(I forgot to include a headline for this blog post.)
The Second Woman (1950)
There’s a lot wrong with The Second Woman. Basically, women exist to validate men, doing everything they can in a Hitchcock style psychological thriller to find out how to solve the men’s problems while falling in love with them. Well, I might be a little harsh on this film, which at least has you guessing who is trying to drive Jeff (Robert Young) crazy as he recovers from the tragic loss of his love, his boss’ daughter, while wooing the younger Ellen (Betsy Drake) whom he meets on a train at the beginning of the film.
They begin a pleasant courtship, except Jeff quickly goes from charming to brooding, blaming himself for his late fiancee’s mysterious death. Then his pets start dying, and his house burns down, and he acts strangely around everyone trying to help him, as if he might be the one causing this kind of damage. Ellen plays detective for a bit, and the movie does a pretty good job introducing suspects such as Jeff’s sleazy rival Keith or Jeff’s little-too-helpful psychiatrist Dr. Hartley. It also takes these characters away from the film after every act, noticeable to the plot as bad luck continues to hound Jeff. That said, the reveal of the architect behind Jeff’s pain also reveals what Jeff knows about his late girlfriend’s demise, and both hero and villain have women to blame, with Ellen almost further punished for it. Jeff rescues her by taking a harmless bullet to the shoulder, and they live happily ever after. Maybe worth it for Keith’s over the top scoundrelness.
The Second Woman? More like The Second Fiddle. You can do better, Ellen.
Robert Young had a long Hollywood career, the Father in Father Knows Best and several other long running TV shows. But the talented and well educated Betsy Drake may have had the most interesting life, with the Drake being the same namesake as the famous Drake Hotel here in Chicago. She was at one point married to Cary Grant, and wrote a screenplay for them to star in together…BUT Cary decided to replace Betsy with Sophia Loren, with whom he was having an affair, and Betsy’s name was also taken off the script. Booooo.
The movie poster looks like Young is some kind of vampire, attacking Betsy.
Time Table (1956)
Mark Stevens stars and directs in a mess of a crime caper that lays on the drama caused by the bad choices by our noir protagonist pretty thick. Stevens is Charlie, an investigator who happened to plan the elaborate violent heist he is also assigned to investigate with the earnest and chummy Joe. Charlie mopes while Joe tries to fit the few pieces they have together, hoping someone will slip up. There are some odd narrative choices, as I guess we’re supposed to be shocked when it’s revealed that Charlie is the mastermind about 1/3rd way into the film or so, and nearly everyone involved in the clever train robbery that opens the film disappears. The only drama is that of Charlie’s concerned wife, who wants Charlie to enjoy the life they have together. Frankly, Charlie’s a grade-A JERK, because he just wants to run away with his girlfriend and co-conspirator. His wife gets to watch Charlie and his girlfriend die in each others’ arms. Like, if the movie was from her POV as she tries to warn Charlie from his life of crime, or if we got to see what motivated Charlie to turning to such a drastic criminal plan, then we’d have more of an actual character arc. Instead, things go from bad to worse, and Charlie just shoots people and goes on to the next problem. Also, people say “TIME TABLE” with a bit of heavy emphasis, like Dean Pelton of Community would say “TIME DESK.”
The movie looks GREAT, however. Of the four I reviewed yesterday and today, this is the best looking one, both in visual set ups and in scene composition and lighting. It also (save for a few glitches) looks like the best copied to modern storage. A lot of these public domain movies, even classics, don’t stand the test of time as far as copies that make it to video and are put up on youtube, and there are movies from this era that make it to DVD where you wonder how the prints survived this long to begin with. (I should look into how some of these films are preserved and transferred). The train robbery scenes are well done. The performances are fine. Though we know it is likely not going to work out of Charlie even if we think he’s going to redeem himself, there’s no reason to care. And spoiler, he doesn’t.
At one point we’re introduced to a sketchy helicopter rental agent who sounds familiar. It’s Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone. Who, along with some of the other cast, utters a racial slur. So, a bit of a warning: these are 50’s people who engage in casual 50’s racism. Sorry.