Chicago is a 2002 musical crime film released by Miramax while it was under the Disney banner. The film is known to be the first musical film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since 1968's Oliver!. Chicago is based on the Bob Fosse stage musical of the same name and tells the story of two women on death row in Prohibition Era Chicago fighting for the fame that will save them from the gallows.
In 1927, Roxie Hart sees star Velma Kelly performs ("All That Jazz") at a Chicago theater. Wanting stardom for herself, she begins an affair with Fred Casely, who claims to know the manager. After the show, Velma is arrested for killing her husband and sister, who were in bed together. A month later, Casely admits he has no showbiz connections and just wanted her body. Enraged, Roxie shoots him dead. She convinces her husband Amos to take the blame, telling him she killed a burglar and it will be deemed self-defense. As Amos confesses to the detective, Roxie fantasizes that she is singing a song devoted to her husband ("Funny Honey"). However, when the detective brings up evidence that Roxie and Casely were having an affair, Amos recants; Roxie furiously admits what happened and arrested. Ambitious District Attorney Harrison announces he will seek the death penalty.
At Cook County Jail, Roxie is sent to Murderess' Row, under the care of the corrupt matron "Mama" Morton ("When You're Good to Mama"). Roxie meets her idol Velma, but her friendship is rudely rebuffed. She learns the backstories of the other women there ("Cell Block Tango"). On Morton's advice, Roxie engages Velma's lawyer, the brilliant Billy Flynn ("All I Care About"). Flynn and Roxie manipulate the press, reinventing Roxie's identity as an originally virtuous woman turned bad by the fast life of the city; she claims she had the affair with Casely because Amos was always working, but repented and dumped him for Amos, and Casely jealously attacked her ("We Both Reached for the Gun"). The press believe the story; praised by the public as a tragic heroine, Roxie becomes an overnight sensation ("Roxie"). Velma, unhappy at losing the public's attention, tries to convince Roxie to join her act, replacing the sister that she murdered ("I Can't Do It Alone"), but Roxie, now the more popular of the two rivals, snubs her just as Velma originally did.
Then Kitty Baxter, a wealthy heiress, is arrested for murdering her husband and his two lovers, and the press and Flynn pay more attention to her. To Velma's surprise, Roxie quickly steals back the fame by claiming to be pregnant. Amos is ignored by the press ("Mister Cellophane"), and Flynn, to create more sympathy for Roxie, convinces him that the child is Casely's and that he should divorce Roxie in the middle of her predicament. Roxie over-confidently fires Flynn, believing she can now win on her own. However, when a Hungarian women from Murderess' Row is hanged, she realizes the gravity of the situation and re-hires Flynn.
Roxie's trial begins and Billy turns it into a media spectacle ("Razzle Dazzle") with the help of the sensationalist newspaper reporters and radio personality Mary Sunshine. Billy discredits witnesses, manipulates evidence, and even stages a public reconciliation between Amos and Roxie when she says the child is his. The trial seems to be going Roxie's way until Velma appears with Roxie's diary: she reads incriminating entries in exchange for amnesty in her own case. Billy discredits the diary, implying that Harrison was the one who planted the evidence ("A Tap Dance"). Roxie is acquitted, but her fame dies moments later when a woman shoots her husband just outside the court. Flynn tells her to accept it, and admits that he tampered with her diary himself, in order to incriminate the district attorney and also free two clients at once. Amos remains loyal and excited to be a father, but Roxie cruelly rejects him, revealing that she is not pregnant, and he finally leaves her.
Roxie does become a vaudeville performer, but is very unsuccessful ("Nowadays"). Velma is just as unsuccessful, and again approaches Roxie to suggest performing together: a double act consisting of two murderesses would become famous. Roxie refuses at first, but accepts when Velma points out that they can perform together despite their resentment for each other. The two stage a spectacular performance that earns them the love of the audience and the press ("Nowadays / Hot Honey Rag"). The film concludes with Roxie and Velma receiving a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience, and proclaiming that "We couldn't have done it without you".
- Renee Zellweger as Roxanne "Roxie" Hart, a housewife who aspires to be a vaudevillian, and is arrested for the murder of her deceitful lover.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly, a showgirl who is arrested for the murders of her husband, Charlie, and her sister, Veronica.
- Richard Gere as Billy Flynn, a duplicitous, smooth-talking lawyer who turns his clients into celebrities to gain public support for them.
- Queen Latifah as Matron "Mama" Morton, the corrupt but nurturing matron of the Cook County Jail.
- John C. Reilly as Amos Hart, Roxie's naive, simple-minded but devoted husband.
- Christine Baranski as Mary Sunshine, a sensationalist reporter.
- Taye Diggs as The Bandleader, a shadowy, mystical master of ceremonies who introduces each song.
- Colm Feore as Harrison, the prosecutor in both Roxie and Velma's court cases.
- Lucy Liu as Kitty Baxter, a millionaire heiress who briefly outshines Velma and Roxie when she kills her husband and his two mistresses.
- Dominic West as Fred Casely, Roxie's deceitful lover and murder victim.
- Mýa Harrison as Mona, a prisoner on Murderess' Row.
- Jayne Eastwood as Mrs. Borusewicz, the Harts' neighbor from across the hall.
- Chita Rivera as Nicky, a prostitute.
- Susan Misner as Liz, a prisoner on Murderess' Row.
- Denise Faye as Annie, a prisoner on Murderess' Row .
- Ekaterina Chtchelkanova as the Hunyak (Katalin Helinszki), a Hungarian prisoner on Murderess' Row who does not speak English except for two words: "not guilty".
- Conrad Dunn as Doctor
- Deidre Goodwin as June, a prisoner on Murderess' Row.
- "Overture / All That Jazz" – Velma, Company
- "Funny Honey" – Roxie
- "When You're Good to Mama" – Mama
- "Cell Block Tango" – Velma, Cell Block Girls
- "All I Care About" – Billy, Chorus Girls
- "We Both Reached for the Gun" – Billy, Roxie, Mary, Reporters
- "Roxie" – Roxie, Chorus Boys
- "I Can't Do It Alone" – Velma
- "Mister Cellophane" – Amos
- "Razzle Dazzle" – Billy, Company
- "A Tap Dance" - Billy
- "Class" – Velma and Mama (cut from film; included in DVD and 2005 broadcast premiere on NBC, and film soundtrack album)
- "Nowadays" – Roxie
- "Nowadays / Hot Honey Rag" – Roxie, Velma
- "I Move On" – Roxie and Velma (over the end credits)
- "All That Jazz (reprise)" – Velma, Company
Production and development
The film is based on the 1975 Broadway musical, which ran for 936 performances but was not well received by audiences, primarily due to the show's cynical tone. A film version of Chicago was to have been the next project for Bob Fosse, who had directed and choreographed the original 1975 Broadway production and had won an Oscar for his direction of the film version of Cabaret (1972). Although he died before realizing his version, Fosse's distinctive jazz choreography style is evident throughout the 2003 film, and he is thanked in the credits. The minimalist 1996 revival of the musical proved far more successful, having played more than 7,800 performances (as of August 2015), holding records for longest-running musical revival, longest-running American musical on Broadway, and third longest-running show in Broadway history. Its runaway success sparked a greater appreciation of the 1975 original production and renewed stalled interest in a long-anticipated film adaptation, which incorporates the influences of both productions. The original production's musical numbers were staged as vaudeville acts; the film respects this but presents them as cutaway scenes in the mind of the Roxie character, while scenes in "real life" are filmed with a hard-edged grittiness. (This construct is the reason given by director Marshall why "Class," performed by Velma & Mama, was cut from the film.) The musical itself was based on a 1926 Broadway play by Maurine Watkins about two real-life Jazz-era murderers Beulah Annan (Roxie Hart) and Belva Gaertner (Velma Kelly). The George Abbott-directed production, starring Francine Larrimore and Juliette Crosby, ran for 172 performances at the Music Box Theatre, and within a year was adapted to a film in which Gaertner herself had a cameo. Chicago was produced by American companies Miramax Films and The Producers Circle in association with the German company Kallis Productions. Chicago was filmed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The courthouse scene was shot in Osgoode Hall. Other scenes were filmed at Queen's Park, former Gooderham and Worts Distillery, Casa Loma, the Elgin Theatre, Union Station, the Canada Life Building, the Danforth Music Hall, and at the Old City Hall. All vocal coaching for the film was led by Toronto-based Elaine Overholt, whom Richard Gere thanked personally during his Golden Globe acceptance speech.