42 user 7 critic

The Second Woman (1950)

Approved | | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery | 7 July 1950 (USA)
In flashback from a 'Rebecca'-style beginning: Ellen Foster, visiting her aunt on the California coast, meets neighbor Jeff Cohalan and his ultramodern clifftop house. Ellen is strongly ... See full summary »


James V. Kern




Complete credited cast:
Robert Young ... Jeffrey Cohalan
Betsy Drake ... Ellen Foster
John Sutton ... Keith Ferris
Florence Bates ... Amelia Foster
Morris Carnovsky ... Dr. Hartley
Henry O'Neill ... Ben Sheppard
Jean Rogers ... Dodo Ferris
Raymond Largay Raymond Largay ... Major Badger
Shirley Ballard Shirley Ballard ... Vivian Sheppard
Vici Raaf ... Secretary
Jason Robards Sr. ... Stacy Rogers (as Jason Robards)
Steven Geray ... Balthazar Jones
Jimmie Dodd ... Mr. Nelson (as Jimmy Dodd)
Smoki Whitfield ... Porter (scenes deleted)
Cliff Clark Cliff Clark ... Police Sergeant


In flashback from a 'Rebecca'-style beginning: Ellen Foster, visiting her aunt on the California coast, meets neighbor Jeff Cohalan and his ultramodern clifftop house. Ellen is strongly attracted to Jeff, who's being plagued by unexplainable accidents, major and minor. Bad luck, persecution...or paranoia? Warned that Jeff could be dangerous, Ellen fears that he's in danger, as the menacing atmosphere darkens. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves... See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


At the beginning of the movie Robert Young's character tries to commit suicide by running his car engine in an enclosed garage, then in flashback is told by a doctor that he's concerned about Young's recurring bouts of depression. In real life, Young suffered from depression for decades and tried to commit suicide in Westlake Village, CA in January 1991 by running a hose from his exhaust pipe into the interior of his car. Authorities were alerted after Young called a tow truck to try to start his car. The driver noticed the hose and contacted the police. See more »


In the opening scene, Robert Young's character is discovered suffocated by heavy carbon monoxide in a sealed garage, but nobody else coming in the garage is affected by the deadly gas. Additionally, unless a car is burning oil or running very rich, exhaust fumes are not visible as was shown here. This reveals some type of smoke or vapor was used, not an actual auto exhaust. See more »


Ellen Foster: Lightning can strike in the same place twice but not six times.
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References Rebecca (1940) See more »


Francesca da Rimini
Written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
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User Reviews

The Pine Cliff Paranoia.
25 September 2013 | by hitchcockthelegendSee all my reviews

The Second Woman (AKA: Ellen) is directed by James V. Kern and co- written by Mort Briskin and Robert Smith. It stars Robert Young, Betsy Drake, John Sutton, Florence Bates, Morris Carnovsky and Henry O'Neil. Music is by Joseph Nussbaum and cinematography by Hal Mohr.

Architect Jeff Cohalan (Young) is a troubled man, after the mysterious death of his fiancée in a car crash, he has been acting strangely and lives a lonely life at the Hilltop House he designed for his bride to be. When he meets Ellen Foster (Drake), things perk up as he becomes attracted to her. But he is constantly plagued by bad luck, something which doesn't go unnoticed by Ellen, who suspects that Jeff may not be the victim of paranoia, but of something sinister perpetrated by outside forces…

The Coast of Kings.

If you can get away from the looming presence of such great films like Gaslight and Rebecca, then James Kern's movie holds some Gothic noir rewards. The house at the centre of tale is a modern development, which is a shame as it goes against the coastal atmosphere lifting up from the Carmel-On-Sea location that was used for these parts of the film, but otherwise there's a strong brooding mystery bubbling away throughout. As the bizarre instances of misfortune start to mount up on Jeff Cohalan, with director Kern showing a good appreciation of pacing, it builds up a menacing head of steam and then unravels a better than adequate denouement.

Vivian, Vivian, Vivian…

Young and Drake inevitably tug at a romantic thread, but they make for an engaging couple and Drake especially gets her teeth into a female role of intelligent substance. John Sutton files in for some decent caddish quotient and Bates and O'Neil add some professionally elder support. Mohr's (Bullets or Ballets/The Lineup) photography is the key, consistently at one with the psychological beats of the plotting, his lighting compositions make the film seem far more higher in production value than it was.

A tale of memory lapses, pet bothering, depression, ugly real estate, dastards and romance, is nicely cloaked by ominous coastal atmospherics and Tchaikovsky! 7/10

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

7 July 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Here Lies Love See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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