Velma Kelly is one of the main characters of the musical Chicago. Kelly is an aloof nightclub singer/vaudevillian of the 20's, who plays sensationalist musical numbers at the jazz nightclub "The Onyx" in Chicago.
Velma Kelly and her sister Veronica had a double-act at "The Onyx", but one night before their show Velma caught her husband Charlie in the act with her sister Veronica, so she murdered both of them with a gun.
After acting and singing at "The Onyx”, Velma is arrested by the police and sent to the Cook County Jail waiting for a trial.
At jail, Velma is a celebrity and acts like the "Queen Bee" of the jail. She has a lot of money, so she has a lot of influence at jail.
Her clothes are washed specially for her by other jail inmates and the matron of the jail, Miss “Mama” Morton, does her a lot of favors like buying publicity for her. Velma has no remorse for her crimes (in her words "they had it coming"), but she tries to act innocent for the press, who in turn advertise her case in the media.
Her dearest friend at jail is the Matron "Mama" Morton.
For her defense she hires the best (and more expensive) lawyer of the city, Billy Flynn, who has never lost a case for a female client. Thanks to Flynn’s audacity, Velma is released from jail, free of charges after she collaborates as a witness for the District Attorney in the "Roxy Hart case".
Out of jail, she persuades her fellow inmate Roxie Hart (with whom she had an rocky relationship in jail because they both fought for media attention and publicity) to do an act together at the "Chicago Theatre". Velma says to her that two murderer vaudevillians together can have great success on stage. So, finally both of them have a hit at the "Chicago Theatre"
Velma is portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones as a vaudevillian with great talent and charm, but also as a smug and classist woman behind doors who dismisses the people she thinks are not "at her level" (like Roxie Hart).
On the contrary, she treats people with influence, like Matron "Mama" Morton and lawyer Billy Flynn, with tenderness and charm. She also treats some fellow inmates with respect (and she shows sadness when a fellow inmate is sentenced to death).
She also shows her emotional side when she feels alone at jail with no media attention, and is deeply hurt by the betrayal of her sister and her husband.
Velma Kelly character was based on a woman named Belva Gaertner. Belva was a cabaret singer who had been married and divorced twice. After those men had come and gone, she had a lover named Walter Law, who she thought was the right man for her.
On March 11, 1924, Belva shot Law, who was already married with one child. Law was found with a bottle of gin and a gun that had three shots fired next to him in the front seat of Belva's car. The next day, she was found at her apartment with bloody clothes on the floor. She claimed that she had been drunk and couldn't remember what had happened. She was arrested for the murder of Walter Law on March 12, 1924. During her interview with Maurine Watkins, Gaertner told Watkins that "gin and guns- either one is bad enough, but together they get you in a dickens of a mess, don't they." In court, her defense was that he could have committed suicide, and she was released in June 1924. She remarried her husband William Gaertner and was later convicted of drunk driving in 1926. In 1927, she attended the opening of Watkins play Chicago in Chicago, Illinois.
Musical numbers:- "All That Jazz":
Performed in the opening act when she goes to "The Onyx" to play her number. Right before, she murdered her husband Charlie and her sister Veronica. Veronica was supposed to be part of the act as well, but Velma performed it alone ashtonishing the audience.
Once she is done performing, she is arrested for the murder she committed prior to the show.
- "Cell Block Tango":
Her second musical number. Roxie Hart imagines this musical number while the convicted women of the jail explain to her their side of their stories. The inmates sing and dance while explaining it. Velma explains what happened to her husband and sister .- "I Can't Do It Alone":
Since the media has lately focused solely on the criminal case of Roxie Hart, Velma, knowing that Hart's dream is to be an artist, tries to convince Hart to join her in a double-act of vodevil (after being released from jail) to catch more press attention. Velma tries to convice her going through the different choreographies, verses, and stages of her performances that she did with her sister, Veronica.
- "Nowadays": The Hart/Kelly duo at the "Chicago Theatre" start their performance with this song. The song descrbe the Jazz & Women Liberation Movement at the 20's
- "Hot Honey Rag": After singing "Nowadays", Kelly and Hart perform this dance.
NUMBERS DELETED IN THE FINAL CUT OF THE FILM:- "Class":
In Matron "Mama" Morton's office at jail, Velma and Morton lament the disappearing morals in modern society, ironically using many vulgar obscenities during the song.
NUMBERS NOT SHOWED IN THE FILM:
- "When Velma Takes The Stand": Velma sings to Billy Flynn what she plans to do at her trial when she takes the stand.
- "I Know a Girl": Velma bitterly sings to the audience about Roxie Hart's recent good luck and notoriety.
- "My Own Best Friend": Velma and Roxie, after both have been completely forgotten by the media, sing that the only people they can count on are themselves.