For Reel

The Second Face (1950)
April 17, 2016, 3:44 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jack Bernhard
2.5 Stars
The Second FaceThe career of Ella Raines has found a renewed interest in recent years. When used well (as in a noir like Phantom Lady), her striking, icy beauty compliments a sense of the underworld—she’s not a wholesome screen presence, rather one who suggests something urban and dangerous. The Second Face, then, is unusual in several ways. First of all, it casts the actress in a rare leading role, but it also demands that she play fairly meek and restrained, a well-to-do woman who has difficulty finding her place within the world. Her transformation in the flashback scenes is striking—sporting a fake nose and greasy, tightly pulled back hair, Raines plays the role without any sense of vanity, even if an actress like Joan Crawford might have better externalized the struggle in a compelling way. And yet, if The Second Face has value for those interested in Raines’ career, it is otherwise a noble failure, suited with a sometimes laughably overwrought script that belabors its single point repeatedly. Each encounter is punctuated by a discussion about how the ugliness (or, later, the beauty) of the heroine has influenced the action, leaving nothing to the viewer’s imagination. If one is looking for a more subtle, empathetic look about being disadvantaged in a culture that prides beauty above almost all else, try The Enchanted Cottage.