Full Confession (1939) Poster

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An incredible spiritual drama with an everlasting message.
mark.waltz26 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Every once in a while, a small film comes along in Hollywood's history that is wrapped in greatness, yet not full of itself. Such a film is "Full Confession", a "B" picture from RKO in 1939, a year filmed with incredible cinema. It is a story of the soul, one man possibly loosing his life yet keeping his soul, the other intent on keeping his life yet disposing of his own soul because he refuses to acknowledge the truth. The third man is the person who knows the truth, yet he can do nothing about it. You see, he is a priest, the man destined to live is a murderer who happened to make a deathbed confession (yet lived), and the man accused of the crime is on death row, living in peace, yet leaving behind the desolate family who are heartbroken by his pending execution.

Excellent performances surround a superb screenplay tightly wrapped in a short running time, and more is said in the moments where nothing is said. Victor McLaglen, the Oscar Winning actor of the similarly themed "The Informer", plays the character who was in prison for robbery when the innocent Barry Fitzgerald was arrested for the murder that McLaglen committed. Priest Joseph Calleia (cast in the rare non-villain role) can't reveal the truth per his vows, so the conflict is troublesome. Elisabeth Risdon is Fitzgerald's loving and concerned wife, a godly woman certain of her husband's innocence, while Sally Eilers is the only other person who has stood by McLaglen and believed in him. The spiritual connotation of the story is beautifully told and immediately understood, and there lies the strength of a film whose message lives for eternity.
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Bound by the confessional
bkoganbing30 July 2019
Full Confession is a most Catholic story. I've never seen Catholic guilt portrayed quite so well as it is in this film.

Victor McLaglen gets into character with a bit of a reprise of his Gypo Nolan character from The Informer. He's a bit of a lout like Gypo only in this case he does the deed. It was the murder of a policeman during the commission of a robbery. But it's Barry Fitzgerald who originally owned the murder weapon who gets the blame and is sentenced to die.

McLaglen in the meantime is picked up on another rap and his case comes to the attention of Father Joseph Calleia. When McLaglen is hurt and thinks he's dying he confesses to Calleia.

Bound by the confessional as he is Calleia still appeals to McLaglen to confess and save Fitzgerald.

Other than Calleia, Full Confession is also full of the Irish blarney as you can get. It has the feel of a John Ford film, in fact I wonder if this was offered to Ford at first.

Sally Eilers as McLaglen's girlfriend/fiance has the only other big role in the movie. This one is a hidden gem from RKO catch it the next time TCM runs it.
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Looks Beautiful, like the Best Noir, But Is A Tad Too Preachy
Handlinghandel6 November 2003
This is a little early to be a noir but it has a beautiful Expressionistic look. It is shot in chiaroscuro much of the time.

Here, everyone is Irish. Barry Fitzgerald, the falsely accused, and Victor McLaglen, the real murderer.

There is an uneasy pious quality to the goings on, with a Roman Catholic priest as the central, and almost Christlike, figure.

When McLaglen finally confesses, he does so to the background of a heavenly choir.
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RKO B film with a spiritual message
blanche-217 July 2015
Full Confession is an RKO B film starring Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, and Joseph Calleia.

Pat Sullivan (McLaglen) commits a murder, but another man, Michael O'Keefe (Fitzgerald) is accused of it.

Pat goes to prison for robbery and eventually is released. When he becomes ill and believes he's about to die, he confesses to Father Loma (Calleia).

When he doesn't die, the priest, close to the O'Keefe family as well as Pat, begs him to admit his crime. Because of the seal of confession, the priest himself can't turn him in.

Pat refuses; he has no intention of returning to prison and he wants to marry the woman who stood by him (Sally Eilers).

Good movie especially if you're a Catholic and religious. Its message is powerful no matter what you believe.

The film, directed by John Farrow, looks Expressionist.

Very well done.
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ksf-27 August 2019
Stars Victor McLaglen as McGinnis and Barry Fitzerald as Michael O'Keefe. A man has been found guilty, and will be executed unless the real murderer comes forward. Joe Calleia is the priest who is trying to convince the real murderer to confess, to save an innocent man from dying. (Calleia was also the Detective in "Gilda"... great film!) co-stars Sally Eilers. Directed by John Farrow. .. he won the oscar for best writing "Around the World in 80 Days". Farrow has an interesting story himself... seven children with Maureen O'Sullivan. His daughter Mia Farrow was famous in her own right. This tale is pretty good drama. Must be pretty new to Turner Classics. Worth watching!
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