Friday, March 30, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Second Chance (1950)

Tonight's Netflix DVD was SECOND CHANCE, an unusual film which never had a theatrical run.

SECOND CHANCE -- not to be confused with the 1953 thriller starring Robert Mitchum and Linda Darnell -- was a 72-minute feature film produced by the Protestant Film Commission for 16mm exhibition in churches. It features a solid cast including Ruth Warrick (CITIZEN KANE), John Hubbard, and Hugh Beaumont (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER). According to a five-minute featurette, a surviving print which was beginning to decay was discovered in Quebec. Thanks to this discovery, the film is now available on DVD from Alpha.

The film tells the story of Emily Dean (Warrick), who reviews her life, her marriage to Ed (Hubbard), and her faith in the wake of a health crisis. Emily realizes that she has gradually let trivialities impede her relationships with God and her family; as her religious faith has become a less integral part of her life over the years, it has negatively affected her personality and how she relates to others.

The film's format is unusual in that it begins with the hymn "Faith of Our Fathers," sung by the choir of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, prior to the opening credits. A title card invites the audience to join in the singing. The movie ends in similar fashion with a different hymn.

As the film was intended for church audiences, it explicitly discusses various faith-related issues. It's an inspirational story about priorities and keeping God at the center of one's life, which seemed to be especially appropriate viewing as we approach Holy Week. Those in the audience who are not Christians may not be comfortable with all aspects of the film, but the lead characters are very human and some of their experiences over the years will be recognized and related to by the entire audience.

Classic film fans may also find the movie of general interest simply because it's unique seeing well-known actors of the era starring in this type of film. This is a well-produced, well-acted little movie which might have been lost forever, so it's wonderful that it was found and saved via DVD.

An interesting bit of trivia is that Hugh Beaumont -- last seen by me earlier this week in a far different role, as the lawyer in BURY ME DEAD (1947) -- graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master's in theology in 1946. Beaumont plays Emily and Ed's minister in SECOND CHANCE. His work in the '40s was quite varied, ranging from film noir titles such as THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946) and Anthony Mann's RAILROADED! (1947) to another inspirational film, REACHING FROM HEAVEN (1948). In 1957 he began his most famous role on TV's LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.

Ruth Warrick, of course, also became a TV legend, starring for decades as Phoebe on ALL MY CHILDREN.

This was the last film appearance by Joan Carroll, who was so effective and underrated as Agnes, the fourth Smith sister in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). Joan plays the nurse at the doctor's office.

SECOND CHANCE was directed by the prolific William Beaudine. The supporting cast includes David Holt, Pat Combs, Ellye Marshall, and John Holland.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

This sounds pretty neat. I love to find films like this with established actors in projects outside of the Hollywood venue, particularly for the rarity of it. I agree Joan Carroll was underrated.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jacqueline!

What you say is exactly one of the reasons I found this film so interesting -- a full-length feature film with accomplished stars which wasn't "Hollywood." Felt like I'd stumbled across an interesting little slice of movie history, and I'm curious now to find more such films.

So glad to know you're also in the Joan Carroll fan club!

Best wishes,

10:27 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I don't believe true fans of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS underrate Joan Carroll. I know I don't. Even allowing that a few top-billed cast members are pointedly given some special scenes or songs, it's best appreciated as an ensemble movie and everyone in it has their share of great moments. I'd call this the best ensemble cast in any Minnelli film. They are all ideal in their roles.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for the kind words on Joan Carroll, Blake. Indeed, what a wonderful ensemble cast in ST. LOUIS! For many years now I've listed it as one of my three favorite films. I was glad that Lou Lumenick of the New York Post inquired about Carroll when he interviewed Margaret O'Brien a few months ago, and O'Brien said Carroll is living in Nevada.

Best wishes,

10:12 PM  
Blogger Mark W said...

Thank you for analyzing this film which I also found on Alpha. I purchased it along with the exploitation film "One Too Many" which also stars Ms. Warrick, a favorite actress of mine ever since I was a kid watching "All My Children". She's actually very similar to her "AMC" character of Phoebe Tyler Wallingford, only with the faith angle added. I mentioned both of these films on Warrick's IMDB page and "All My Children" page, so hopefully others have discovered this as well. Alpha Video has released several of these non-theatrical religious dramas, including "Reaching From Heaven" which features "Wicked Witch" Margaret Hamilton as a religious woman with a tendency to gossip, "All That I Have" with Donald Woods, and "Again... Pioneers" which features a beautiful performance by veteran character actress Sara Padden. These are all very interesting dramas with a Christian message, but not finger wagging except maybe towards those like Hamilton's gossiping meddler, and a few in "Again...Pioneers" who lack God's desire for his children to practice hospitality and not judge. Here is a link to my IMDB message on Ruth's page:

7:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your comments and link, Mark, and for the mention of the other religious dramas available via Alpha. These little-known films with interesting casts are an interesting subgenre, and I will have to check some more out.

Best wishes,

10:57 PM  

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