Monday, January 28, 2013

Kay on Trial

There is no question that our group are big fans of Kay Francis.  But tonight's movie is probably (in our humble opinion) one of her finest performances.  It is Confession from 1937.  The action opens on a young music student, Lisa Koslov (Jane Bryan) being approached after a recital by the renowned musician Michael Michailow (Basil Rathbone).  Complimented, Lisa finally agrees to meet him; they go to a nightclub where Vera (Kay Francis) is the lead singer.  She sees Michael and Lisa. Michael sees her.  He attempts to leave the nightclub, only to have Vera follow him and shoot him dead. The rest of the movie is Vera's trial, and the story of her life, which will clarify WHY she killed Michael.

Francis is amazing here.  We see her (as we did in The House on 56th Street) in many phases of her life.  That she makes errors is clear; that she was wronged is also clear.  But, cut to her at the beginning of her trial, the utter blankness of her expression, followed by the panic when she realizes that her attorney is going to tell her story without her permission.  This is great acting.  

It's also fun to again see Basil Rathbone, who really did spend half his career playing villains, as the bad guy once again.  He oozes insincerity.  WE know what he is after.  Unfortunately, Lisa (Jane Bryan, who does an excellent job playing a naive young woman) has not got a clue that men like him exist. 
It's interesting that this film was actually a shot-by-shot remake of a German film (with an American cast, of course). Regardless of the fact that this film is borrowing heavily, the performances make it a new film. We'll close with the scene where he makes his play for his latest innocent victim:

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