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|Walter Matthau||Walter Burns/Otto Fishbine|
|Susan Sarandon||Peggy Grant|
|Vincent Gardenia||'Honest Pete' Hartman Sheriff of Clark County|
|David Wayne||Roy Bensinger of the Tribune|
|Austin Pendleton||Earl Williams|
|Martin Gabel||Dr. Max J. Eggelhofer|
|Harold Gould||The Mayor/Herbie/Green Hornet|
|Cliff Osmond||Officer Jacobi|
|Jon Korkes||Rudy Keppler of the Chicago Examiner|
|Carol Burnett||Mollie Malloy|
|Jack Lemmon||Hildebrand Johnson|
|Henry Bumstead||Art Direction|
|Jordan Cronenweth||Director of Photography|
|Ben Hecht||Theatre Play|
|Ralph E. Winters||Editor|
|Charles MacArthur||Theatre Play|
|Jennings Lang||Executive Producer|
|James W. Payne||Set Decoration|
|Burton Miller||Costume Design|
|Robert Martin||Sound Designer|
|Robert L. Hoyt||Sound Designer|
|Ralph E. Winters||Editing|
Chicago Examiner reporter Hildebrand "Hildy" Johnson (Jack Lemmon) has just quit his job in order to marry Peggy Grant (Susan Sarandon) and start a new career when, shortly prior to his scheduled execution, convicted revolutionary Earl Williams (Austin Pendleton) escapes from death row in the Cook County Jail. In reality, Earl is an impoverished, bumbling leftist with a penchant for stuffing fortune cookies with messages demanding the release of Sacco and Vanzetti, but the yellow press of Chicago has painted him as a dangerous threat from Moscow and as a result the city's citizens are anxious to see him put to death.
Mollie Malloy (Carol Burnett), a self-described "$2 whore from Division Street" who has befriended Earl, reveals his hiding place to Hildy, who is unable to resist the lure of what could be the biggest scoop of his soon-to-be-over career. Ruthless, egomaniacal managing editor Walter Burns (Walter Matthau), desperate to keep Hildy on the job, encourages him to stay and cover the story, frustrating Peggy, who is eager to catch their train. When Earl is in danger of being discovered, Mollie creates a distraction by leaping from the third-floor window.
When Earl is caught, Hildy and Walter are arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive but are released when they discover the mayor and sheriff have colluded to keep secret a last-minute pardon of Earl by the governor. Walter grudgingly accepts that he is losing his ace reporter and presents him with a watch as a token of his appreciation. Hildy and Peggy set off to get married, and Walter telegraphs the next railway station to alert them that the man who stole his watch is on the inbound train and should be apprehended by the police.