twenties (1950), a compilation documentary feature produced by The March of Time from authentic footage of the era.
Oscar-winning Lauren Lazin’s The Flapper Story (1985), in which several self-declared children of the roaring twenties look back across the decades on their youthful lives.