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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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I Confess (1953)

I Confess (1953)

(p.176) 22 I Confess (1953)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

I Confess is based on a 1902 play in which a priest, after hearing the confession of a murderer, is himself accused of the crime and, unwilling to break the seal of the confessional and reveal the real killer’s identity, is convicted and sent to the gallows. Here again, a Hitchcock film ran afoul of the Code dictum that murderers may not go unpunished. The Production Code Administration logged more suggestions regarding this film, fifty-nine in all, than they did on any other Hitchcock film. Most involved the details of the confessional seal and the priest’s obligations. The censors were also concerned about a love affair the priest had before deciding to enter the seminary. Despite all these concerns, the Code office had no objections to the priest being hanged, so long as the real murderer did not get off scot-free. However, Warner Bros. did not want to send rising star Montgomery Clift to the gallows, so the script was rewritten to acquit him, leading to a climax in which the real murderer is fingered by his wife and killed trying to escape.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, Montgomery Clift, confessional seal, blackmail, Production Code Administration, premarital affair, Warner Bros, I Confess

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