Roxie Hart (20th Century-Fox) is dedicated "to all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique." A rewrite by Producer Nunnally Johnson of Maurine Watkins' 1926 Broadway hit Chicago, it is a bawdy farce of the bad old '205, when a pretty murderess was as likely to get ten weeks in vaudeville as the electric chair.
"This county wouldn't hang Lucrezia Borgia," a reporter (Lynne Overman) informs Roxie Hart (Ginger Rogers), redheaded, gum-chewing, wisecracking dancer, whose husband has just shot her lover and pinned the murder on her. Convinced that she can't have a career and be innocent, too, Roxie agrees to stand trial and let the newspapers "put her right up there" with Peaches Browning, Queen Marie, Ruth Snyder and Red Grange.
She hires the town's best criminal lawyer (Adolphe Menjou), a "simple, barefoot mouthpiece" who knows no law but does know juries, enjoys the run of her jailhouse, overcomes the headline competition of Two-Gun Gertie (Iris Adrian) by professing to be with child, stampedes the jury into freeing her. A telling point: Menjou, bearing the swooned Roxie in his arms, stands before the judge and elocutes: "The defense rests."
Although Roxie Hart makes a hilarious burlesque of Chicago's Keep-Cool-With-Coolidge, Keep-Cockeyed-With-Capone era, it is often too overdone for superior farce. Mouthpiece Menjou and Newsman Overman make mincemeat of their fat roles; America's own Ginger Rogers is attractive but unbelievable in hers. The star plays second fiddle to the era.
Classic sequence: Roxie's farmer father, informed by long distance that his daughter may lose her life, returns unruffled to his rocker, meditates awhile before observing to his wife: "They're going to hang Roxie." Replies the mother with equal equanimity: "What did I tell you?"
Captains of the Clouds (Warner) is virtually a documentary of Canada's large part in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. And it is a very pretty picture as long as it sticks to its subject. Chock-full of Royal Canadian Air Force men, bulging with the atmosphere and habiliments of their training, it also has more than its share of the lushest Techni-colored flying shots yet made.
But Captains also has a plot: an old story about some north-woods bush pilots (James Cagney, George Tobias, Reginald Gardiner, et al.) who have to learn that modern air combat is a young man's business. Cagney complicates matters further by appropriating another busher's girl (Brenda Marshall). He squares everything in the end by fatally ramming a pesky Messerschmitt 109 with his weaponless bomber-thus clearing the Atlantic crossing for the rest of the ferry pilots, who high-tail it for England while he drops dizzily into the sea.
Although Cagney is much better than his thankless role, the real heroes of Captains are Director Michael Curtiz and his five cameramen, who caught the matchless greens and browns of Canada's infinite north-country; the black-and-crimson spit & polish of the Northwest Mounties; the kaleidoscopic carnival of the training field; the silver splash of bushers' planes plopping into lonely lakes; the ominous shine of penguin-bellied bombers groaning up from the Newfoundland shore on their weary way to England.