Confession (1937), MOVIES
Comments 31

The Confession Seduction Scene (or what is that organ doing there?)

In our first post-Sherlock Holmes Week article, we’re changing theme and tempo and taking a brief glimpse at one of the Baz’s pre-Holmes movies – that gem of the incongruous, beautiful and just plain strange, Confession.

Made in 1937, just over a year and a half before Rathbone started work on The Hound of the BaskervillesConfession was a vehicle for the fading star that was Kay Francis (or Kay Fwancis as she is sometimes known by unkind people who have noticed her slight problem with the letter “r”). Also in the cast were Jane Bryan, Ian Hunter and Donald Crisp.

It’s a remake – literally scene for scene – of the German film Mazurka. In fact the director Joe May (born Julius Otto Mandi – an Austrian who had fled the Nazis in 1933 to work in America) was apparently so hooked on making it an exact reproduction, he used to time the scenes with a stopwatch to make sure they ran to precisely the same length as the originals. The obvious response to that is “why?“. But then the same could be said for so much that is going on here. It’s just one of the numerous oddities that run a rich vein of madness through the middle of this film.

For example….

So did Jane Bryan misread the script and think Basil was going to kill her not kiss her? Is that why she’s staring at him in such abject terror, or is she just over-playing the “terrified of her own desire” thing? Is the focus on that ceiling light supposed to mean something symbolic? Is it some kind of twisty Expressionist phallic symbol?

And – what about the kiss music?

See that’s genius for you. So many directors would have stuck with the piano original, or some violins – but May knew instinctively, with that rare intuition of the true auteur that nothing cranks up erotic heat like Mozart played on a leaky pipe organ.

Oh wait – is that the phalic symbol? Β 

We’ll leave it there for now.

(video extract courtesy of WhatsHerface at Youtube)


  1. GRETCHEN says

    WOW…the kiss in this scene is HOTTER, SEXIER, and MORE EROTIC than one in a PORN flick!! (It definitely turned-me-on more than any porn I’VE ever seen!) πŸ™‚

    And that BASIL— I can only WISH a guy like him would seduce me like THAT!
    In REAL life I’d be too shy to say “hello”, no-less JUMP him…but in my IMAGINATION, I’d have KNOCKED-HIM-DOWN!! πŸ™‚

    I’ve NEVER seen “Confession” before (to my knowledge), but saw this clip recently on YOUTUBE. I want this film on DVD SOOOO BAAAD now!!!

    I absolutely LOVE how he suddenly and unexpectedly just GRABS and pulls her towards him and ATTACKS her mouth with his…nothing, and I mean NOTHING in today’s films even comes CLOSE to the sexual-tension and excitement of this scene! He’s soooo GORGEOUS, and “the kiss” is soooo PROLONGED, it actually made me UNCOMFORTABLE to watch, and turned my face RED!! And, ESPECIALLY since he has that naturally STRONG sexual “aura” about him (which you KNOW we ALL sense, ladies)…I can only DREAM of what he REALLY did to his lovers in bed, and how he GOT them there in the FIRST place!! I’ll bet he was quite AMAZING; not because of his sexual ABILITIES, per se, but because of how easy it is for women to CARE about and LOVE him while he also happens to give-off that signal of LUST. This combo makes for a GREAT lover, husband, friend, and potential father— THIS is what makes a man SEXY…both his body, AND his SOUL.

    WE LOVE-YA, BAZ!!!
    Be a GOOD boy in heaven, now…”you SLY dog”!
    (As “Peppermint-Patty” would say to “Chuck”.) πŸ™‚


  2. Ellen Foley says

    Love the studio pic of Baz sitting at Jane Bryan’s feet.If I were either mother or daughter in this film,I’da gone for him,cad or not.Hubby was too dense


  3. lΓ₯n says

    I have been exploring your blog for a week or so. This made my laugh out loud. The soundtrack is very strange!


  4. rosebette says

    “Confession” is a terrific little film, one of Baz’s best, as well as one of Kay Francis’ best. I would definitely describe his relationship with Jane Bryant as one of a sexual predator, or at least a stalker, but an incredibly seductive one. I think the organ music is part of the background, as it is a music school, but also lends an eeriness to the scene. I think she is fascinated, attracted, and yet fearful. I’m not sure that Baz’s character and Kay “did it”, but the thing I like about him in the scenes about his relationship with Kay is that he is sexually honest — He wants her, he makes it clear to her, and there’s no pretense, whereas the Ian Hunter character gets into that offended British stiff upper lip, VIctorian morality thing where he’d rather throw his relationship with his wife away rather than trust her or forgive her. I think I would have gone for Baz right from the start, but then there’d be no daughter, no story, etc.


  5. StencilWoman says

    To the person asking how many kissing films (spot the movie ref) Basil had, I think “This Mad World” ha to be added to the list. Basil plays the lover of a German officer’s wife. It sounds like a juicy melodrama but I’ve never seen it on TCM.


  6. embechtel says

    this is just about my favorite basil movie. he rarely gets to kiss the girl. i recall 3 others:the last of mrs cheyne,the mad doctor and rio.

    i think jane is scared because she has mixed feelings about baz. also,she is young and inexperienced.he is at least old enough to be her father.

    the blur of the ceiling light seems to go along with her mothers in a later scene .perhaps a comparison o situations?
    i definately think at the time this movie was underappreciated.

    basil is soooo cadishly charming and handsome.

    i agree with a remark from above;i would have just jumped him too.


    • BazFan says

      Don’t forget Love from a Stranger! He kisses Ann Harding. And there’s quite an erotic vibe all through that film. I love the scene where he’s leaning his head against her and she’s fondling his hair. You can’t help dying just a little bit


      • StencilWoman says

        I think “Love From a Stranger” has to be one of my favourite Basil films, even though the print quality is horrendous and there seems to be a chunk missing right at the end. The scene between Rathbone and Harding at the end is very dramatic and intense.


      • forgot about love from a stranger.a great baz flivk.also he kisses the girl at the end of the flirting widow.he was in it with dorothy mackaill. an old vitaphone get to see baz comedy side.


  7. Katoodlel Lolly says

    To everyone concerned,
    The only reason there is organ music is because she is at her music school!
    Now I remember. LOL! This Youtube video here is a little bit deceiving, because one thinks that it is only movie soundtrack, but it isn’t really, because it is someone upstairs practicing on the organ! Great Movie, check it out on TCM, August 21, 2012. Thank you for reading.


    • Hmmm…It’s a while since I saw the movie, and it never occurred to me the organ music wad supposed to represent someone practising – but who knows, you may be correct. I could still wish May had opted for the original piano version though. It’s one of my favorite pieces of Mozart.

      Incidentally, is that Basil doing his own bits of ivory-tickling there? Could he play the piano at all?

      And don’t anyone think I am trashing this glorious movie! I adore it completely, even with its little oddnesses. Land sakes, Baz is so beautiful in this movie it almost hurts to watch him, how could anyone not love it on that basis alone?

      Question – is Baz meant to have had sex with Kay Francis while she was drunk? Or has he simply put her in his bed to give that impression and compromise her? I just assumed he’d done the deed, but thinks not.


      • BazFan says

        I always assumed he was meant to have had sex with her pretty much while she was passed out. I suppose they needed that explanation to safeguard her honor. Women can’t give way to moments of lust.


      • Baby Bear says

        I would say he is definitely supposed to have had sex with her. I always assumed it would have been consensual in that Kay is too drunk to resist the temptation, not that he was forcing himself on her in any way.


  8. jennythenipper says

    I’m beyond baffled at this. I sure wish the director would quit cutting the top of Baz’s head off. It’s annoying. Yeah, he’s tall I get it. But there are ways to get around that.

    The organ, I think is meant to denote some kind of religious experience. And she is looking at the light because she is looking upward at God, you know who is always just on the floor above you. He’s the one with the broom pounding on the ceiling shouting, “shut that bloody organ up!”


  9. jennythenipper says

    I’m so happy I’ve become the go-to blogger for your phallic symbol questions. Just remember: when in doubt, it’s probably a penis.


  10. BazBabe says

    The kiss is still hot even with the pipe organ music, which I agree is a bit bizarre. Was it in the original German film? Perhaps it has a pedigree we can’t appreciate.

    How many screen kisses did Rathbone get out of interest? (purely academic of course and without any intention to track them all down and make a montage out of them).


    • Odette says

      I’ve seen him kiss in about four films – Love From A Stranger, Confession, The Last of Mrs Cheyney and The Mad Doctor, though I only know about the last one through a gif I saw on tumblr. If there are any more I need to know!


  11. I’m really looking forward to your analysis!

    I remember I was shocked at how sexy that scene was! But that may be because I a) have the hots for the Baz, b) must have some teacher fetisch or something.

    But anyway! I think the reason why the girl is so terrified has more to do with the way women were supposed portrayed on film at that time. While I personally would have jumped him and enjoyed the moment, it was perhaps more appropriate for her character to be afraid. You know, women aren’t really sexual creatures like men, are they…? They are sensible!

    I see what Katoodlel Lolly is arguing. It’s definitely a misuse of power from his part. But if she was attracted to him, I believe the most common thing is that the hypothalamus does all the work – more so than some vague sense of morality. Don’t you think? (I may just be speaking for myself here…)


    • Powder Momma says

      Michael Mikhailoff is definitely being abusive, if not almost pedophilic in trying to corrupt a young under age girl. It might not be overtly stated she is under age, but I think this would help justify her mother’s intense outrage don’t you?

      I never noticed the organ music but now NevR draws attention, I have to admit it is a strange choice


      • Odette says

        Wait a minute pedophilic is a bit strong. Jane Bryan wasn’t playing a child. I don’t think MM was doing anything that wrong, and it always bothered me that Bryan didn’t seem upset when he was dead. It’s not a capital crime to want to have sex with a younger woman, and he didn’t really deserve to be shot to death IMO. Bryan ought to have at least been shocked or shed a tear or two. It would be awful to see a man gunned down in front of you even if you weren’t a bit in love, or lust, with him. Just my opinion of course.


  12. PennyforYourThoughts says

    I have never seen or even heard of this film. In fact I never knew Rathbone ever played any romantic parts, though I often wondered why not. I don’t mind the organ music myself. Actually I didn’t notice it over the pleasant surprise of seeing Basil kiss someone.


  13. Katoodlel Lolly says

    This is a great, sad, and beautiful movie. Jane Bryan looks afraid in this scene, and well she should for she is letting something happen that should never have started. He is starting to seduce her, for pete’s sake! I would be scared, even though I would be tempted, because it is Basil Rathbone, and here he comes with wicked intentions! I won’t say anything else, ’cause I don’t want to give anything anyway to anybody, just in case. We all have to remember that times and movies were different then, and I think , for the better. Thank you for reading.


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