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The Confession (1920)

A priest hears a murderer's confession but can't reveal the truth, even though his brother is being tried for the crime.


Bertram Bracken


Hal Reid (play), Franklyn Hall | 1 more credit »




Cast overview:
Henry B. Walthall ... Father Bartlett
Francis McDonald ... Tom Bartlett
William Clifford ... Joseph Dumont
Margaret McWade ... Mrs. Bartlett
Margaret Landis ... Rose Creighton
Barney Furey ... Jimmie Creighton
Henry Stanley ... Michael Dugan
Johnnie Revelle Johnnie Revelle ... Paisy Morgan
Sally Cohn Sally Cohn ... Mrs. Dumont
Irene Aldwyn Irene Aldwyn ... Fanchette
George Spelvin George Spelvin ... The Marshal
Fred L. Wilson Fred L. Wilson


A priest hears a murderer's confession but can't reveal the truth, even though his brother is being tried for the crime.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A story of how justice is dealt out in God's own country, where men are strong and women are pure. ENDORSED BY PRESS AND CLERGY-A STORY THAT WILL LIVE FOREVER (Print Ad-The Nevada Daily Mail,((Nevada, Mo.)) 24 December 1920)



User Reviews

Close-up and flashback used with conviction
10 January 2018 | by kekseksaSee all my reviews

The period 1915-1925 in US film saw two rather irritating trends - the over-use of the close-up and of the "mini-flashback", very short flashbacks that are simply meant to represent graphically what a character says or what he or she is thinking (s kind of "thinks bubble:). The close-up, far from being an innovatory element in editing, was largely designed to produce the effect of a very old vaudeville genre - the "facial", designed in other words to allow actors to "register" different emotions in a particularly theatrical way. And sometimes the scenario would be actually built around that premise. This can be seen very clearly for instance in The Italian (1915) which was a designed to showcase the "facial" talents of vaudeville actor George Beban and actually reproduces scenes which were a highlight of his stage performance.

The Confession is rather similarly designed but is interesting in that it fully assumes that style and makes it the major focus of the film. It is in fact a mdodern-day "northern" or "Canadian" western - a genre much in the vogue in the early twenties, so we naturally have scenes of forest and river typically associated with the genre. But the core of the story is told in heavy shadow a a continual series of stylised close-ups of the central characters, the priest, the mother, the brother, the perjured murderer and where the mini-flashbacks also assume a particular importance in coming close to telling the story from different viewpoints and even from viewpoints that change in the course of the film (the murder as we originally see it, the story told in confessional, the brother's account, the perjured testimony in court). There is a very fine performance by Walthall (an underrated actor whose reputation suffered in a sense from his too-close association with the part of the "little Colonel" in Birth of Nation). Here he displays an impassivity that in some ways turns the idea of the "facial" on its head or at least converts it into something rather more interesting.

The use of close-up and flashback rather than seeming extraneous as they often are in other films of the time (here comes the close-up, here comes the flashback) or becoming virtually the sole purpose of the film as they are close to doing in The Italian are here actually used as the medium through which the story is told, specially adapted to the rather unusual context of the film itself (the basic facts of the story are all known from the very beginning) and the overall effect is not unimpressive. It is a shame that there is not a better print of the film in existence.

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None | English

Release Date:

January 1920 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Confession See more »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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