Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, July 25, 2008

THE SECOND WOMAN


THE SECOND WOMAN (1950). Director: James V. Kern.

Ellen Foster (Betsy Drake) is visiting her Aunt Amelia (Florence Bates) when she meets and falls in love with Jeff Cohalan ( Robert Young) whose fiancee died in a car accident about a year previously. Jeff seems to have had a steady stream of bad luck ever since, especially since he's met Ellen -- his dog is poisoned, his horse breaks its leg in its stall, his house burns down -- and Ellen wonders if someone is out to get him while Amelia's doctor simply thinks Jeff is nuts and doing everything to himself. The film is well-produced, moodily photographed, and suspenseful as it proceeds to the final revelation. (More on which in a moment.) Drake is very good and makes an appealing, sympathetic heroine. Drake was married to Cary Grant for about 12 years, having met him while co-starring with him in Every Girl Should Be Married. Young is quite good at times as Jeff, even if he doesn't quite have the presence and authority of a Grant and at the climax he's painfully perfunctory when he should be passionate and dismayed. While The Second Woman is never in the league of such films as Rebecca and Suspicion, which it tries to emulate, what really sinks it is the utterly ludicrous denouement, which stretches credulity to the breaking point, asking us to believe that someone would cover up something without at the same time giving the individual a strong and believable enough motivation to do so. John Sutton and Jean Rogers add some spice as a once-married, happily divorced couple who pass in and out of the proceedings. Rogers was in several cliffhanger serials including Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars in which she played Dale Arden. The Second Woman was her final credit.

Verdict: Absorbing, but what a wacky wind-up! **.

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