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HISTORY

The play by French-Canadian Paul Anthelme, Nos deux consciences (Our Two Consciences) , upon which the film was based, was published in 1902; no performance dates have been determined. Anthelme was a journalist who also wrote under the name Paul Bourde. In May 1947, a HR news item reported that Transatlantic Pictures, the company owned by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein, had bought the rights to Nos deux consciences , and a treatment from writer-agent Louis Verneuil. Verneuil had previously acquired the property from Anthelme's nephew and heir. According to some modern sources, Hitchcock, who was reared a Catholic, had expressed interest in filming the story as early as the 1930s. In 1948, according to a modern source, Hitchcock and his wife Alma wrote a treatment of the play, and a May 1948 HCN news item announced that Van Johnson would play the part of the priest. Thereafter, according to modern sources, at least three other writers, William Rose, Leslie Storm and Paul Vincent, worked on drafts of the script, and Hitchcock and his wife Alma tried unsuccessfully to interest both Graham Greene and Samson Raphaelson in the project.
       When Transatlantic dissolved, the rights were sold to Warner Bros., but Hitchcock retained the right to work on the project at a later date. According to a modern source, when Hitchcock was going through a depressed period in his life, Alma, for whom a character in the film was named, was able to reinterest Hitchcock in the work and the two scouted Quebec City locations. Hitchcock told a NYT reporter in Aug 1952, that he chose that city for the filming because ... More Less

The play by French-Canadian Paul Anthelme, Nos deux consciences (Our Two Consciences) , upon which the film was based, was published in 1902; no performance dates have been determined. Anthelme was a journalist who also wrote under the name Paul Bourde. In May 1947, a HR news item reported that Transatlantic Pictures, the company owned by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein, had bought the rights to Nos deux consciences , and a treatment from writer-agent Louis Verneuil. Verneuil had previously acquired the property from Anthelme's nephew and heir. According to some modern sources, Hitchcock, who was reared a Catholic, had expressed interest in filming the story as early as the 1930s. In 1948, according to a modern source, Hitchcock and his wife Alma wrote a treatment of the play, and a May 1948 HCN news item announced that Van Johnson would play the part of the priest. Thereafter, according to modern sources, at least three other writers, William Rose, Leslie Storm and Paul Vincent, worked on drafts of the script, and Hitchcock and his wife Alma tried unsuccessfully to interest both Graham Greene and Samson Raphaelson in the project.
       When Transatlantic dissolved, the rights were sold to Warner Bros., but Hitchcock retained the right to work on the project at a later date. According to a modern source, when Hitchcock was going through a depressed period in his life, Alma, for whom a character in the film was named, was able to reinterest Hitchcock in the work and the two scouted Quebec City locations. Hitchcock told a NYT reporter in Aug 1952, that he chose that city for the filming because "in no American city do you find a priest walking down the street in a cassock." Although William Archibald and George Tabori, who are credited onscreen, were hired to collaborate on the script, Barbara Keon, who is listed onscreen as production associate, worked with Hitchcock on some of the difficult scenes, according to a modern source. I Confess was the first produced screenplay of Tabori (1914--2007), although the 1950 release Crisis (see above) was based on one of his short stories. The Hungarian-born Tabori went on to write, direct and act for film, television and the theater, both in the U.S. and Europe.
       An unidentified news item dated Sep 1952, found in the AMPAS Library file for the film, reported that Swedish actress Anita Björk was hired to play the part of "Ruth" opposite Montgomery Clift. Modern sources explain that when Björk arrived in Quebec, unmarried and pregnant, she was let go, as Warner Bros. feared offending a public that had recently shunned Ingrid Bergman for her extra-marital affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo by walking at the top of a flight of outdoor stairs near the beginning of the film. In a Jun 1953 HR news item, the assignment of John Beckman as art director was reported; however, only Edward S. Haworth is listed onscreen.
       According to the DV review, several Quebec City landmarks appear in the film: Chateau Frontenac, Parliament Building, Lévis ferry and Saint Zéphirin-de-Stadacona Church. The flashback scenes in which Ruth Grandfort tells the police about her romance with Logan are shown as a montage with music and Ruth's voice-over narration, but without dialogue. I Confess marked German actress Dolly Haas's only American film. Haas, who died in 1996, was the wife of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.
       Modern sources report that Hitchcock was disappointed by the lukewarm reception of I Confess , and later judged it to be heavy-handed and lacking his usual humor and subtlety. Homosexual implications of the storyline have been discussed in some modern sources, although, other than the celibacy of Logan, no overt mention of sexuality is made in the film.
       A Lux Radio Theatre production of I Confess was broadcast on 21 Sep 1953, starring Cary Grant and Phyllis Thaxter. In 1995, a French Canadian film titled Le confessional , which was inspired by I Confess , was produced by the Montreal company Cinemaginaire, Great Britain's Enigma and France's Cine-A. The film marked the directorial debut of Robert LePage and starred Luthaire Bluteau and Patrick Goyette. Although the 1995 film's storyline departed from the earlier plot, the original Quebec City location was retained and two cast members from the 1953 version, Renee Hudon and Gilles Pelletier, were used. In Le confessional , Kristin Scott Thomas portrayed a fictional assistant to Hitchcock during the filming of I Confess . More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Dec 52
pp. 524-25, 546-47, 549.
Box Office
14 Feb 1953.
---
Daily Variety
5 Feb 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
5 Feb 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
4 May 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 1947.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 52
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 52
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1994.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Feb 53
p. 1709.
New York Times
24 Aug 1952.
---
New York Times
23 Mar 53
p. 28.
New Yorker
4 Apr 1953.
---
Newsweek
2 Mar 1953.
---
Variety
11 Feb 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Cost
Men's ward
Cost
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod assoc
Gen mgr
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Loc auditor
Asst loc auditor
Elec gen op
Transportation gaffer
Driver
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Nos deux consciences by Paul Anthelme (production undetermined, 1902).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Love, Look What You've Done to Me," music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington.
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 February 1953
Premiere Information:
Quebec City, Quebec opening: 12 February 1953
Montreal opening: 13 February 1953
Production Date:
21 August--22 October 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 February 1953
Copyright Number:
LP2287
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
95
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16036
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Quebec, in the sanctuary of his church late one night, Father Michael Logan finds Otto Keller, the German refugee who is employed as the rectory handyman. After asking Logan to hear his confession, the distressed Keller proceeds to tell how he killed a lawyer, Vilette, while trying to rob him. Later, Keller tells his wife Alma, who also works at the rectory, that Logan is barred from reporting the crime by the seal of the confessional. The next day, Keller proceeds to the Vilette mansion, where he is employed one day a week as gardener, and after returning the stolen money, alerts the police of Vilette's murder. The troubled Logan also appears at Vilete's, saying that he has an appointment, and is seen whispering to a woman on the street. Later, Inspector Larreau, who is in charge of the investigation, interviews two schoolgirls, who saw a priest leaving Vilette's house between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. Suspicious of Logan, Larreau asks him to come to the station. Meanwhile, the anxious Keller hides the bloody cassock he wore on the night of the murder in Logan's room. At the station, Larreau questions Logan about his appointment with Vilette and the woman with whom he was seen, but Logan refuses to answer or provide an alibi for the night of the murder. Feeling certain that Logan is the killer, Larreau calls the Crown prosecutor, Willie Robertson, who is socializing with a member of Parliament, Pierre Grandfort and his wife Ruth, unaware that she was the woman outside Vilette's. The next day, Ruth secretly meets Logan on a ferry and tells him to admit to the police that they were together on ... +


In Quebec, in the sanctuary of his church late one night, Father Michael Logan finds Otto Keller, the German refugee who is employed as the rectory handyman. After asking Logan to hear his confession, the distressed Keller proceeds to tell how he killed a lawyer, Vilette, while trying to rob him. Later, Keller tells his wife Alma, who also works at the rectory, that Logan is barred from reporting the crime by the seal of the confessional. The next day, Keller proceeds to the Vilette mansion, where he is employed one day a week as gardener, and after returning the stolen money, alerts the police of Vilette's murder. The troubled Logan also appears at Vilete's, saying that he has an appointment, and is seen whispering to a woman on the street. Later, Inspector Larreau, who is in charge of the investigation, interviews two schoolgirls, who saw a priest leaving Vilette's house between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. Suspicious of Logan, Larreau asks him to come to the station. Meanwhile, the anxious Keller hides the bloody cassock he wore on the night of the murder in Logan's room. At the station, Larreau questions Logan about his appointment with Vilette and the woman with whom he was seen, but Logan refuses to answer or provide an alibi for the night of the murder. Feeling certain that Logan is the killer, Larreau calls the Crown prosecutor, Willie Robertson, who is socializing with a member of Parliament, Pierre Grandfort and his wife Ruth, unaware that she was the woman outside Vilette's. The next day, Ruth secretly meets Logan on a ferry and tells him to admit to the police that they were together on the night of the murder, but Logan refuses, as he wants to protect her. However, Murphy, one of Larreau's men, sees them together and reports their meeting to Larreau. Reluctantly, Robertson asks Ruth to visit the station. There, with Larreau, Robertson, Pierre and Logan present, Ruth says she is being blackmailed and that she met with Logan on the night of the murder between nine and eleven o'clock to ask his advice. Although both Pierre and Logan try to protect her, Larreau presses for details. Believing the truth will prove Logan's innocence, Ruth tells a story that explains how she and Logan, who had been childhood sweethearts, were also in love as young adults: When war breaks out, Logan, always serious and noble, volunteers for military service and after a while, Ruth no longer hears from him. She eventually marries Pierre, but after the war, meets again with Logan. Without telling him she is married, she spends a day on an island talking to him. When a storm suddenly hits, they miss the last ferry out and take cover in a nearby summer house, where they spend a chaste night together. The next morning, Vilette, the owner of the house, spots them and recognizes Ruth. Afterward, she sees neither Logan nor Vilette. Five years later, Vilette shows up at Logan's ordination and continues to appear to Ruth in unlikely places. Later, Vilette threatens to blackmail her. Fearing scandal for both Pierre and Logan, Ruth meets with Logan to get his advice without telling Pierre. She and Logan plan to meet in front of Vilette's house the following morning, unaware that Vilette has been murdered. Back in the present, Robertson sends Logan and the Grandforts home, as Ruth has provided an alibi for Logan. However, Larreau tells Robertson that the autopsy report has placed Vilette's time of death after 11:30 p.m., which would have given Logan time to kill Vilette after meeting with Ruth, and that Ruth's testimony has suggested a motive for the killing. The next day, Keller taunts Logan about his vows, which require silence, but after seeing the dark look in Logan's eyes, he loads and pockets a gun. When Murphy arrives to see Logan, Keller embroiders a story about how Logan left in distress, which suggests that Logan is evading the police, but then Logan later shows up voluntarily in Larreau's office and is arrested. Meanwhile, the bloody cassock is found in a trunk during a search of Logan's room. Later, at the trial, as Alma watches, Keller testifies that Logan was in great distress on the night of the murder. Then Ruth's story is twisted by the prosecuting Robertson to insinuate an ongoing affair with Logan. In his testimony, Logan still does not reveal what he knows, nor does he implicate Keller when the cassock is shown as evidence. Although the jury acquits Logan for insufficient evidence, both judge and jury publicly express their suspicions. Logan is then free to go, but the disapproving mob almost crushes him. Seeing this, Alma tries to tell a policeman that Logan is innocent, but the panicked Keller kills her. Larreau, Logan and several policemen follow Keller to the Chateau Frontenac, and corner him in the ballroom. Believing that Logan has finally revealed the truth, Keller accuses him of hypocrisy by breaking his vow and thus, incriminates himself. When Logan moves closer to talk, Keller starts to shoot, but the police shoot Keller. As he dies, Keller asks for forgiveness, and Logan absolves him. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.