Roxie Hart is the protagonist villain originally featured in the 1927 musical Chicago and all of its adaptations.
She was portrayed by Gwen Verdon in the 1975 musical, and by Renee Zellweger in its 2002 film adaptation.
She is based on real-life murderess Beulah Annan, who shot her lover and pretended to be pregnant to gain sympathy. The play was adapted as a silent film in 1927, and again as a film in 1942 titled 'Roxie Hart,' in which she was played by legendary dancer Ginger Rogers. In 1975 the play became a musical, which was adapted as the movie Chicago, in which she was played by Renee Zellweger, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance. She is imprisoned after murdering a man she was sleeping with in the hopes of using him to attain stardom. Though she is the protagonist, she is also shown to be a murderer and egomaniac who is far from a heroic character.
History (in the 2002 film)
Roxie is originally a member of the chorus in a Chicago nightclub in the 1920s. She is married to an honest but dull-witted mechanic named Amos, whom she frequently cheats on. She first appears engaged in a love affair with a man named Fred Casely who she hopes can get her into the big leagues of Chicago stardom. However, he reveals that he was simply using Roxie and never intended to give her anything. Enraged, Roxie shoots him dead but is later arrested for this. Refusing to believe that she did anything wrong, the delusional and egocentric Roxie quickly realizes that with the evidence against her she will be convicted if she does not get a good lawyer. Upon learning of infamous lawyer Billy Flynn, Roxie persuades him to help her and he, in turn, teaches her how to charm the public and court into getting herself acquitted. With his help, she concocts a false story about Casely trying to rape her, in which she killed him for self-defense. She becomes a media sensation, eclipsing the fame of another murderess on trial, Velma Kelly. The two become fierce rivals for the spotlight. When a wealthy heiress murders her husband and two women in bed with him, Roxie realizes she is in danger of losing her fame, and her lawyer, since Billy is eager to defend the new girl. To get the press focused on her again, she pretends to be pregnant.
The public's sympathy instantly shifts back to Roxie. It is strongly implied that she gets a doctor to say she is pregnant by sleeping with him. Billy helps by shifting the public's anger on her innocent husband Amos for 'neglecting' her and her 'baby.'
Though Velma nearly condemns her in court, Roxie is nevertheless able to avoid the noose and is acquitted. However, almost as soon as she is found innocent, another woman is arrested for murder, and the press instantly forgets her. Roxie is now still without fame. She and Velma, now both out of the spotlight, become friends instead of enemies and manage to successfully make it into the big leagues as a double act.
In Other Versions
In the 1942 film "Roxie Hart", Roxie is innocent of the murder. In this version, it was Amos who shot her lover, and Roxie took the blame expecting to be let off because she was a woman and hoping to be made famous by the press. An honest reporter named Homer Howard finds a witness who can prove this, but before the trial can start, finds the witness has died. When she realizes how strong the evidence against her is, she improvises a testimony about Fred Casely assaulting her. She is acquitted, but Amos is arrested instead of her, and the press gravitates towards him instead. Now alone and without fame or a husband, Roxie has no choice but to marry Homer. She is last seen with Homer as a harassed looking mother of six, with another child on the way, implying that at least one of her lies has come true.