Call Northside 777 (1948)
Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal re-opens a ten year old murder case.
In 1932, a cop is killed and Frank Wiecek sentenced to life. Eleven years later, a newspaper ad by Frank's mother leads Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal to look into the case. For some time, McNeal continues to believe Frank guilty. But when he starts to change his mind, he meets increased resistance from authorities unwilling to be proved wrong.
When a woman places an ad in the Chicago Times offering a $5,000 reward for information that will exonerate her son, the newspaper assigns report P.J. McNeal to look into case. He learns that 11 years earlier, Frank Wiecek was convicted of killing an on duty police officer in a speakeasy and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. McNeal is quite skeptical as to his innocence and only slowly comes to realize that there was a miscarriage of justice. The real question is whether he can find evidence that would convince the pardon board and obtain Wiecek's release.
The whole story takes place in Chicago. A policeman is murdered in a cold-blooded way in one of some illicit taprooms. Tomek Zaleska who on the ill-fated night was staying at Franek's flat is suspected of the homicide. They are both sentenced to 99 years of prison, with the conviction based merely on the testimony of one witness. Frank's mother who believes that her son is innocent after eleven years places an announcement in the local newspaper in which she offers 5000 dollars reward for anybody who would prove the innocence of her son. The chief editor of Chicago Times gets interested in the case and commissions to one of his journalists, McNeal (in this part great James Stewart) writing an article about it. Initially his view on the issue is quite skeptical, but later on he gradually starts to believe that Frank is innocent. He also faces the growing resistance from the local authorities.
In 1932 December, in Chicago, the Polish Wanda Skutnik runs a speakeasy during the Prohibition. When a policeman is murdered inside the illegal bar, Frank W. Wiecek and his friend Tomek Zaleska are arrested and sentenced to serve 99 years each in the Illinois State Penitentiary. Eleven years later, the Chicago Times' editor Brian Kelly is curious with an advertisement offering a US$ 5,000.00 reward for information about the identity of the killers of the policeman eleven years ago. He assigns the efficient reporter P.J. McNeal to interview the person responsible for the ad. McNeal discovers that Frank's mother Tillie Wiecek, who is a janitor, has saved her salary for eleven years to prove the innocence of her beloved son and now is offering the reward for additional information. McNeal is skeptical and believes that Frank is a cop killer, but his matter is successful and Kelly asks him to investigate further. Soon he changes his mind and realizes that Frank is a victim of the corrupt system.
Chicago, 1943. A small ad in the classified section of the Chicago Times piques the interest of the City Editor, Brian Kelly, who assigns reporter P.J. McNeal to investigate. The ad, purportedly placed by Tillie Wiecek, is offering $5,000 reward for information as to the identity of who murdered CPD Officer John Bundy in 1932. In reading about the case and interviewing Mrs. Wiecek, a scrub woman who indeed placed the ad, McNeal learns that it was her son Frank Wiecek and his associate Tomek Zaleska who were convicted, she knows wrongly at least in Frank's case, and sentenced to ninety-nine years apiece for the murder. Bundy was only one of many officers killed in that era of prohibition, where police officers were often open targets. It has taken Mrs. Wiecek these ten years to save the reward money from scrubbing floors, she having foregone all else in her life for Frank's sake. McNeal's human interest story garners such a positive reaction from the readership that Kelly wants McNeal to continue to work on the whole of the story. Although McNeal walks in feeling Frank guilty based on the public record of evidence, Kelly allows him to walk away from the story anytime he feels that Frank definitely guilty and the story glorifying a cop killer. Slowly, McNeal begins to want to see Frank free in liking him as a human despite still believing he guilty, to truly believing he innocent, Frank ultimately railroaded by a then corrupt system. In proving beyond a doubt Frank's innocence or that he was convicted by faulty evidence hits several roadblocks including the CPD, especially the rank and file, providing little to no assistance in not wanting to see a convicted cop killer set free, and he unable to locate Wanda Skutnik, the operator of the illegal speakeasy where Bundy was shot, she whose eyewitness testimony largely put Frank away.
- In Chicago in 1932, during Prohibition, a policeman is murdered inside a speakeasy. Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) and another man are quickly arrested, and are later sentenced to serve 99 years' imprisonment each for the killing. Eleven years later, Wiecek's mother puts an ad in the newspaper offering a $5,000 reward for information about the true killers of the police officer. This leads the city editor of the Chicago Times Brian Kelly (Lee J. Cobb) to assign reporter P.J. McNeal (James Stewart) to look more closely into the case. McNeal is skeptical at first, believing Wiecek to be guilty. But he starts to change his mind, and meets increased resistance from the police and the state attorney's office, who are unwilling to be proved wrong. This is quickly followed by political pressure from the state capital, where politicians are anxious to end a story that might prove embarrassing to the administration. Eventually, Wiecek is proved innocent by, among other things, the enlarging of a photograph showing the date on a newspaper that proves that a key witness's statement was false.
Synopsis from wikipedia