Friday, April 10, 2009

Confession (1937)

Director: Joe May
USA 1937
87 min

Original, rather corny, trailer for Confession.

Interesting, and unfortunately, enough, I can't find any information at all about this law suit! Please, feel free to alarm me if you find anything.
Before I go on describing the plot, I just want to explain the abundance of screen shots in some of my posts. My thought is like this: If a film, like this one, is not among the most accessible ones, I thought I'd share more of my own screen shots to give you a little more to it. At least I would appreciate it, so I hope it only makes you pleased!

The film (a close remake of the German film Mazurka, 1935, starring Pola Negri) begins with Lisa (Jane Bryan) bidding farewell to her mother at a train station. When the train has left the station she meets up with her friend, Hildegard (Mary Maguire). They soon notice the presence of a tall, handsome man looking at them.

A man at the station comes up to the young girls and hands over an envelope from the man, consisting of two theatre tickets. After some hesitation from Lisa's side, the girls decide to go.
They are, of course, expecting the man to turn up at a seat next to them, but they soon realize that he is the attraction - pianist Michael Michailow (Basil Rathbone). He sends them another note (see screen shot below), asking them to meet him outside the theatre after the performance.

When they meet him outside he asks them out for dinner. Only Lisa can go, so Hildegard leaves for home. Michael and Lisa go to a fancy restaurant to eat. Michael soon shows Lisa a lot of affection, making one think about his intentions (and how legal they may be).
The next day she finds that her piano teacher has been replaced by Michael. Alarming things happen...

Lisa is a bit troubled about this, especially now with her mother home again. She tries not to have any contact with him, but gives in after Michael has phoned her at home, pleading for him to meet her again.
They meet up at a night club, where singer Vera Kowalska (wonderful Kay Francis) works. The camera switches between the singing Vera and the discussing Michael and Lisa in their booth. Suddenly, the spot lights turns to the couple, now kissing. Vera sees it, catches Michael's eye and, quite unexpecting, faints.
Michael decides to leave the night club with a confused Lisa at his arm. At the top of some stairs they hear Vera shout for Michael, turns around and... Michael is shot dead.

This is where we get to understand that the first part of the film was a flash back, re-told by Lisa in court. The court now wants the accused, Vera, to tell her story, but she remains silent. It is not until the court decides to open a suit case belonging to Vera, that she agrees to co-operate. But she will not tell her story in front of an audience, but in closed court.

Vera confesses, in closed court, her history with Michael. (Don't worry, I won't reveal the ending! But it sure is a great twist of the story.)

Michael is the conductor of the theatre where Vera sings.

Dancing the Mazurka.

The party continues at Michael's place, where Vera gets quite intoxicated and is followed home by Michael.

What happens next is merely indicated by whirling pictures and Vera's despair and need to clean herself.

The question is: Why did Vera kill Michael?
We get to know the answer, by the suberb acting of Kay Francis that goes from a glorious, successful opera singer to a happy mother and wife, to an abandoned wife working in shabby night clubs.
I guess this film is shown once in a while on TCM (since the copy I got ahold of was recorded from that channel), so keep an eye open if you haven't seen it!
And of course, a special tribute to the wonderful Basil Rathbone, always capable of playing psychologically complicated and doubtful characters with such grace and control. He is my hero.

As usual, I'll end the post with a kiss.


k5psb said...

I think this was the first non-sherlockian Basil Rathbone film I ever saw. I've never been a huge Rathbone fan, but I watched this film because I'll watch anything with Kay Francis in it. Truthfully, I found Kay's blonde curls somewhat distracting, but Rathone was great as the musical Lothario.

Lolita said...

Welcome to my blog! I love Kay Francis too, and I was quite surprised to see her in blonde hair! But I must say that I'm impressed by how they managed to make her look worn down by the hair and her tired eyes. It was nothing that bothered me, just fascinated me.
And for Rathbone - I always adore him.

PeggyA said...

Mary Maguire is my relative :) I haven't seen this film yet but I'm anxious to.