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I Confess

I Confess(1953)

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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 Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Citizen-News 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 New York Times reporter in August 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.
       An unidentified news item dated September 1952, found in the AMPAS Library file for the film, reported that Swedish actress Anita Bjrk was hired to play the part of "Ruth" opposite Montgomery Clift. Modern sources explain that when Bjrk 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 June 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item, the assignment of John Beckman as art director was reported; however, only Edward S. Haworth is listed onscreen.
       According to the Daily Variety review, several Quebec City landmarks appear in the film: Chateau Frontenac, Parliament Building, Lvis ferry and Saint Zphirin-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 September 21, 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.