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Chicago is a American film adaptation of the satirical stage musical Chicago, the film explores the themes of 'celebrity' and 'scandal' in Jazz age Chicagomarker. Directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, and adapted for film by screenwriter Bill Condon, Chicago won six Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Picture. The film was the first musical film to win the Best Picture Oscar since Oliver! (1968).

Chicago centers on Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two criminals-of-passion who find themselves on death row together in 1920s Chicago. Velma, a vaudevillian, and Roxie, a housewife with aspirations of having the same profession, fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows. The film stars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, and Richard Gere, also featuring Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, and Mýa Harrison.


The film takes place in Chicagomarker, circa 1927. Naive Roxie Hart visits a nightclub where star Velma Kelly performs ("Overture/All That Jazz"). Hart is having an affair with a man named Fred Casely in hopes that he will get her a gig as a vaudeville star. Velma is arrested after the show for murdering her adulterous husband and sister, Veronica, after finding them in bed together. Fred meets Roxie at the nightclub and they go home, both very drunk. They make love and then Fred reveals that he lied about his connections in show business and he only wants Roxie for sex. After Fred dismisses Roxie's chances for success in show business she grabs a gun off her dresser and shoots Fred three times. She then tries to make her husband Amos, (who is even more naive than she) take the fall ("Funny Honey"). The police and Amos (realizing she has been unfaithful to him) see through her ruse and Roxie is arrested and sent to the Cook County Jail.

Upon her arrival, she is sent to Murderess' Row to await trial—under the care of the corrupt Matron "Mama" Morton, who supplies her girls with cigarettes and other materials if she is paid well enough ("When You're Good to Mama"). Roxie meets Velma in jail as the woman in charge, and learns the stories behind the other women in Murderess' Row ("Cell Block Tango"): a woman who murdered her husband for his maddening gum-popping habit; a woman who poisons her Mormon boyfriend after discovering he had six wives at home in Utah; another of stabbing her suspicious husband after he flew into a jealous rage; a Hungarian accused of her husband's murder (though she is actually innocent); Velma, who murdered her sister and husband after discovering their affair; and a woman whose painter boyfriend had numerous affairs--including one with a man. Roxie decides that she wants Velma's lawyer, Billy Flynn, to get her off of her accusation ("All I Care About"), and convinces her husband to talk to him. Billy then decides to take Roxie's case and get her off by making her a star.

Flynn and Roxie manipulate the press at a press conference, reinventing Roxie's identity to make Chicago fall in love with her ("We Both Reached for the Gun"). Roxie becomes the new infamous celebrity of the Cook County Jail, much to Velma's disgust and Mama's delight ("Roxie"). Velma, desperate to get back into the limelight, tries to talk Roxie into opening a vaudeville act with her once they get out of jail ("I Can't Do It Alone"). Roxie haughtily refuses and mocks Velma (But it's only because Velma mocked Roxie earlier). Roxie and Velma become locked in a rivalry to outdo each other in stardom. The tables are turned on both women, however, when a new killer named Kitty – a wealthy woman who killed her husband and both of his mistresses – enters the scene.

Roxie manages to steal back the limelight by claiming to be pregnant, which is falsely confirmed by a doctor (whom she seduced), much to Amos' delight; however, nobody notices that he even exists ("Mister Cellophane"). The Hungarian inmate loses her last appeal and is hanged, which fuels Roxie's desire to be free. Roxie's trial date approaches, and she and Billy begin to plan their strategy to find her innocent of murder using her star power and sympathy vote ("Razzle Dazzle"). Her trial proceeds and becomes a media spectacle, fed off the sensationalist reports of newspaper reporter and radio personality Mary Sunshine. The trial goes Roxie's way, until Velma shows up with Roxie's diary and, in exchange for amnesty, reads incriminating entries that Roxie claims to never have written. Using some quick talking, Billy manages to get Roxie off the hook and she is proclaimed innocent. However, Roxie's publicity is short lived: as soon as the trial concludes, the public's attention turns quickly to a new murderess. Roxie leaves the courthouse after discovering that Billy wrote the false diary entries, and sent the journal to Velma to get Miss Kelly off death row. Roxie reveals to Amos she faked her pregnancy for the fame. It is implied, but never stated, that Amos leaves her at this point.

With nothing left, Roxie once more sets off to find a stage career, with little success ("Nowadays"). However, she is soon approached by Velma, who is willing to revive a two-person act with Roxie. Roxie refuses at first, because of the hatred that they share for each other, but relents. The two murderesses, no longer facing jail time, finally become the enormous successes they have been longing to be ("Nowadays"/"Hot Honey Rag").



Dresses worn by Roxie, Velma and Mama Morton
The film is based on the hit musical Chicago, the original Broadwaymarker production of which (in 1975) was not well-received by audiences due to the show's cynical tone. The minimalist 1996 revival was much more successful, however, and the influences of both productions can be seen in the film version. The original production's musical numbers were staged as vaudeville acts; the film respects this but presents them as Roxie's fantasies, while scenes that take place in "real life" have a hard-edged realism.

Chicago was produced by the American companies Miramax and The Producers Circle in association with the German company Kallis Productions. Chicago was filmed in Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker. The courthouse was in Osgoode Hallmarker. Other scenes were filmed at Queen's Parkmarker, former Gooderham and Worts Distillerymarker, Casa Lomamarker, the Elgin Theatremarker, Union Stationmarker, the Canada Life Buildingmarker, 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.


The film is based on the Kander and Ebb Broadwaymarker musical of the same name, which was based on the Maurine Watkins play, Chicago, which was in turn based on the stories of two Jazz-era killers, Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner.

The film follows a similar plot to William Wellman's 1942 film Roxie Hart, starring Ginger Rogers as Roxie and Adolphe Menjou as Billy Flynn. However, the only singing or dancing were performances by Rogers.

The film was to have been the next film project for legendary stage and film choreographer and director Bob Fosse, who directed and choreographed the original Broadway production. Though he died before the film was made, the influence of his distinctive jazz choreography style can be detected throughout the film. In particular, the parallels to Cabaret are numerous and distinct. He is thanked in the film's credits.

The satiric presentation of a criminal underworld that mirrors the "respectable" world of daily life goes back to The Beggar's Opera.

Musical numbers

  1. "Overture/And All That Jazz" – Velma Kelly and Company
  2. "Funny Honey" – Roxie Hart
  3. "When You're Good to Mama" – Matron "Mama" Morton
  4. "Cell Block Tango" – Velma, Mona, and Girls
  5. "All I Care About" – Billy Flynn
  6. "We Both Reached for the Gun" – Billy, Roxie, Mary Sunshine, and Reporters
  7. "Roxie" – Roxie
  8. "I Can't Do It Alone" – Velma
  9. "Mister Cellophane" – Amos Hart
  10. "Razzle Dazzle" – Billy and Company
  11. "Class" – (Velma and Mama) (This song, performed by Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones, was filmed, but it was cut from the film. The scene was later included on the DVD release and the film's broadcast television premiere on NBC in 2005, and the song was included on the soundtrack album.)
  12. "Nowadays" – Roxie
  13. "Nowadays / Hot Honey Rag" – Roxie and Velma
  14. "I Move On" – Roxie and Velma (over the end credits)
  15. "And All That Jazz (reprise)" - Velma and Company
  16. "Exit Music" - instrumental

Reception and review

Chicago was received with very positive reviews. On the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently garners an 87% "Certified Fresh" approval rating, and a 92% (also "Certified Fresh") approval rating when narrowed down to include only the reviews of top critics; Roger Ebert called it "Big, brassy fun." On Metacritic, the film averaged a critical score of 82% (indicating "universal acclaim").

This musical-turned-film received widespread attention from overseas and was even labeled as "The best screen musical for 30 years," claims Tim Robey, writer for the Telegraph in the United Kingdom. He also states that it has taken a "three-step tango for us to welcome back the movie musical as a form." Rob Marshall's film has also been labeled as one of the most enjoyable pictures of its kind since Fosse's Cabaret of 1972. This particular Chicago makes the most prolific use it possibly can out of one specific advantage the cinema has over the stage when it comes to song and dance: "it's a sustained celebration of parallel montage."

Other reviews claimed that there were issues with the film being too streamlined, and minor complaints were made toward Marshall's directing influences. It had taken him two or three musical numbers within the film before he could flush his theater instincts out of his system and fully comprehend just what the magic of cinema has to offer in his creative process. AMC Filmcritic Sean O'Connell explains in his review of the film that "All That Jazz," "Funny Honey," and "Cell Block Tango" play out much like you'd expect them to on stage, with little enhancement (or subsequent interference) from the camera. But by the time "Razzle Dazzle" comes around, all of these concerns are diminished; causing audiences to be impressed.

Box office

The film's domestic total gross was $170,687,518, leaving the foreign total gross at $136,089,214. Combined, the film grossed $306,403,013 worldwide—the highest gross of any film never to reach #1 or #2 in the weekly box office charts in the North American markets (Canada and United States—where it peaked at #3).

Home release

Chicago was released on DVD in Region 1 (USA, Canada, and US territories) on August 19, 2003. It was released in Full Screen and Widescreen. In addition to this release, a two-disc "Razzle Dazzle" Edition was released over two years later on December 20, 2005. The tagline for the film is "If you can't be famous… be infamous." Miramax was the label responsible for the production of the DVDs and the discs themselves provide a feature-length audio commentary track with director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon. There's also a deleted musical number called "Class," performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah. The film is 113 minutes in length and it has been given a PG-13 rating from the MPAA for some sexual content, dialogue, violence, and thematic elements.

Awards and nominations

The table lists award nominees. Winners are shown in boldface.

Category Nominee
Academy Awards
Best Picture Martin Richards
Best Actress Renee Zellwegger
Best Supporting Actor John C. Reilly
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Supporting Actress Queen Latifah
Best Director Rob Marshall
Best Adapted Screenplay Bill Condon
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe
Best Art Direction John Myhre
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood
Best Film Editing Martin Walsh
Best Sound Mixing Michael Minkler, David Lee and Dominick Tavella
Best Original Song John Kander (for "I Move On")
BAFTA Awards
Best Film
Best Actress Renee Zellweger
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Supporting Actress Queen Latifah
David Lean Award for Direction Rob Marshall
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe
Best Production Design John Myhre
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood
Best Make Up and Hair Judi Cooper-Sealy
Best Editing Martin Walsh
Best Sound Michael Minkler, David Lee, and Dominick Tavella
Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music Danny Elfman
Golden Globes
Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Best Actor - Musical or Comedy Richard Gere
Best Actress - Musical or Comedy Renee Zellweger
Best Actress - Musical or Comedy Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Supporting Actor John C. Reilly
Best Supporting Actress Queen Latifah
Best Director Rob Marshall
Best Screenplay Bill Condon
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
Best Picture
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Acting Ensemble
Chicago Film Critics Association Award
Best Actress Renee Zellweger
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award
Best Picture
Directors Guild of America Awards
Outstanding Directing Rob Marshall
Evening Standard British Film Awards
Best Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Florida Film Critics Circle
Best Song Cell Block Tango
National Board of Review of Motion Pictures
Best Directorial Debut Rob Marshall
Online Film Critics Society Awards
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Ensemble
Best Breakthrough Filmmaker Rob Marshall
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood
Best Editing Martin Walsh
Phoenix Film Critics Society
Best Picture
Best Actress Renee Zellweger
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Acting Ensemble
Best Director Rob Marshall
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood
Best Film Editing Martin Walsh
Best Newcomer Rob Marshall
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Best Actress Renee Zellweger
Best Actor Richard Gere
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Supporting Actress Queen Latifah
Best Acting Ensemble
Writers Guild of America Award
Best Adapted Screenplay Bill Condon


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