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The Second Woman
The Second Woman
Actors: Robert Young, Betsy Drake, John Sutton, Florence Bates, Morris Carnovsky
Director: James V. Kern
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     1hr 31min


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Movie Details

Actors: Robert Young, Betsy Drake, John Sutton, Florence Bates, Morris Carnovsky
Director: James V. Kern
Creators: Hal Mohr, Harry M. Popkin, Joseph H. Nadel, Mort Briskin, Robert Smith
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Alpha Video
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 04/15/2003
Original Release Date: 07/07/1950
Theatrical Release Date: 07/07/1950
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 31min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Matt B. from GETZVILLE, NY
Reviewed on 10/3/2011...
When a movie opens with flashback and narration, it threatens melodrama. Jeff Cohalan acts the light-hearted Irish-American as he charms serious insurance adjustor Ellen Foster. He decides by intuition, while she bases certainty on probability and rationalism. Jeff goes through a run of dreadful events, which he attributes to bad luck and Ellen realistically explains as, someone’s trying to get you.

The plot interested me though some twists near the end failed to ring true with me. I mean, there’s an act against coherent self-interest that I would expect only in a saint too perfect for this world. A lot of mysteries end with convoluted explanations that we movie fans have learned to accept with more or less equanimity. It’s only a movie after all.

In the lead roles, Robert Young brings to the part with a credible sense of character, and so does Betsy Drake as the competent professional. Interesting to see, for once, a woman as a math/stats whiz rather than nurse or designer or teacher. My image of Young – a nice guy (Father Knows Best) or wise (Dr. Welby) – militated against my believing his character was haunted by a Dark Though Open Secret. Morris Charnovsky plays a psychiatrist who convinces Ellen that Jeff is a paranoiac, wears light horn-rimmed spectacles whose lenses are probably blue. Robert Sutton persuasively plays a cad that hates everybody but, due to the odd social dynamics of little towns in film noir, somehow prospers.

The striking black and white cinematography makes California’s scenery wonderful - they liked the cypresses by the sea so much that they used the shot numerous times. Also, the wardrobe of the rich and their opulent surrounds give us an idea of the background for Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels. The Tchaikovsky themes in the soundtrack were surprising.

Movie Reviews

The Second Woman
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A taut, well acted film noire. Robert Young gives a fine performance, as an architect haunted by the death of his fiancee in a car accident. Betsy Drake is charming and effective as the friend who helps him solve a series of "accidents" which are destroying everything he loves, including, perhaps, himself."
Noirish Melodrama fails to thrill
David Grady | Sutton Coldfield, England | 09/11/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Robert Young plays Jeff Cohalan, an architect who may or may not have caused the death of his bride-to-be several months ago. Now, as he becomes involved with a young woman staying nearby, strange "accidents" begin to plague his life ... is Jeff subconsciously "punishing" himself over his feelings of guilt, or is something more sinister going on?

Unfortunately, the outcome of the mystery is rather routine, the romance aspect of the plot is rather unconvincing, and though the film isn't exactly dull, it's not half the fun it could have been.

Alpha's DVD is about average for them (which is to say pretty poor by anyone else's standards). The picture is watchable, not too dark, but there are numerous instances of print damage and vertical lines appear on the right side of the picture for long periods of the film. Sound quality is again poor, but bearable. It's low and rather muffled throughout the film, and once or twice the dialogue drops out completely for a second, but after a while you get used to it. For the cheap price I paid, I didn't mind the sub-standard DVD quality too much - the movie is still watchable."
A good mystery with a certified public accountant as the her
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again..." Wait, wrong movie. "Today," Ellen Foster tells us, "I looked upon the cliff where Hilltop stood. I can still see its hanging roofs against the cyprus trees. But Hilltop is no more. There is only a scar of jutting rock where once its windows glittered in the California sun." The Second Woman, starring Robert Young and Betsy Drake, may be no Rebecca but it is a tidy, effective mystery worth watching. You can be sure it will never be shown in college film studies classes, which is a shame. It's a solid example of the kind of professional, commercial movies Hollywood still was turning out even as the studios crumbled and public taste was changing.

In the wealthy coastal town of Pine Cliff, where the privileged many spend Friday and Saturday evenings at the Country Club, there is concern about Jeff Cohalan. He's an architect who seems to be going off the rails. His fiancée, Virginia Sheppard, died months ago in a car crash the night before they were to be married. It was going to be the perfect marriage. Virginia's wealthy father, Ben, was almost like a father over the years to Cohalan. Jeff is well liked and has the sympathy of many, including Amelia Foster, an older woman who lives next to Hilltop, Jeff's home that he designed. But it's not long after Ellen Foster, Amelia's young niece, comes to visit her that Jeff's apparent paranoia begins to grow into something dangerous. Ellen meets and is attracted to Jeff, but he seems emotionally tied to the memory of Virginia Sheppard. Lurking around is Keith Ferris (John Sutton) who works for Ben, resents Jeff and also is a member of Pine Cliff's privileged class. That he is a cad is apparent from the nasty condescension he gives everything he says. That he dislikes Jeff is as obvious as his little black moustache.

Unusual in a heroine, perhaps, Ellen is a certified public accountant, a specialist in compiling actuarial tables for an insurance company. She not only can add, she can put two and two together. When Ellen sees things happening to Jeff -- a rosebush dying, a portrait fading, architectural plans lost, a small sculpture broken, a horse with a leg broken, a dog dying, and then Hilltop burning - she knows paranoia doesn't enter into it. She also knows the probability of coincidence is astronomical. She doesn't for a minute believe Jeff has been causing these things. While Jeff seems to dither and slide into depression, Ellen disregards his wish that she drop any investigation. On her own, she sets out to research these occurrences. It's not long before we realize with pleasure just how smart Ellen is. It's just as satisfying near the end when we learn Jeff is just as smart as Ellen.

The Second Woman would be a much stronger movie, however, if the two leads were more dynamic. Betsy Drake was an attractive actress, wholesome and sympathetic, but she was as bland as milk. Robert Young was a fine actor with plenty of assurance and authority, but to my thinking he lacked that inner energy that draws you to a lead actor. Between the two of them, they just don't give the movie enough tension. John Sutton, in an odd way, provides the slight of hand that makes the movie fun. Sutton specialized in absolutely oily, reprehensible, over-civilized, effete heels. He has only to appear on the screen in any movie and we say to ourselves, "Ah ha, there's the villain." And he usually was. When we realize a third of the way through that he might be the villain but that he just might not be, I had to smile at how the movie used his style to possibly mislead me.

For a public domain film, the Alpha Video DVD transfer isn't all that bad. That's no guarantee other releases will be watchable."