Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1927. DeMille Pictures Corporation. Screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee, titles by John W. Krafft, based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. Cinematography by J. Peverell Marley. Music by Cecil Copping. Production Design by Mitchell Leisen. Costume Design by Adrian. Film Editing by Anne Bauchens.
The play by Maureen Dallas Watkins that later became a talkie hit for Ginger Rogers and, most famously, a Broadway musical and Oscar winning film many decades later was also made as a now forgotten silent film. Phyllis Haver is superb as Roxie Hart, the wayward housewife who goes to jail for shooting her lover and then, in her ever desperate desire to win at life, uses the patronizing sympathy for female victim narratives to get herself acquitted by a shady, money-minded lawyer. The desire for show biz stardom is not emphasized here as it is in the musical, and you only get a brief glimpse of the Velma Kelly character, the plot instead focusing on the corruption of justice via the unchecked evils of capitalism. The plot itself is otherwise what you remember, brought to life by vivid acting, beautiful photography and rich production values.