Roxie Hart (Ginger Rogers) is a charismatic girl with dreams of making it big in the entertainment industry.
When her husband (George Chandler) shoots and kills a booking agent one day, she becomes convinced that she should take credit for the crime, in order to raise her profile with the public. Never mind the fact that she’ll be admitting to killing someone – everyone knows ladies don’t face punishment for those crimes!
Convinced that the case will bring her nothing but good publicity, Roxie confesses and her case is taken by a flashy lawyer named Billy Flynn (Adolphe Menjou). Meanwhile, the case also is being covered in the local papers by a reporter named Homer Howard (George Montgomery), who finds himself falling for Roxie.
Fox’s 1942 comedy Roxie Hart is based on the play Chicago (which was inspired by a real 1924 murder case). It was adapted for the screen by Ben Hecht and Nunnally Johnson, and directed by William Wellman.
A title card at the beginning of the film reads “This picture is dedicated to all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique.”
A fun tone is set up from the film’s opening with an exciting mood and music to match. The story is told in flashbacks, with Homer Howard recounting the case to a bar full of rapt listeners.
The cast is led by the fanastic Ginger Rogers, who is a great actress both in comedy and in drama, in the title role. Ginger’s delivery is on point here (even with that distracting hair-do) and her performance is so lively. George Montgomery also gives a very good performance, as do the wonderful cast of supporting actors.
The script has some surprisingly weak moments, which aren’t expected with the talents of Johnson and Hecht at the helm, but the premise is interesting and the cast is solid. Roxie is so delusional, it never occurs to her throughout most of the film that she could face serious consequences for a crime that she didn’t commit. This element of the story makes Roxie Hart not only fun to watch, but also a very funny film — a comedy of mishap and misunderstanding.
I wouldn’t consider Roxie Hart to be one of Ginger’s best films, but it is a fun and energetic watch. The score: 3.5/5