Mazurka was a 1935 German film (named for the Polish folk dance), supposedly based on a 1930 murder case. I haven’t been able to track down any more detail on the real events, which is a shame as it would be nice to find out what really happened. What we do have is the German film, starring the beautiful Polish actress Pola Negri, and the 1937 US remake, Confession, starring Kay Francis, one of the queens of 1930s Hollywood. Neither are that easy to come by but are available on DVD. According to the excellent Kay Francis fan site, kayfrancisfilms.com, Confession was only made available for the first time on any home video format on the 25th of August this year, along with a whole load of other Francis films. Worth importing from the US?
There’s a court case. Tragedy. Francis headlines and gets the chance to really act (she had grown tired of her role as a clothes horse for extravagant costumes throughout the thirties). Has Francis caught your eye in other, easier-to-obtain films like Trouble in Paradise (directed by Ernst Lubitsch), One Way Passage (has William Powell in it) or In Name Only (Cary Grant)? If one of her films is easily-obtainable it’s usually because of somebody else (one of her first roles was in The Marx Brothers’ The Cocoanuts). Confession is the natural progression for those wanting more. I wasn’t astounded by Francis’ performance. There’s a lot more neutrality in it than usual… and she’s more than capable of emoting when needed… I’d say it fits and she does a fine job.
The story of Confession is not a typical one. I won’t get into it at all. It’s interesting, gripping, entertaining, surprising and something best left unspoilt. I can’t imagine anyone finding fault with the acting anywhere in the cast. It’s at least good but it’s not something to rave about. The same goes for the film – hard to imagine somebody rating it less than “good”… and I’d place it a lot higher than that. Thinking about it, it is quite a simple tale without a whole lot of meat on its bones… and I’m very curious as to just how close it is to the actual events. Something to sit down and thoroughly enjoy, then think about later? Must be the performances and the script? Who cares?
Next stop is to see about digging up the German version. Some cursory reading seems to suggest that Pola Negri had increasing difficulty working in Germany as the third reich (deliberate lack of capitalisation) became madder and madder. Seems like it could be an interesting piece of history.