Chicago (2002 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rob Marshall
Produced by
Screenplay by Bill Condon
Based on Chicago 
by John Kander & Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander (music) & Fred Ebb (lyrics)
Cinematography Dion Beebe
Edited by Martin Walsh
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release dates
  • December 27, 2002 (2002-12-27)
Running time 113 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $45 million[2]
Box office $306,776,732[2]

Chicago is a 2002 American musical comedy film adapted from the satirical stage musical of the same name, exploring the themes of celebrity, scandal, and corruption in Jazz Age Chicago.[3] The film stars Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and also features Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, and Mýa Harrison.

Directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, and adapted by screenwriter Bill Condon, Chicago won six Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Picture. The film was critically lauded, and was the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! in 1969.

Chicago centers on Roxie Hart (Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), two murderesses who find themselves in jail together awaiting trial in 1920s Chicago. Velma, a vaudevillian, and Roxie, a housewife, fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows.


In Chicago, circa 1924, naïve Roxie Hart visits a nightclub, where star Velma Kelly performs ("All That Jazz"). Roxie is there with Fred Casely, a lover she hopes will be able to make her a vaudeville star. After the show, Velma is arrested for killing her husband and sister after finding them in bed together. A month passes, and, after Roxie admits she wants the relationship to go on a long-term basis, Fred reveals to Roxie that he lied about his connections in order to sleep with her and abandons her, hitting her when she protests. Roxie, enraged, shoots him three times, killing him. Roxie convinces her sweet, dim-witted husband, Amos, to take the blame, telling him she has killed a burglar and that he is likely to be released on self-defense. As he confesses, Roxie fantasizes (as she does throughout the film), that she is a famous singer, introduced by an elegant bandleader and sings a torch song to her devoted husband ("Funny Honey"). When the detective brings up evidence that Roxie had been sleeping with Fred, Amos abandons his lie and says Casely was dead when he got home, and Roxie, enraged, confesses to the killing. Roxie is sent to Cook County Jail, and ambitious District Attorney Harrison informs the press he intends to seek the death penalty.

Upon her arrival she is sent to Murderess' Row, under the care of the corrupt Matron "Mama" Morton, who takes bribes and supplies her prisoners with cigarettes and contraband ("When You're Good to Mama") while awaiting trial. Roxie meets Velma and learns the backstories of the other women in Murderess' Row ("Cell Block Tango"). She attempts to befriend Velma, who has been enjoying the notoriety and press coverage the murder has gotten her, but is rudely rebuffed. On Morton's advice, Roxie decides to engage Velma's lawyer, the brilliant and amoral Billy Flynn ("All I Care About"), and convinces her husband to pay his $5,000 fee. Flynn and Roxie manipulate the press at a press conference, reinventing Roxie's identity and inventing a sob story self-defense strategy ("We Both Reached for the Gun"). Roxie becomes an overnight sensation ("Roxie"), much to Velma's disgust and Mama's delight. Velma, desperate to get back into the limelight, tries to talk Roxie into reviving the double-act Velma used to perform with the sister she murdered ("I Can't Do It Alone"). Remembering Velma's earlier snub, Roxie haughtily refuses, and Roxie and Velma become locked in a rivalry to outshine each other.

Roxie's star takes a sudden tumble when wealthy heiress Kitty Baxter is arrested for the murder of her lover and the two women she found in bed with him. Immediately, Roxie finds herself ignored by the paparazzi and neglected by Flynn. To Velma's shock, Roxie manages to steal back the limelight by claiming to be pregnant, which is confirmed by a doctor she implicitly seduced. As paparazzi chase Roxie, Amos remains ignored ("Mister Cellophane"), and to create further sympathy for his client, Billy manipulates him into divorcing Roxie by convincing him the child she is expecting is not his. Roxie's success, however, goes to her head and leads to a screaming fight between her and Billy when she refuses to wear the modest dress he has selected for her trial. However, Roxie agrees to go along with his schemes after she witnesses the execution of one of her fellow prisoners, a Hungarian woman who is implied to be innocent of the murder for which she is hanged.

Roxie's trial begins and Billy immediately turns it into a media spectacle ("Razzle Dazzle"), fed on the sensationalist reports of newspaper reporter and radio personality, Mary Sunshine. Billy discredits witnesses, manipulates evidence, and even stages a reunion for the cameras where he gets Roxie to swear her child is Amos' and to forgive him for leaving her. The trial goes Roxie's way until Velma shows up with Roxie's diary. In exchange for amnesty, Velma reads incriminating entries from the diary that could convict Roxie; however, Billy manages to discredit her testimony by getting Velma to admit that she had been given the diary by someone Billy strongly implies to be the prosecuting attorney ("A Tap Dance").

Roxie is acquitted, but her publicity after her release is short-lived: less than a minute after her trial concludes, a woman shoots her husband and his lawyer on the steps of the court building and the public's attention turns to a new murderess. Roxie is left confused and baffled, but Billy tells her that it "that's Chicago" and she can't "beat fresh blood on the walls". He also reveals that he gave Velma the diary after doctoring it to ensure that it could be used to incriminate the district attorney, allowing him to free two clients at once. Only Amos is willing to stand by Roxie, but she cruelly rejects him and informs him she has faked her pregnancy, and he quietly leaves.

With nothing left, Roxie once more sets off on a stage career, with little success ("Nowadays"). However, she is soon approached by Velma, also down on her luck, who again proposes that they team up: one Jazz killer is nothing, but two would be sensational. Roxie refuses at first, pointing out she and Velma hate each other, but relents when Velma replies that "there's only one business in the world where that's not a problem at all." The two murderesses, no longer facing jail time, finally become the enormous successes they have been longing to be ("Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag"). The film concludes with Roxie and Velma receiving a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience, and, as flashbulbs pop, proclaiming that "We couldn't have done it without you!"


Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "Overture/All That Jazz" – Velma, Company
  2. "Funny Honey" – Roxie
  3. "When You're Good to Mama" – Mama
  4. "Cell Block Tango" – Velma, Cell Block Girls
  5. "All I Care About" – Billy, Chorus Girls
  6. "We Both Reached for the Gun" – Billy, Roxie, Mary, Reporters
  7. "Roxie" – Roxie, Chorus Boys
  8. "I Can't Do It Alone" – Velma
  9. "Mister Cellophane" – Amos
  10. "Razzle Dazzle" – Billy, Company
  11. "A Tap Dance" - Billy
  12. "Class" – Velma and Mama (cut from film; included in DVD and 2005 broadcast premiere on NBC, and film soundtrack album)
  13. "Nowadays" – Roxie
  14. "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag" – Roxie, Velma
  15. "I Move On" – Roxie and Velma (over the end credits)
  16. "All That Jazz (reprise)" – Velma, Company

Production and development[edit]

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,[4] 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 6,700 performances (as of 2014), 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.[5] 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.)[6]

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.[citation needed] All vocal coaching for the film was led by Toronto-based Elaine Overholt, whom Richard Gere thanked personally during his Golden Globe acceptance speech.


Critical response[edit]

Chicago was received with critical acclaim. On the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 87% approval rating; the general consensus states: "A rousing and energetic adaptation of the Broadway musical, Chicago succeeds on the level pure spectacle, but provides a surprising level of depth and humor as well."[7] On Metacritic, the film averaged a critical score of 82 (indicating "universal acclaim").[8]

Tim Robey, writer for The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom, labeled Chicago as "The best screen musical for 30 years." He also stated that it has taken a "three-step tango for us to welcome back the movie musical as a form." Robey said "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." [9] Roger Ebert called it "Big, brassy fun".[10]

However, other reviews claimed that there were issues with the film being too streamlined, and minor complaints were made toward Marshall's directing influences. AMC critic 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.[11]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $170,687,518 in the United States and Canada, as well $136,089,214 in other territories.[2] Combined, the film grossed $306,403,013 worldwide, which was, at the time, 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). This record has since been outdone by Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.[12] Worldwide Chicago it was the highest grossing live action musical with $306 million, a record that was then broken by Enchanted.


Chicago along with an earlier musical Moulin Rouge! is widely considered to be responsible for the re-emergence of the musical film genre. Following the success of Chicago many musical films have been released in cinemas including Hairspray, Enchanted, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Mamma Mia! Les Miserables and Sunshine on Leith, all of these, bar Enchanted and Sunshine on Leith, were adaptations of Broadway/West End stage shows (Enchanted was an original property while Sunshine on Leith was an adaptation of a Dundee Reps production).

Home media[edit]

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, and later, on Blu-ray format, in January 2007 and, in an updated release, in May 2011. Miramax was the label responsible for the production of the DVDs and the discs themselves provide a feature-length audio commentary track with director Marshall and screenwriter Condon. There is also a deleted musical number called "Class", performed by Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Category Nominee Result
Academy Awards[13][14]
Best Picture Martin Richards Won
Best Actress Renée Zellweger Nominated
Best Supporting Actor John C. Reilly Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Won
Queen Latifah Nominated
Best Director Rob Marshall Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Bill Condon Nominated
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe Nominated
Best Art Direction John Myhre and Gordon Sim Won
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood Won
Best Film Editing Martin Walsh Won
Best Sound Mixing Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee Won
Best Original Song John Kander (for "I Move On") Nominated
BAFTA Awards[15]
Best Film Nominated
Best Actress Renée Zellweger Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Won
Queen Latifah Nominated
David Lean Award for Direction Rob Marshall Nominated
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe Nominated
Best Production Design John Myhre Nominated
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood Nominated
Best Make Up and Hair Judi Cooper-Sealy Nominated
Best Editing Martin Walsh Nominated
Best Sound Michael Minkler, David Lee and Dominick Tavella Won
Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music Danny Elfman Nominated
Golden Globes[16]
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won
Best Actor – Musical or Comedy Richard Gere Won
Best Actress – Musical or Comedy Renée Zellweger Won
Catherine Zeta-Jones Nominated
Best Supporting Actor John C. Reilly Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Queen Latifah Nominated
Best Director Rob Marshall Nominated
Best Screenplay Bill Condon Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards[17]
Best Picture Won
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Won
Best Acting Ensemble Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award
Best Actress Renée Zellweger Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award
Best Picture Won
Directors Guild of America Awards
Outstanding Directing Rob Marshall Won
Evening Standard British Film Awards
Best Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Won
Florida Film Critics Circle
Best Song "Cell Block Tango" Won
National Board of Review of Motion Pictures
Best Directorial Debut Rob Marshall Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards[18]
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Nominated
Best Ensemble Nominated
Best Breakthrough Filmmaker Rob Marshall Nominated
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood Nominated
Best Editing Martin Walsh Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society
Best Picture Nominated
Best Actress Renée Zellweger Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Won
Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Director Rob Marshall Nominated
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe Nominated
Best Costume Design Colleen Atwood Won
Best Film Editing Martin Walsh Won
Best Newcomer Rob Marshall Nominated
Producers Guild of America Award
Best Picture Martin Richards Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards[19]
Best Actress Renée Zellweger Won
Best Actor Richard Gere Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones Won
Queen Latifah Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Won
Writers Guild of America Award
Best Adapted Screenplay Bill Condon Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CHICAGO (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. December 12, 2002. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Chicago (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 6, 2014. 
  3. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (December 27, 2002). "Movie Review: Chicago (2002)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ Glenn, "Chicago" in Movie Musicals: from Stage to Screen.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Peter Nichols, "Adding a song to Chicago" in NY Times, 15 Aug 2003.
  7. ^ "Chicago Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Chicago reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 13, 2009. 
  9. ^ Robey, Tim (Decembery 27, 2002). "This Jailhouse Rocks". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved November 17, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Chicago (2002) - Cream of the Crops". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  11. ^ O'Connell, Sean (January 21, 2003). "Chicago". Retrieved November 18, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Top Grossing Movies That Never Hit #1 at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  13. ^ "The 75th Academy Awards (2003) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  14. ^ "The 2003 Oscar Winners". Retrieved August 10, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Awards Database - The BAFTA site". Retrieved August 10, 2009. 
  16. ^ "The 2003 Golden Globe Award Winners". Retrieved August 10, 2009. 
  17. ^ "The BFCA Critics' Choice Awards :: 2002". Retrieved August 10, 2009. 
  18. ^ "O.F.C.S.: The Online Film Critics Society". Rotten Tomatoes. January 6, 2003. Retrieved August 10, 2009. 
  19. ^ "The 2003 Screen Actors Guild Award Winners". Retrieved August 10, 2009. 

External links[edit]