I am not a huge fan of Kay Francis. I enjoy her acting she was not bad at all but there is something about her that I cannot enthusiastically like about her. In the films I have seen her in so far she always seems to just be there and look pretty. Her acting is not forceful and she was not funny or dramatic in a way that can grab my attention. With all this being said I must admit that I have a new admiration for Kay Francis after seeing her in Confession.
A nightclub singer named Vera (Francis) sees a man at a table with a young girl. She faints and is taken to the back. The man named Michael Michailow (Basil Rathbone) noticed Vera and leaves in a hurry. As he is leaving Vera calls out to him and shoots him. The court questions why Vera would want to shoot a man she does not know and she will not confess. A man brings in a suitcase of evidence that Vera and Michael knew each other. Vera shouts out “no!” before the suitcase can be open. She wants her statement heard behind closed doors with the court cleared of everyone present. She says what she has to say may not be appropriate for people to hear. The judge grants her wish.
Vera was performing with the opera Mazurka in Warsaw in 1912. Michael was the conductor for the opera. Vera was giving up her stage career for married life. Michael is upset she is getting married to another man. A few years later her husband Leonid is off fight in World War I and she is left alone with her daughter. Vera stays home all the time with her daughter. She is invited everywhere but never goes. The doctor tells her to go out and to stop worrying all the time. Vera goes out to a charity ball. Michael is there he sent her the invitation. A woman at the party name Zenia keeps giving Vera the eye. She is jealous of Michael paying attention to Vera.
They continue the party at Michael’s house. Zenis becomes furious with Michael and storms out. Vera has a lot to drink she wants to go home. Michael says he will take her but she is so drunk she has no idea what is going on. When she wakes up in the morning she is still at Michael’s place. Vera goes home. The maid judges her for staying out all night. Vera debates if she should tell her husband or not. She is so ashamed of herself she cannot look Leonid in the eye. Poor Leonid thinks she cannot look at him because of his missing arm. In the meantime Michael keeps sending her letters for them to meet. Zenia sees Vera walk into Michael’s apartment. All this time Vera believed it was Michael who was sending the letters when it has been Zenia driving her crazy. Zenia goes to Leonid about where he can find his wife. He sees Vera coming out of Michael’s place. Michael runs away so he will not have to testify in court. Leonid’s horror will not let him forgive Vera. He wants her to leave. According to the law Leonid will be the one who has sole custody of their daughter and Vera is to never see her again.
In court Vera says she was in the hospital for months after the divorce. When she came out Leonid and the daughter were gone he changed his name and she took up singing in cabarets. She always held on to the hope that she would see her daughter again. Eventually Vera found out where Leonid and her daughter lived. Vera had gone to see her daughter Lisa. Leonid had remarried and led his daughter to believe that the women he married was her real mother. Vera just tells the woman that she used to know Leonid and his first wife and just wanted to see him again. Leonid had died years before.
Vera tells the court she saw her daughter happy and that was good enough for her. The suitcase tells the truth that she is Lisa’s mother. She did not want that testimony to go public so Lisa would never know her real mother. When the people are allowed back in the prosecutor does not say what the circumstances were regarding them leaving and his changing his sentence. Instead of Vera receiving five years for murdering Michael she gets three because she was protecting a young girl.
As I mentioned at the beginning I have a whole new admiration for Kay Francis after watching this film. She was fantastic. You can see her character’s heartbreak and love for her daughter. As I also mentioned in the films I have seen of Francis’s so far she seems to have always played the same characters. She was glamorous or tough or romantic. Here she looked like she had been put through the ringer like life had definitely not been kind to her. For an old Hollywood actress to let themselves not look glamorous to me too a lot of courage and was only done when an actress was very dedicated to their craft. Kay Francis seems to have given everything she had with her talent to this role and she just nailed it.
Confession is a remake of a German film of the same title. Apparently the director made the film shot for shot of the original. There are two scenes that stand out as being completely different from the way American directors filmed scenes. When Lisa kisses Michael in her house she looks up at a ceiling fan she closes her eyes and sees it again. I loved it, if you have seen German Expressionist films you will most likely understand why I liked it so much. Confession is a fantastic film. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. It held my attention and my heart broke for Kay Francis’s character. Unfortunately Confession is not available on DVD or through Youtube. I was able to see the film through TCM. If the channel airs Confession again absolutely watch it.