I Confess (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Produced by||Alfred Hitchcock|
|Screenplay by||George Tabori
|Based on||the play Nos deux consciences
by Paul Anthelme
O. E. Hasse
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin|
|Editing by||Rudi Fehr|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||92 minutes|
|Box office||$2 million (US)|
I Confess is a 1953 drama film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Montgomery Clift as Fr. Michael William Logan, a Catholic priest, Anne Baxter as Ruth Grandfort, and Karl Malden as Inspector Larrue. Biographers say Hitchcock had trouble with "method" actors such as Clift and Paul Newman, who worked with him in Torn Curtain (1966).
In the book-length interview Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967), Hitchcock said he had hired Anita Björk as the female lead for I Confess, after seeing her in Miss Julie (1951). However, when she arrived in Hollywood with her lover and their baby, Warner Bros. insisted that Hitchcock find another actress.
Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift) is a devout Catholic priest in a church in Quebec City. To take care of the church and the rectory, Father Logan employs a caretaker, Otto Keller (O. E. Hasse), and a housekeeper, Otto's wife Alma (Dolly Haas), who are German immigrants with very little money, although in their homeland they were more affluent. Otto Keller also works part-time as a gardener for a few householders in Quebec City.
Very late one evening Keller asks if Father Logan will hear his confession. In the confessional, Keller confesses that he went to try to steal money from a person he gardens for, a rich lawyer called Villette, and in the process he killed him. Because of the binding nature of the secrecy of the confessional, Father Logan cannot tell the police anything he now knows about this crime. Keller also tells his wife about his deed, but tells her that the priest will not say anything because he cannot.
The next morning, Keller goes to Villette's house at his regularly scheduled time to work on the garden, and finds Villette's dead body and reports this to the police. Drawn by the commotion outside, Father Logan shows up at the crime scene and says he had an appointment with Villette, but is vague about what it was about. Both men leave after police question them, returning to the rectory and acting normally.
Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) discovers that two young girls witnessed a man leaving Villette's house wearing a cassock, saying that they were absolutely sure it was a priest. While this was just Otto's disguise, suspicion falls upon Father Logan himself (who cannot provide an alibi for the time of the murder, cannot talk about the confession he heard, and cannot name the true murderer). It gradually becomes apparent that Logan, in his early life before he became a priest, had a girlfriend, Ruth (Anne Baxter), who has always loved him and still does, even though she has been married to the Crown Prosecutor, Pierre (Roger Dann).
In flashbacks it is shown that Logan stopped writing to Ruth not long after he went off to war. After he came back, Ruth and Logan ended up stranded on an island during a storm, and were forced to shelter for the night in a gazebo. In the morning Villette finds them there, makes offensive comments about Ruth, and is punched by Logan. It turns out that Ruth had married Pierre without ever telling Logan, who then leaves her and does not see her for years. But Ruth is being blackmailed by Villette, as she refused his request to involve Pierre is helping Villette deal with a tax scandal. Both her and her husband's lives would be ruined if her previous relationship with Logan were made public, and so she had met with Logan on the night of the murder to ask him for advice about the blackmail situation.
Villette's death comes as a relief to Ruth, and these flashbacks come as she tells the police about her meeting with Father Logan in order to provide him an alibi. However, their meeting did not correspond exactly to the time of the murder and in fact suggests a possible motive. The police then assume that Father Logan killed the blackmailer Villette to protect Ruth and himself, and that there is an ongoing scandalous relationship between the two of them. The situation is made worse by Otto Keller, who lies extensively to the police in order to try to ensure that he himself is safe from suspicion and thus in effect is attempting to ensure that Father Logan is convicted of the murder.
Father Logan comes very close to being found guilty and executed for a crime he did not commit, a sort of martyrdom. At the end of his trial, he is just barely found "not guilty", but his reputation as a priest is ruined, and the people of Quebec City gather on the courthouse steps to revile him. Otto's wife cannot bear to see this, and starts to shout out that it was her husband who killed the man, but Otto pulls out a gun and shoots his wife in order to silence her.
Running away, Otto is cornered by the police in the grand ballroom of the Château Frontenac. The detective who investigated the story is unable to elicit any comment from Father Logan, and so suspects that Otto is in fact Villette's murderer, and asks him so. Otto then assumes that Father Logan has broken the secret of his confession. Otto declares his guilt and tries to shoot Father Logan, who bravely attempts to approach him and reason with him. Instead, Otto himself is fatally wounded by a police sharpshooter. In extremis Otto calls out to Father Logan to forgive him, and receives absolution.
- Montgomery Clift as Fr. Michael William Logan
- Anne Baxter as Ruth Grandfort
- Karl Malden as Inspector Larrue
- Brian Aherne as Willy Robertson
- Roger Dann as Pierre Grandfort
- Dolly Haas as Alma Keller
- Charles André as Fr. Millars
- O.E. Hasse as Otto Keller
- Donat Lauzier as SQ Police Officer
I Confess had one of the longest "preproductions" of any Hitchcock film, with almost 12 writers working on the script for Hitchcock over an eight-year period. (Hitchcock had taken time off for the wedding of his daughter Patricia Hitchcock in 1951, and Hitchcock was in the midst of dissolving his partnership in Transatlantic Pictures with Sidney Bernstein.) The original screenplay, following the source play, had the priest and his lover having an illegitimate baby, and the priest being executed at the end of the film. These aspects of the script were removed at the insistence of executives at Warner Brothers because they feared a negative reaction.
Shooting took place in Hollywood and Quebec in under two months. Hitchcock had planned on using Quebec-area churches at no cost. When the local diocese read the original script by George Tabori, it objected to the priest's execution and rescinded its permission. When Tabori refused to change the script, Hitchcock brought in William Archibald to rewrite it.
Hitchcock, as was his custom, created detailed storyboards for each scene. He could not understand Clift's Method acting technique and quickly became frustrated with Clift when he blew take after take for failing to follow Hitchcock's instructions.
Cognizant of the difficulty non-Catholics would have in understanding the priest's reluctance to expose Keller, Hitchcock said,
We Catholics know that a priest cannot disclose the secret of the confessional, but the Protestants, the atheists, and the agnostics all say, 'Ridiculous! No man would remain silent and sacrifice his life for such a thing.'
Alfred Hitchcock's cameo can be seen during the second minute -- right after the opening credits -- as he walks across the top of a steep stairway.
Film critic Father Peter Malone, MSC, has described I Confess as "the most Catholic film of Hitchcock's films."
Le Confessional, a 1994 film which dramatizes the filming of I Confess as the backdrop for a thematically-related story.
- 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954.
- TCM: I Confess notes Linked 2013-06-09
- Patrick McGilligan, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2002) via Google Books
- LaGuardia, Robert (1977). Monty: A Biography of Montgomery Clift. New York, Avon Books. ISBN 0-300-01887-X (paperback edition). p. 98.
- LaGuardia, p. 99.
- Irish Film website
- "Festival de Cannes: I Confess". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-22.
- Hitchcock's Confession: A Look at "I Confess", featurette included on the I Confess DVD
- Gray, Sadie. The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4686649.ece
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- I Confess DVD documentary
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to I Confess (film).|