Thursday, November 5, 2015

Second Sight: A Love Story

When Bewitched ended its successful run, Elizabeth Montgomery opted to concentrate on made-for-TV films instead of another television series. It was a smart decision that allowed her to flex her dramatic talents. She also became one of the form's most popular stars, appearing in highly-rated TV movies (The Legend of Lizzie Borden) as well as socially relevant ones (the then-groundbreaking A Case of Rape).

One of my personal favorites is Second Sight: A Love Story (1984). Montgomery plays Alax McKay, a fiercely independent woman who lost her sight at age 16 as a result of congenital cataracts. She briskly brushes aside any attempts to assist her, though she confides to her brother: "There isn't a moment in my life when I feel completely safe."

Two separate events turn Alax's life upside down. First, she meets a man that cuts through her self-defenses and pursues her romantically. As if coping with the challenge of a new relationship wasn't hard enough, she discovers a burglar in her apartment. Her confidence shaken, she makes a life-altering decision to get a seeing-eye dog.

Second Sight is a compelling movie, especially when it focuses on Alax's daily experiences with Emma, her yellow Labrador Retriever. She spends four weeks living at the International Guiding Eyes school, learning that humans need just as much as training as their assistance dogs--maybe more. Her trust in Emma grows, especially after the Labrador proves her mettle by keeping Alax from colliding with a bicycle rider.

Second Sight eventually evolves into a more conventional drama when the story shifts to Alax's romantic relationship. It's done well enough and the normally intense Barry Newman seems almost subdued as Alax's encouraging boyfriend. However, I kept wishing the film would get back to the story of Alax and Emma.

The real Emma.
That is the focus of Emma and I, Sheila Hocken's 1978 autobiography which served as the basis for Second Sight. In real life, Emma was a chocolate Lab and Hocken's story took place in England in the 1960s. The book's ending is also different from the film's closing scene (no spoilers here!). Emma and I was the first of four books that Hocken wrote about her beloved canine companion. A fifth book, After Emma, is about Hocken's six other dogs (most of which are Labs!).

Second Sight: A Love Story was a personal project for Elizabeth Montgomery, who wanted to show Alax's flaws. She gives a heartfelt performance and--like Alax--the film succeeds despite its flaws in the second half. During the shoot, Elizabeth Montgomery and Emma became so attached that the actress adopted the dog in real life.

2 comments:

  1. Elizabeth talked with me extensively about this film, which is profiled in both of my biographies about her: TWITCH UPON A STAR: THE BEWITCHED LIFE AND CAREER OF ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY - and - THE ESSENTIAL ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY: A GUIDE TO HER MAGICAL PERFORMANCES.

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  2. Rick, I remember this TV film. As a dog lover, I am automatically attracted to works that profile canines. I am the one watching the movie who cringes when anyone mistreats a dog! This is such a sweet story and I especially was touched to hear that Elizabeth adopted Emma in real life. Thanks for sharing this heartfelt review!

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