User Reviews (28)

Add a Review

  • Kay Francis gives what is probably her best, most stunning performance in "Confession" - a near shot-by-shot remake of a 1935 Pola Negri soaper called "Mazurka" about a mother/singer who kills her former lover (Basil Rathbone) as soon as she finds out that he is about court her daughter (Jane Bryan). She is put on trial and asked to recount her story. This is a pretty much a routine "Madame X" weepie about maternal sacrifice but under the direction of Joe May, a German emigré who once collaborated with Fritz Lang in Germany, it becomes an amazingly stylish melodrama with sprawling narrative, expressionist outbursts, inventive camera movements, and interesting use of flashbacks. The final moments after the trial are tragic and sad. I love all Kay Francis' movies; "Confession", I think, is her very best.
  • drednm10 October 2008
    A remake of a 1935 film called MAZURKA and starring Pola Negri, Warners bought the rights and imported the story for Kay Francis, then the studio's #1 female star.

    Francis is nothing short of sensational in this film, a story about a woman wronged, motherly love, honor, and sacrifice. By today's standards this all seemed like high fiction, but in the hands of Francis and director Joe May, this becomes a very stylish and absorbing film.

    The direction and camera work are excellent. The music is also very good and helps set the scene. The supporting cast is very good also: Basil Rathbone, Jane Bryan, Veda Ann Borg, Ian Hunter, Laura Hope Crews, Donald Crisp, Robert Barrat, Ben Welden, and Mary Maguire.

    Francis is stunning here, mostly as a blonde. And she's quite believable as a singer, although the operetta is rather lame. Still she does well with lip syncing to several songs. But she's never turned in a better performance, going from the girlish singer in love, to the bored housewife who drinks a tad too much at a party, to the accused in a murder case. It's a tour de force performance that should have earned her an Oscar nomination.

    The film is beautifully directed by Joe May which is a surprise. A few years before this, May butchered a promising film version of the hit show MUSIC IN THE AIR which starred Gloria Swanson and John Boles. But here his direction is excellent, with lots of interesting camera angles and movement and some terrific composition. He certainly makes the most of the 86 minutes he has.

    They just don't make movies like this any more. This one has a good story, crisp pacing, and stunning work from one of the decades biggest and most underrated stars: KAY FRANCIS.
  • If you love old movies, here's another good one. Kay Francis is great as both Vera's. The happy, charming, wife-to-be, and the broken, sad woman destroyed by Basil's character. Considering all the bad movies made today, this movie inspires me to continue to look for old Hollywood treasures such as "Confession". I think the rest of the cast was good too!
  • Where has this movie been all my life. I've been a film buff since I was a little kid, and over the last 6 decades I would hope I have achieved a certain objective enthusiasm when it comes to films. That is why I was so blown away when I finally got to see this movie. I have to admit that I was never a real Kay Francis fan - until I saw her in "Confession". I had an epiphany much like I did with Virginia Bruce in "Kongo". She was great. Some of the close-ups were heartbreaking. Basil Rathbone is better than ever as the oily, sophisticated, morally corrupt, seducer. Jane Bryan does a credible job as the naive daughter in danger of losing her innocence. Watch for Veda Ann Borg in the role of Xenia (one of Basil's many conquests). The plot is fairly simple. A young woman (Francis) is seduced by, and ruined by, Basil Rathbone. She loses her husband and daughter and becomes a fallen woman who sings in seedy cafes for a meager living. After years of degradation, she accidentally meets Rathbone again, only to find that he is about to seduce her daughter! In an emotional explosion, she shoots and kills Rathbone and is tried for his murder. The flashbacks during the trial tell the story. The director, Joe May, does everything right. His training in German Cinema is evident throughout the movie. The atmospherics are stunning. Camera angles, shadow and light, close-ups, all work. I give it a 10 and wish I could give it more!
  • I am happy to see that other members of this board have discovered this film as well. I have been a Kay Francis fan for some time, and truly believe she was far underrated during her time. Many of her films follow the same mold, but there are a dozen or so which stand on their own. This was the film which first attracted me to her as a fan, and I was delighted by many of the films she did, particularly at Warner Brothers where she was "Queen of the Lot" for several years before Bette Davis. "Confession" ranks with "One Way Passage" and "Jewel Robbery" as her best films at Warner Brothers, although there are several "camp classics" as "Mandalay" and "Stolen Holiday". Although never nominated for an Academy Award, Francis certainly could have been a contender for "One Way Passage", "Trouble in Paradise", "Confession", and "In Name Only". "Confession" is probably her meatiest assignment: coming on as a woman of questionable virtue who shoots Basil Rathbone then has to reveal her reasoning without allowing the public to find out. In her blonde Dietrich like wig, Francis makes the audience aware that this is a worn woman, like Dietrich in "Blonde Venus", and in flashbacks, we get to see where she has gone, from a top singing diva to a tired cafe performer. I was riveted to the TV from the moment that Francis appeared until her sad but hopeful fadeout at the end. Jane Bryan, too, is very good as the young girl Basil Rathbone wants to take advantage of, and had she not left films to get married, she would have had a very promising career. In smaller roles, Laura Hope Crews and Ian Hunter are fine, and as the villain, Basil Rathbone is wonderfully hissable. Of course there will be the ultimate "Madame X" comparisons, but this film has enough style of its own to stand apart from the Fannie Hurst classic (filmed the same year with Gladys George).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In the grand tradition of MADAME X and STELLA DALLAS, this tale of murder, betrayal, lust, loss and a mother's sacrifice blows them all out of the water due to the fact that it really happened. "Ripped From Today's Headlines!", CONFESSION was based on a 1930 murder case that rocked Europe. Directed by UFA alumni Joe May, this Warner Bros. film was a near shot-for-shot remake of the 1935 Third Reich Pola Negri classic, MAZURKA, although the tale's earliest film version is RKO/Pathe's 1931 Pre-Code corker, MILLIE, starring that premiere "sob-sister of soap", Helen Twelvetrees.

    A brief synopsis of CONFESSION from "The Warner Bros. Story": Kay Francis, as a singer, endured almost as much as her audiences in CONFESSION. An unashamedly melodramatic film, it had its heroine performing in sidewalk cafés when, at the very least, she should have been gracing the opera houses of Europe! Not only that, but when she finds evil Basil Rathbone, who was once responsible for separating her from her husband and little girl, making advances to the same little girl who isn't so little anymore, she kills him. All too silly for words ...and for Joe May's limited directorial talents.

    The author seems ignorant of a few pertinent facts -the film is no sillier than the real-life events it depicted while director Joe May's talents need not be defended here. The author should also have been aware that CONFESSION was a conscious shot-for-shot remake of the 1935 German film. Producer Hal Wallis, stars Kay Francis & Basil Rathbone, the Warner Bros. cinematography, costume, and set design departments are all in peak form here and, as time passes, CONFESSION's reputation continues to grow.

    Film historian William K. Everson gives a more accurate assessment when he re-discovered this Hollywood Classic in "Films In Review": The plot ...pre-dates CITIZEN KANE in its narrative structure ...it is almost impossible to understand fully all of the plot ramification at one sitting ...Kay Francis, perhaps piqued by the knowledge that Bette Davis had turned this property down, professed not to like it at all, and reported that May was impossible to work with. CONFESSION's finest moment is also its most old-fashioned. After the trial, mother & daughter meet accidentally in the cheerless prison corridor. Both stand silently staring at one another, the daughter unaware of the other's relationship to her ...the mother unable to reveal her own emotions without giving away her secret. Then a ghost image leaves the mother's body to bestow the wish-fulfillment embrace that she cannot bestow in actuality. It is one of the most poignant and moving moments I can recall in any movie. Kay Francis is surprisingly good. For once its a role for an actress rather than a personality, and she does well with it ...Joe May believed in what he was doing and didn't feel superior to its tear-jerker category. CONFESSION is one of the very best and most handsomely mounted genre films ...a needed reminder (of) the German influence on Hollywood.

    Wavishing Kay Fwancis (the lady had occasional trouble with her "r's") is wonderful here and shows she's far more than a Depression Era "clothes horse". Francis has been unjustly forgotten by all but the most knowledgeable film buffs -but with two new biographies out, Kay has now begun to take her rightful place in Classic Film history. In CONFESSION, she artfully transforms from naive raven-haired operetta/revue star to cynical jade in platinum wig and alarming décolleté -and even growls a torch song: "One Hour Of Romance"! Warner's Bros. CONFESSION actually started out as MAZURKA with Kay Francis & Fredric March after Bette Davis refused the Francis role. But March had a commitment with David O. Selznick at the time and was replaced with Basil Rathbone -and the film's title changed to "One Hour Of Romance". Then director William Dieterle was replaced by Joe May and it all became CONFESSION. Anita Louise was slated to play Kay's daughter but was inexplicably replaced by Jane Bryan. This role would have been deja-vu for Anita -she had already played it. Louise was the daughter Helen Twelvetrees took a gun to protect in the 1931 RKO film MILLIE.

    May's precision-driven direction wasn't easy on the cast & crew -during the murder scene, he had Rathbone roll down the stairs ten times until it was "perfect". May was so enamored of the original MAZURKA he used a stopwatch to make sure CONFESSION's scenes ran exactly as long as the original Reich film. Kay Francis' diary entry for March 9, 1937 says "Joe May driving us all crazy" and Jane Bryan noted, "We were marching through the film like sleepwalkers." When filming was completed, the entire cast and crew presented Kay with an 18th century snuff-box containing a parchment that read: "A confession of our love & appreciation of Kay Francis". According to Kay's biographer: "The difficult Miss Francis, frequently reported terror of the sets, promptly broke down and cried like a baby." Audiences at the time loved the film. "Variety" wrote: "CONFESSION is a finely produced vehicle for Kay Francis ...Responsibility for the commercial career of the picture is tossed right into Miss Francis' lap. Despite some very fine supporting acting, the picture is all hers ...ideal material for any dramatic star." "Life Imitates Art Imitates Life" Department: Creaky tear-jerking chestnuts like MADAME X and STELLA DALLAS had already seen incarnation as silent films. One has to wonder: Did these films go through the head of the real-life woman (who saved a young girl from ever knowing what her real mother really was) as she pulled the trigger in 1930? Hmmm...

    Highly recommended for myriad reasons, CONFESSION reveals itself to be an amazing classic film experience!
  • This must be the best role Kay Francis ever had - and she rises to it, giving an astonishing performance. When you first see her - in blonde wig, singing and dancing Dietrich style but half-drunk - you know you're in for something different. As the film flashes back Francis transforms into an innocent young girl, and back to the present she stands with solemn dignity, a woman all but "washed-up". You'll never forget the final moments of this film.

    When Francis is not on, and it takes her a while to appear, the film is less extraordinary - but by no means bad. Jane Bryan's a bit wet, but Basil Rathbone is suitably slimy as her seducer. And there are strong performances from the wonderful Laura Hope Crews (Aunt Pitty-Pat as an opera singer) and the excellent Donald Crisp.

    But it is the visual style of the piece that, coupled with Francis' performance, makes the film unforgettable. The story goes that this is a frame by frame remake of a German film called "Mazurka" starring Pola Negri. This would explain why the film looks so different to the usual Hollywood style. There are bizarre camera angles, expressionist sequences, non-realistic moments, haunting music and bizarre costume, make-up and set designs. Joe May directs with a steady hand, and Sidney Hickox's cinematography and Orry-Kelly's costumes warrant special mention.

    This film deserves to be resurrected and re-assessed. It is one of the most original American films of the 1930's. It also makes me want to re-assess the career of Kay Francis, who is an actress I never warmed to before this film. See it and tell me what you think!
  • jotix10025 August 2006
    10/10
    Mazurka
    "Mazurka", the German hit movie of 1935, was rethought by Julius Epstein, one of the best writers in the business. The film that resulted was "Confession", a vehicle created for the delicious Kay Francis, who was at the height of her fame at the time. Joe May directed this classic film that will endear itself to all classic movie fans. "Confession" packs a lot in its 86 minutes running time, something that would take a lot more of screen time in the hands of other, self-indulgent directors.

    The film involves an older woman, Vera, who has had an unhappy life. She has been betrayed by the composer, and famous pianist, Michael Michailow, who abused her when she was young and full of life. That romance resulted in a girl, Lisa, who unknown to her, is being pursued by Michael Michalow himself! Supposedly, this story is based on an actual case that took place in Germany. It presented a different situation for American audiences, who were attracted by the unusual theme of the movie. We are all conditioned that crime must be punished, but in Vera's case, the killing is mitigated by what she is doing in order to protect Lisa, who is a naive, and decent, young woman.

    Kay Francis does an amazing job in her portrayal of Vera. This is one of her best films and it shows the care which the whole project underwent to accommodate its star. Ms. Francis, wearing a blonde wig, sings and dances and makes a tremendous impact that dominates the picture from beginning to end. Basil Rathbone is perfect as the villain Miachel Michailow. The sweet Jane Bryant appears as Lisa. Ian Hunter is seen as Leonid and Donald Crisp does a fine job as the presiding judge.

    They don't make movies like this anymore!
  • Kay Francis turns in a splendid performance by pulling out all the stops in this 1937 film.

    Basil Rathbone is the cad done in by Ms.Francis. He is his usual sinister self in an engaging performance.

    Ian Hunter plays the husband who didn't understand what had happened that night and comes to a bad conclusion.

    Francis is a great singer literally done in by the vicious Rathbone. One night of exciting living would result in a lifetime of torment, misery and ultimately murder.

    Jane Bryan is convincing as the vulnerable young lady who Francis kills for. Refusing to tell why she killed Rathbone, Francis finally talks when the court is cleared. Donald Crisp, as the sympathetic judge, is at his usual best.

    What makes this film so good is the appropriate ending.
  • This Kay Francis film is a textbook on how to act in a natural manner, even for the minor characters. The dialogue, expressions of the actors, direction and camera work make this little film a true gem. Note that there is no obscene language, nudity or violence for its own sake, and yet the message is very powerful and memorable. Perhaps someday a farsighted film company will come along and make films like this once again so that serious subjects can be viewed and absorbed by the whole family.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Confession" was a remake of Pola Negri's outstanding German success "Mazurka". "Mazurka" was originally planned as a co-production between America and Germany and also viewed as Negri's comeback film. Even though at the last moment it became a wholly German production and very successful, Negri was bitter when Warners, instead of releasing it, suppressed it with a view of remaking it.

    The director they chose was Joe May and (apart from his lack of Hollywood success) he had a similar path to Fritz Lang. While not a top director in Germany, he did have a modest success in the 20s, went to Hollywood to study production methods and returned to Germany to put them into practice. He then fled Germany to Hollywood where he wound up at Universal. "Confession" is both his most ambitious and best American movie. In 1937 Kay Francis' star was setting. Her box office appeal was faltering - "Tovarich" a prestigious property that was bought for her was given to Claudette Colbert, and the role in "Confession" had already been rejected by Bette Davis - thank heaven as it gave Kay the best role of her career.

    Even though Kay didn't make her appearance until 20 minutes into the movie - what a sensational entrance it was. Coiffed in a blonde wig, she is Vera Kowalska, a former Opera singer now a cabaret star, who sees Michael Michailow (Basil Rathbone), the cause of her life of misery, across a crowded room. With him is a young girl, who just happens to be Vera's daughter and Vera is determined to protect her at all costs.

    Initially, the emphasis is on Jane Bryan as Lisa. Bryan was a terrific find (a discovery of Bette Davis) - she plays her part with incredible sensitivity and it was a shame she left acting when she did. Michael, a rake, has observed Lisa at the Conservatory, where she is a music student and the first scene, as she is seeing her mother off on a 3 day visit, shows him putting his sneaky plan into action. She accepts some concert tickets from him and within a matter of days he has swept her off her feet - she thinks she is in love. Enter Vera, and with the sensational shooting on the stairs, the film is diverted from the dreamy "first love" romance and plunges into a high romantic and emotional drama - Kay Francis territory!!!

    "Confession" retains it's European local and the sets have a very stylized "German" look - the busy train station, the seedy Cabaret, the sombre Court and the elongated buildings - Anton Grot is partly responsible for that. The costumes and decor all fit into the period of 1912-1915 - unlike a lot of period films made at the time. Players to watch for - Veda Ann Borg was so glamorous (and jealous) as Michael's cast off mistress, Xenia, Ian Hunter played Vera's husband Leonine, a part that didn't warrant his second billing and Dorothy Peterson, as usual was the sympathetic and understanding Mrs. Kirow.

    Highly, Highly Recommended.
  • Looking older than her years, pretty Polish teenager Jane Bryan (as Lisa) finds herself seduced into kissing suave concert pianist Basil Rathbone (as Michael Michailow). On a date, they see beautiful lounge singer Kay Francis (as Vera) synching "One Hour of Romance" in a sexy costume. When Ms. Francis sees Mr. Rathbone, she faints. As it turns out, Francis has a past connection to Rathbone. Next, one of the film's two startling plot developments occurs, and we move to a murder trial. Francis takes her star position with a flashback to 1912 - and years thereafter, to 1930 - revealing a dark, melodramatic mystery...

    Francis proves herself a dynamic tragedienne, especially during the ending trial; darkly costumed, with blonde hair, she emotes fiercely and looks glorious. Ian Hunter (as Leonide Kirow) is credited as the leading man, but he is a supporting player, with relatively little to do. The real leading man is Rathbone, who takes full advantage of a delicious role. "Confession" is a shot-by-shot re-make of Willi Forst's "Mazurka" (1935), which starred Pola Negri (a very influential "silent" actress who lost favor when off-screen affairs preempted on-screen performances). The direction, Joe May swiping Mr. Forst, is excellent.

    ******* Confession (8/19/37) Joe May ~ Kay Francis, Basil Rathbone, Jane Bryan, Dorothy Peterson
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Confession is one of Kay Francis' best Warner vehicles. Made just before Warners dumped her in B movies in 1937, it showcases Kay at her very best. Suffering nobly for past sins; Mother Love; Murder! It's all way over the top and full of Hollywood coincidences, but a perfect example of the classy soaps they made back in the 30's. A remake (shot for shot) of a German Pola Negri vehicle (even to the length of the scenes), Married Kay loses her reputation, thanks to baddie Basil Rathbone (in this version, Kay winds up passing out at his place, in full clothes! One imagines the Negri vehicle had more steam involved) Kay hits the skids and becomes a seedy cabaret entertainer (this part is fun) tarted up a la Dietrich and singing (probably dubbed) But tragedy strikes once again as her long lost daughter (who does not know Kay is her mother)falls for caddish Rathbone (who makes a reappearance) and Kay takes the law in her own hands. The story unfolds in flashbacks as Kay goes on trial. The story requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, but is so well done, you just go along with it! If you ever wondered why Kay Francis was such a big star, this movie shows why. Enjoy it!
  • This movie is underrated.It is an exceptional tearjerker.This movie exemplifies the statement "they don't make them like they used to". KAY FRANCIS absolutely steals this movie & puts it over the top. An all time classic for it's genre.HAPPY BIRTHDAY - KAY FRANCIS!
  • This film really hits you in the solar plexus. It is brilliantly directed by Joe May (real name Joseph Mandel), who as a refugee from Nazi Germany never really reached his true level in Hollywood, except with this masterpiece. The film has overwhelmingly powerful performances from Kay Francis as Wanda and Jane Bryan as Lisa, with convincing and sinister support from the incomparable Basil Rathbone, who really knew how to be a smoothie creep when he had to be. The film is almost a frame-by-frame remake of the 1935 German film 'Mazurka', in which the lead role played here by Kay Francis was played by Pola Negri, apparently to gut-wrenching intensity, though I have never seen 'Mazurka' and long to do so. Both films are taken from a real-life murder case of 1930 in Germany which electrified the country at that time. The story is extraordinarily tragic and sad, and the combination of Joe May, Kay Francis, and Jane Bryan make this a deeply emotional experience. Jane Bryan was a dazzling creature, the epitome of brooding innocence, on screen, and as my wife said when we had watched the film, 'when she is not speaking, she is obviously thinking all the time, which most of them don't'. She was such a superior young actress, and it was a tragedy for the cinema that she quit the business early, aged only 22. But she did later persuade her chum Ronald Reagan to run for Governor of California, so she made history instead. (Which is more important, history or movies? Or is there always a difference?) Kay Francis, who always specialized in restrained bottled-up emotion which she could release judiciously under carefully-controlled high-pressure, does more than her stuff in this film. What a knockout the whole thing is. And all those classical musicians and grand pianos and opera singers, very stylish. As for the ermine and gowns, help! This film is so intense, you need to wear protective clothing.
  • Kay Francis, (Vera Kowalska) gave a great performance and she wore great clothes which added to her charm in 1937. This story takes off with a young girl who is studying piano and is very close to her mother and she is very sheltered and innocent. Vera is approached by a much older man, Michael Michailow, (Basil Rathbone) who invites her to a concert where he is the performing artist on piano. Michael tries to sweep Vera off her feet and vows that he will never give up on becoming her lover. However, Michael is an over sexed womanizer who leaves one gal for another in a very brief period of time. Leonide Kirow, (Ian Hunter) is a boyfriend of Vera and they get married and have a baby girl and everything is going fine until Leonide has to go to war and Vera just pulls herself into her home with her child and has no social life. It is at this point in the film when things really start to happen in the life of Vera. This is a great Kay Francis film and her acting is outstanding. Enjoy.
  • "Confession" is a remake of a German film ("Mazurka") and as I watched, I wondered why in the heck anyone would want to remake this film! After all, it seemed to be poorly written. HOWEVER, I fought my urge to stop watching and am very glad I did, as it turned out to be a dandy old film. So my advice is to stick with this one....it is well worth your time.

    The film begins with a young and rather impressionable young girl falling into the clutches of a bit of a lecher (Basil Rathbone). I couldn't understand this--he was so suave and handsome and I kept wondering why he wanted this teenager. You'll probably think the same--just keep watching. I was shocked out of my disbelief when, suddenly, Rathbone's character is shot dead!!! Considering this is only about 20-25 minutes into the film, I was flabbergasted. What was going on? Well, I would love to give you a clue but I can't...it would spoil the film. Suffice to say, the payoff is well worth it in this really well made soap opera. I particularly loved the artistry of the final scene...which you just have to see for yourself. Some might dislike how old fashioned the plot is but compared to the other films of the day, this one is just terrific--and with a really nice performance by Kay Francis---probably the best of her career. See this one and have hanky nearby...just in case.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's hard to leave a situation where the truth can't be known or you aren't free to express your side of things. Very difficult, and something I personally never encountered until this month. My friend said to just hug them on a Soul level...and that advice was right on. As I meditated on what she said, this classic film came to mind. I love films. Especially films like this. They get me excited about the magic of film making. This movie is superbly acted and directed and set in Poland a long, long time ago. It's a movie which most people will never see, and I'm not even sure how you can get it. This is a must see. I agree with the other reviewer that the lighting, camera work and direction are all quite good, in fact, very much superior to the stuff being made today. The thing that bugs me about this film is that you can't mention what it's really about without spoiling it, so yourself a favor and watch this movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Confession (1937) Kay Francis, Basil Rathbone, Ian Hunter. Kay as a fallen woman, being tried for the murder of the man (Rathbone) who caused her to lose her husband and baby daughter. One of Kays best performances in a remake of a German film. The trial and Kay telling her story about losing her daughter and killing the man who caused her downfall when she sees him with the girl, sways the Judge and jury and at the end she is sentenced to time served plus two years. Rathbone is suitably charming and despicable at once. Ian Hunter is fine in a small role as the warrior who comes home without an arm and discovers his wife has been unfaithful. One of Kays best roles. She wears her usual great wardrobe and her walk down the long prison hall, all shadows and dust in the air, is one of the great endings for a woman's film. 8/10
  • Caught "Confession" on TCM. Never heard of Kay Francis and this movie. But WOW! I was immediately hooked anyway.

    Watching Kay saunter through the crowd with the most natural portrayal of a saucy cabaret singer with attitude to rival any Cagney performance made me feel like I was watching someone more sophisticated and modern for that time period. Pay particular attention to Kay's facial expressions talking between her singing "One Hour Of Romance". She owned the crowd and that scene along with the later courtroom performance. A striking woman indeed.

    It's rare I catch these kind of naturally acted moments in these old films because most are stiffly delivered with predictably paced speech patterns picked up from a Broadway theater "over" acting style but this one along with Crawford/Gable's "Forsake All Others" gives you a glimpse of the real personalities of these actors and their natural charisma revealed in a relaxed and honest acting style that draws you in and makes you want to watch them.
  • 1937's Confession was a huge hit for Kay Francis, who would soon find Warner Brothers trying to drive her and her big money contract out of the studio with bad scripts. I love when these studios have amnesia about the money a star has made for them.

    Confession is a Madame X-type of film, with Francis as a tired, blond cabaret performer a la Dietrich on trial for killing a composer/conductor (Basil Rathbone). She refuses to say anything in her defense, but eventually, she tells her story. In flashback, we see the character of Vera as a young opera singer who gives up her career for love.

    The studio treatment of "Confession" was similar to the treatment given "Algiers" - Warners bought up all the prints of "Mazurka," the European version of this film, and kept it from being seen outside of Germany. Walter Wanger tried to buy up all the prints of "Pepe le Moko" when he made Algiers - fortunately, in that case, the ploy didn't work.

    The cast is good, with Francis doing a great job as Vera. Rathbone is appropriately dashing and slimy as Michael. Jane Bryan (who married Rexall Drugs and retired) gives an odd performance. Her character, Lisa, keeps saying that she doesn't want to see Michael, yet does - that's understandable, but when she's with him, she acts miserable and like she doesn't want to be there. Not that I blame her, but why go out with him in the first place? She doesn't exhibit, for me anyway, the sexual desire and excitement that would make her nervousness and discomfort believable.

    Very good film, recommended, especially for a stunning Kay Francis performance.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Fans of "Madame X" and other films of its ilk will likely enjoy this saga of a woman who will endure anything, up to and including capital punishment, in order to protect another young woman's integrity. Francis plays a weary, painted-up nightclub singer who shoots down a man (Rathbone) for no apparent reason after she catches him passionately kissing young and virginal Bryan in the darkened corner of her latest gig. She's placed on the stand and refuses to speak in her own defense until she's forced to by the introduction of a piece of evidence. In a closed courtroom, she recounts her relationship with Rathbone and her life from a promising career in opera up to the present. Meanwhile, Bryan waits for a verdict, confounded as to why Francis would give a hang about her welfare or her reputation. Francis, who is given a meaty role with a massive character arc to it, delivers a strong, heartfelt performance. She's given a variety of looks from drop-dead Orry-Kelly creations to tacky stage get-ups and her hairstyles and colors differ dramatically with the passage of time as well. Second-billed Hunter barely appears at all as her soldier husband. Rathbone, always a striking and riveting villain, scores as the man whose selfish feelings toward Francis result in the dismantling of several lives. Bryan, who was a very promising actress until she retired to marry, does a fine job as the restless young lady who falls under Rathbone's spell. Other solid work is turned in by Crisp, as a judge and from Crews as a flighty opera pal of Francis' (though it's asking a lot of the audience to suggest that any type of considerable singing voice could come from her trademark scratchy pipes!) Borg also makes a mark as a possessive conquest of Rathbone's. The film (a close remake of an earlier Pola Negri work called "Mazurka") is bathed in creative camera-work and stylish imagery, setting it apart from other Hollywood films of the time. There's also a rather revolutionary, for films of this period, handling of a flashback that takes place during an already-witnessed scene between Bryan and her mother. Noteworthy also, is a moment between Francis and Bryan in which Francis fantasizes interaction different from what is truly taking place. Considered by many to be Francis' finest hour, it is, in any case, yet another fine example of a genre that includes "The Secret of Madame Blanche" and "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" among others. Incidentally, Ross Hunter and David Miller HAD to have seen this film when they remade "Madame X" in 1966 as Lana Turner faces several similar predicaments as Francis, not the least of which is the inopportune timing of her husband's return, the skulking visit to the cad who's causing all the problems and the house filled with a seemingly unending set of stairs!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Seeing films made in the 1930's are ofttimes interesting glances back at social history and how much things have changed over the years.

    This black and white film reminded me a bit of "Stella Dallas", where Barbara Stanwyck lost her daughter, due mainly to Stella's "bad taste" in clothes.

    In "Confession", Vera Kowalska (Kay Francis)loses her daughter due to a moment of indiscretion, where she drank too much champagne at a party and was taken by a rake, Michael(Basil Rathbone), back to his apartment, where she awakens the following morning - her make-up perfect, without a hair out of place, her evening gown likewise, and Michael nowhere in sight.

    Nonetheless in those days that apparently was all it took for a woman's reputation to be ruined forever.

    Vera's husband, Leonide Kirow(Ian Hunter) takes their baby daughter and Vera doesn't even get visitation rights. In fact, he marries again and the little girl is told nothing and believes the step-mother to be her biological mother.

    Michael, the rake, an extraordinary pianist, goes on his merry way seducing more "innocent" women. Eventually he begins to work his charms on a young woman named Lisa (Jane Bayan), who lives at home with her widowed mother.

    Lisa, although looking to be in her early twenties, is apparently a very sheltered young woman. I think we are told that she has never even been out on a date with a man prior to Michael. This is apparently the normal course for young, unmarried ladies in those times--they lived chastely at home and went nowhere unless properly escorted, and perhaps even chaperoned.

    Except for a few passionate kisses, nothing else occurs between Lisa and Michael, but they are sneaking around and Lisa is careful to keep her romance with Michael a secret from her mother--who was out of town when the romance began.

    Lisa is a strange young woman, apparently very repressed, she does quite a lot of staring blankly and saying very little.

    One evening Michael takes Jane to a nightclub/restaurant. There is a cabaret singer there and when she sees Michael kissing Lisa, it leads to tragedy.

    A trial takes place, and the woman on trial at first will say nothing but eventually says she will tell them why she killed, but only if the courtroom is cleared, as what she has to say is of a 'far too delicate nature' for the ears of but a few.

    Needless to say, this "shocking" testimony is far from shocking by today's standards, and it's hard to believe it was even THAT shocking then.

    6 stars.
  • The title for the film immediately makes one want to see it, and anybody that reads the plot summary are likely to find themselves intrigued. There were a couple of other reasons for wanting to see 'Confession'. One was the cast, have liked Kay Francis in a good deal of other things (though some are cases where she is better than the other) and am a fan of Basil Rathbone. Joe May was an important figure in his day but has been over-shadowed over-time by Fritz Lang by FW Murnau.

    Which is a shame because May proved with the likes of 1929's 'Asphalt' that he could do great work. 'Confession' is another example of May greatness, one of his best. It has often been compared to 'Mazurka' with Pola Negri, namely because it has pretty much the same plot with similarities with that film's score, costumes and camera angles. This doesn't matter though, because 'Confession' is a great film in its own way and doesn't feel too derivative even with the similarities.

    'Confession' is a little bit of a slow starter and the structure takes a little getting used to.

    Once it gets going though, 'Confession' is excellent pretty much all round. It looks fantastic, not quite as visually innovative as 'Asphalt' but the visual style seen in that film is here too. The photography in particular is dazzling, with some truly inspired and atmospheric use of camera angles. The elaborate and very meticulously detailed settings and eeriness of the lighting can also be seen. The music score is haunting, the use of pre-existing music cleverly used.

    May's direction is very accomplished, the best of it actually is so superb (especially on a technical level) that it really is a shame that he is not better known now. The script is intelligently written yet doesn't ramble or be too over-literate. The story is a slow starter, but from the twenty minute mark to the end it kept me on the edge of my seat. The final moments are very moving.

    Francis is truly fabulous here, not just elegant but also at her most intense and the tragic aspects of her character are movingly conveyed. It is a strong contender for her best performance. Rathbone is great as usual, in a role with characteristics that he was always very good at doing to a high standard in everything he did. Jane Bryan, Laura Hope Crews and the ever reliable Donald Crisp are strong support.

    Summing up, excellent. 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    NOTES: A re-make of Mazurka (1935), an Austrian film directed by Willi Forst from a screenplay by Hans Rameau, starring Pola Negri, Albrecht Schoenhals, and Ingeborg Theek.

    COMMENT: Amazing film. Realizing the brilliance of the 1935 Willi Forst Mazurka, director Joe May tried to reprise it exactly in sets, costumes, photography, camera movement and frame compositions, and editing. He even timed the original performances with a stop-watch with typical German thoroughness and insisted that the players deliver their lines at exactly the same speed - much to the consternation and protests of Basil Rathbone and particularly Kay Francis. The music is also taken from the original film (with English lyrics by Jack Scholl).

    The result is a film that is as unlike a Hollywood movie as it was possible to be. Rathbone, despite his objections, is excellent. Even Francis is good, particularly in the earlier part of the film before the melodramatic Madame X plot defeats conviction and any actress's sincerity.

    Hunter is wet (fortunately his part is small) but the rest of the cast is fine, particularly Jane Bryan who gives a moving, convincing, compelling performance (despite her protestations). Francis' singing voice of course is dubbed (though she recites a line or two in her own voice). Donald Crisp is a little mechanical, but the other players show little sign of May's stop-watch.

    The milieu, the bustling crowds, the sets, the lighting perfectly capture the noirish look of the Forst original. Confession is one of the most fascinating and visually unusual movies to come out of Hollywood - ever! OTHER VIEWS: Although it is based on a true story (and is probably the most accurate of many screen transcriptions), the plot is a familiar one and indeed bears many close similarities to that standard old melodramatic warhorse Madame X (and its many off-shoots like Frisco Jenny). Nonetheless, Confession is engrossing entertainment, though it could stand a little trimming. Ian Hunter is rather wet as the lady's punctilious husband (why she would want to marry such a cold fish is incomprehensible), but fortunately his part is small. Donald Crisp is his usual self as the judge but the other parts are acted with considerable polish and acumen. Kay Francis, expertly made up and costumed to look like Pola Negri in the Austrian film, even sings (passably). Rathbone is perfect as the subtle seducer. Jane Bryan, while she is a rather colorless personality, is ideal for the part.

    The direction whether original or copied, is often stunningly inventive and there is an Eisenstein-like rhythm in the film editing that captures the attention. The sets and decor are extremely lavish and the film has been realized on a staggeringly high budget.
An error has occured. Please try again.