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True Confessions
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True Confessions (1981) More at IMDbPro »

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Up 21% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
John Gregory Dunne (novel)
John Gregory Dunne (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for True Confessions on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
24 September 1981 (Portugal) See more »
A worldly ambitious monsignor clashes with his older brother, a cynical L.A.homicide detective investigates the brutal murder of a young prostitute. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
3 wins & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Quite simply, the finest crime drama ever. See more (56 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Robert De Niro ... Father Des Spellacy (as Robert DeNiro)

Robert Duvall ... Det. Tom Spellacy

Charles Durning ... Jack Amsterdam

Kenneth McMillan ... Frank Crotty
Ed Flanders ... Dan T. Campion

Cyril Cusack ... Cardinal Danaher

Burgess Meredith ... Msgr. Seamus Fargo
Rose Gregorio ... Brenda Samuels

Dan Hedaya ... Howard Terkel
Gwen Van Dam ... Mrs. Fazenda
Thomas Hill ... Mr. Fazenda (as Tom Hill)

Jeanette Nolan ... Mrs. Spellacy
Jorge Cervera Jr. ... Eduardo Duarte
Susan Myers ... Bride

Louisa Moritz ... Whore

Darwyn Carson ... Lorna Keane
Pat Corley ... Sonny McDonough
Matthew Faison ... Reporter #2
Richard Foronjy ... Ambulance Driver
Joseph G. Medalis ... Deputy Coroner (as Joe Medalis)

James Hong ... Coroner Wong
Ron Ryan ... Detective #1
Louis Basile ... Detective #3
Louise Lewis ... Older Nun (as Louise Fitch)
Margery Nelson ... Nun #2
Fredric Cook ... Brenda's Trick
Kirk Brennan ... Acolyte Toomey
Fred Dennis ... Man
Shelly Batt ... Girl
Mary Munday ... Nun
Colin Hamilton ... Headwaiter
Missy Cleveland ... Lois Fazenda (as Amanda Cleveland)
Pierrino Mascarino ... Suspect
Michael Callahan Sr. ... Sub Deacon
Hary Pavelis ... Cardinal's Attendant
Luisa Leschin ... Tower Girl
Robert Arthur ... Newscaster #1 (as Bob Arthur)
Bill Furnell ... Newscaster #2
Sig Frohlich ... Waiter
Steve Arvin ... V.O. Radio Announcer
Paul Valentine ... Detective #2

Stephen Powers ... Photographer (as Steve Powers)
Joseph H. Choi ... Pathologist (as Dr. Joseph H. Choi M.D.)
Sharon Miller ... Movie Star

Kevin Breslin ... Boy #1
Jeff Howard ... Priest #2
Harry Duncan ... Priest at Banquest
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Randy Gitsch ... Silent Bit Player / Waiter (uncredited)
Henry Goldscher ... Barber (uncredited)

Directed by
Ulu Grosbard 
Writing credits
John Gregory Dunne (novel "True Confessions")

John Gregory Dunne (screenplay) and
Joan Didion (screenplay)

Gary S. Hall  uncredited

Produced by
James D. Brubaker .... associate producer
Robert Chartoff .... producer
Irwin Winkler .... producer
Original Music by
Georges Delerue 
Cinematography by
Owen Roizman 
Film Editing by
Lynzee Klingman 
Production Design by
Stephen B. Grimes  (as Stephen S. Grimes)
Art Direction by
W. Stewart Campbell 
Set Decoration by
Marvin March 
Costume Design by
Joe I. Tompkins 
Makeup Department
Vivian McAteer .... hair stylist
Jean Burt Reilly .... hair stylist
Michael Westmore .... makeup designer
Production Management
James D. Brubaker .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
William M. Elvin .... second assistant director (as Bill Elvin)
Duncan Henderson .... second assistant director (as Duncan S. Henderson)
Thomas J. Mack .... first assistant director (as Tom Mack)
Art Department
Nick F. Caprarelli .... set dresser (as Nick Caprarelli)
Emily Ferry .... property master
Al Litteken .... construction coordinator
Ida Random .... assistant art director
Joy Taylor .... assistant property master (as M. Joy Taylor)
Mick Walker .... set designer (as Michael J. Walker)
Maurice Zuberano .... production illustrator
Craig B. Ayers Sr. .... greens foreman (uncredited)
Lance Lombardo .... props (uncredited)
Sound Department
Gary S. Gerlich .... sound effects editor
Rick Kline .... sound re-recording engineer
Bobbe Kurtz .... sound effects editor
Victoria Martin .... assistant sound effects editor
Chris McLaughlin .... production sound
Donald O. Mitchell .... re-recording engineer (as Donald Mitchell)
Bill Nicholson .... re-recording engineer
Chester Slomka .... sound effects editor
Jim Stuebe .... cable person (as James Steube)
Frank E. Warner .... supervising sound effects editor (as Frank Warner)
James E. Webb .... production sound mixer (as James E. Webb Jr.)
Bill Wylie .... sound effects editor
Special Effects by
Howard Jensen .... special effects
Eddie Hice .... stunts
Ron Stein .... stunt coordinator
Ron Stein .... stunts
Jack Verbois .... stunts
Camera and Electrical Department
Eugene Earle .... second assistant camera (as Eugene P. Earle)
James Glennon .... camera operator
Rob Hahn .... first assistant camera
Gary Holt .... gaffer
Christine M. Loss .... still photographer (as Christine Loss)
Bob Rose .... key grip
Tim Ryan .... dolly grip
Gary Van Auken .... best boy
Garrett Brown .... Steadicam operator (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Betty M. Nowell .... costumer: women
Andrea E. Weaver .... costume supervisor (as Andrea Weaver)
Joan Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Editorial Department
Sandra Adair .... first assistant editor (as Sandra Estrin Adair)
Charles Bornstein .... first assistant editor
Bill Yahraus .... associate film editor
Music Department
Jim Henrikson .... music editor
Paul Salamunovich .... choir conductor: St. Charles Borromeo Choir (uncredited)
Transportation Department
Russell McEntyre .... transportation coordinator
Ed Wirth .... transportation co-captain (as Edward A. Wirth)
Other crew
Dale Benson .... location manager
Jerry Chinn .... craft service (as Jerry D. Chinn)
Janet Crosby .... assistant to producers
Charlie Davidson .... production accountant (as 'Charlie' Davidson)
Henry Fehren .... religious technical advisor
S. Howard Friedland .... first aid (as Howard Friedland)
Vic Heutschy .... unit publicist
Sharon Mann .... production associate
Wendie Margolis .... assistant: Ulu Grosbard
JoAnn May-Pavey .... production office coordinator (as Jo Ann May-Pavey)
Gail Mutrux .... creative associate
Phill Norman .... title designer
Alfonse L. Palermo .... choreographer
Hannah Scheel .... script supervisor (as Hannah Scheel Morgan)
Eric Schwab .... location scout
Lori Sussman .... assistant to producers
Paul Salamunovich .... vocal coach for Robert De Niro (uncredited)
Donna Smith .... production coordinator (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
108 min | Spain:110 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The vestments worn by Robert De Niro in the opening scene were later donated to St. Agnes parish in St. Paul, MN.See more »
Revealing mistakes: When Tom takes off his radiator cap after his car overheats, what looks like a chunk of dry ice shoots out of the radiator.See more »
Tom Spellacy:[Talking about the priest's heart attack death in the brothel] How long was he here?
Lorna Keane:It was the second one that did it.
See more »
Movie Connections:
References Casablanca (1942)See more »
I'm in the Mood for LoveSee more »


This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
57 out of 72 people found the following review useful.
Quite simply, the finest crime drama ever., 27 January 2001
Author: budmassey ( from Indianapolis, IN

This story is somewhat loosely based on the story of Elizabeth Short, widely known as the Black Dahlia. For decades the mystery of her death plagued the LAPD., and, despite the gruesome dénouement in True Confessions, the killer of the Black Dahlia was never found.

The murder mystery was dramatized in a novel by James Ellroy, perhaps better known for the more successful, though in many ways definitely inferior, L.A. Confidential. In 2005 a somewhat low budget adaptation was made with a present day setting, and most recently a Brian De Palma film, regarding which, a must miss, was released, based on Ellroy's novel and starring Canadian Mia Kirshner in the title role, along with the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, and Hillary Swank.

Despite all this attention, imitators will be hard pressed to match the desolate and subdued brilliance of this telling of the popular mystery, owing in no small measure to the immensely talented cast. DeNiro's portrayal of Monsignoir Spellacy, an Irish priest with a decidedly human side, is positively stunning, in the manner of DeNiro's other historic performances of the era. Duvall, as his flawed but well intentioned brother and LAPD detective, renders what may be the finest performance of his long and illustrious career.

Most of the period references will not be appreciated by today's movie viewer, but the zeitgeist is beautifully captured. The reality of the characters is stunning, even though they are necessarily stylized to a large extent. The tone, pace, and style of the movie are sharply reminiscent of The Godfather, although True Confessions relies much less on violence and noise, and more on character and plot.

Central to the story is the uneasy relationship between an ambitious priest and his hard-boiled detective brother. The two clash over scattered entanglements that reach deep into the LAPD, the Catholic church, and the wealthy and elite LA community. When events and evidence surrounding the mutilated corpse of a would-be actress begin to tighten the noose around a small and corrupt group that spans all these borders, the relationship of the brothers becomes increasingly strained.

Institutions of wealth, power and influence are exposed to the increasingly unforgiving glare of reality. The scope of the story is epic, but the treatment is intimate. The combination is breathtaking.

Scattered about the edges of this subtle and majestically paced masterpiece is a complex thought provoking mystery, but be warned. The story that unfolds is not an easy one to watch. Avoiding a trite ending, the film instead seems to fade into an uneasy, but inevitable, twilight, in which defeat, loss and resignation replace the ambitions and illusions of youth.

Despite the grisly and disturbing events of the story, and notwithstanding the epic tragedy of the final act, True Confessions is, ultimately, an uplifting story about redemption through adversity. The final scene has a huge emotional payoff, but only if you have invested in the story from the beginning.

Standouts in the magnificent supporting cast include Charles Durning, as a fading influence peddler, and the incomparable Rose Gregorio as a burned out madam known to, but abandoned by, all. And one cannot fail to mention the amazingly sensitive portrayal by Burgess Meredith of DeNiro's mentor, father confessor, and, in many ways, eventual savior, Father Fargo.

All in all, this is, quite simply, the finest crime drama ever, rich with performances so brilliant, so masterful, that you will be left speechless, even after many viewings, which is, of course, the only way to appreciate so complex and subtle a masterpiece. I recently got the widescreen DVD version, and can once again experience True Confessions as I remember it; delicate, moving, brilliant and thought-provoking, as well as in its proper aspect ratio.

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