True Confession

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Wesley Ruggles
Writers: Georges Berr, Louis Verneuil, Claude Binyon

  • Carole LombardHelen Bartlett
  • Fred MacMurrayKenneth Bartlett
  • John BarrymoreCharles Jasper
  • Edgar Kennedy — Darsey
  • Una Merkel — Daisy McClure
  • Lynne Overman — bartender
Paramount Pictures: 1937
black & white; 85 minutes
October 2010

A failure of a film

It doesn't matter how hard that fine actors try with truly intractable material. True Confession has fatal flaws in its very nature.

Carole Lombard does wonderfully as a ditzy society girl with a good heart as in My Man Godfrey or We're Not Dressing; or a dreamy manicurist in Hands Across the Table; or even with some grand chicanery in The Princess Comes Across. But in True Confession she plays a compulsive liar, whose lying is so endemic that not even Lombard's romantic and comedic genius can make her character seem tolerable.

Fred MacMurray plays her husband, a brand-new lawyer so soberly honest and strait-laced as to make him seem rather brittle than noble. The free-wheeling personality which shines and sparks gleefully with Lombard in Hands Across the Table and The Princess Comes Across is stifled here. Instead of a lively personality easily powering a story along, he is reduced to straight man in a series of not-so-funny tangles.

True Confession tries to be a married-couple romantic comedy, with a murder mystery at the center of it. But the marriage looks quite unfortunate, more pathetic than dramatic or tragic; and the mystery aspect of the movie is awkwardly presented. John Barrymore's part, entertaining although implausible, seems hurriedly glued onto the flank of the staggering plot.

There are good scenes and good bits, but these cannot make up for miscasting both Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray. They, John Barrymore, and the rest of the good supporting cast deserved a much better vehicle for their efforts.

True Confession is watchable for some of its components, but as a whole is really for completists only.


© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson


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