Sunday, March 3, 2013

253. The Bigamist (1953)

Running Time: 80 minutes
Directed By: Ida Lupino
Written By: Larry Marcus, Lou Schor, Collier Young
Main Cast: Edmond O'Brien, Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, Edmund Gwenn


Another quick movie tonight, as I try to reach my goal of being halfway done with the season by the end of March. Not sure if I'll make that goal or not, but plan to give it a hell of a try anyway. Tonight's feature was "The Bigamist" - directed by and starring Ida Lupino, from 1953.

The film opens with Harry (O'Brien) and Eve Graham (Fontaine) sitting in the office of an adoption agent, filling out paperwork and applying for a child. When the adoption agent, Mr. Jordan (Gwenn), an aging man who takes his profession seriously, asks the Grahams to each sign a piece of paper, consenting the agency to comb over every aspect of their personal life, Harry raises a subtle eyebrow. Mr. Jordan notices and not wanting to place a child in an unfit family, begins the long process of researching the Grahams. With Harry being a refrigerator salesman, he travels frequently for work, leaving Eve in San Francisco while he heads to Los Angeles to meet with clients and close deals. Mr. Jordan, wanting to research every detail of Harry's (and Eve's) life, follows Harry to L.A., to his office and waits for him at his desk, until Harry gets back in. As Mr. Jordan waits, he's fascinated to find a letter opener on Harry's desk, engraved with the name Harrison Graham. Looking up the name in the phone book, Mr. Jordan comes up with an address and when it doesn't look like Harry is going to make it back to the office, Mr. Jordan follows the lead. He arrives at the house and is even more shocked when Harry answers the door. You see, it seems that Harry has been leading a double life. Not only is he married to Eve in San Francisco, two prospective parents who are interested in starting a family; but he's also married to Phyllis in L.A...and he's already a father, with a son! The rest of the film is flashback, as we hear the story of how Harry met Phyllis and got mixed up with two wives.

It's currently 11:30 at night and I have to be at work at 7:00 in the morning, so pardon me if I keep this a little on the short side. "The Bigamist" was a perfectly fine film, not particularly outstanding, however not particularly terrible either. The main opinion that I do have is that with just a little more tweaking, this film really could've been a piece of gold. As it is, this seems to be one of THE BOOK'S oddball choices. If you look it up on IMDB, it only garners a '6.7' average and lists it as only being on one other list, besides the "1001" list. However, what you have here is a very interesting piece of noir. Much like "The Lost Weekend", you have a film-noir film that really doesn't follow your standard film-noir protocol. Sure it submits to the usage of shadows and flashback storytelling, but it leaves out the standard detective/insurance investigator role and there's no murder to be found. Therefore, I'd say that it doesn't fall into your standard noir mold, which, in my opinion, makes it pretty original. I think if you tweak the score a little bit and throw in a few more suspense scenes (you know, a few more close calls, with Harry nearly getting caught a few more times), I think that alone would've juiced this movie up enough to make it a surefire hit for the next TOP 20 list. As it is, I can't say I'll remember "The Bigamist" come list making time at the end of the season.

I will say that, on one hand I REALLY liked the chemistry between O'Brien and Lupino. In fact, a big credit to Edmond O'Brien, who seemed to know exactly how to play this double-crosser. He knew how to be cold and needy with Eve, yet he created so much passion on the screen with Phyllis. The scene where Harry and Phyllis go out for Harry's birthday is such a romantic, passionate scene and you almost believe that these two are really head over heels for one another. On the other hand, and I really feel like a heel for saying this, I really don't think Lupino was pretty enough to play the mistress (because, lets face it, she was a mistress). I mean, no sensible man steps out on his wife in the first place, but if you're actually going to go through with it, what sensible man leaves Joan Fontaine for barely average looking Ida Lupino? Ah well, an average looking mistress for a slightly better than average film.

RATING: 6.5/10  I'll keep this one in the forefront of my mind and chew it over before I spit it out. Not bad at all, but missing a few things to really make it shine. Oh and if you're looking to buy this, try to find a version other than the Alpha Video released version, which is probably the most horrible quality DVD I've ever had the displeasure of watching.


March 3, 2013  11:44pm


  1. What a little delight this was is.
    It was a film I knew from on of those cheap 'public domain' cheapo sets "12 great film Noirs for $10.99!" I can get on import from the USA.
    I have bought a few of those, and always found, of the 12, at least 3 or 4 that were truely great, another 3 or 4 so-so, and then some total junk. All unavailable in the UK..
    Anyway, this was on one of those, and I'd always liked it.. but was astonished to find it in THE BOOK. So much so, that when I started to 'collect' the 1001, I watched it again to check it was te same film...
    Mind you, I have always found Ida Lupino interesting, either as an actor or director.
    An increadably brave film for it's time I guess.. we are invited, no encouraged, to have sympathy and understanding with the bigamist. No moralising in this film.. the bad guy, is in fact, a nice, decent guy.
    ..and I think that is why 'the mistress' is like she is.. This is not a film about a stereotype horney middle aged man after a hot younger model.. so no dumb blonde with big breasts.. There is a lot more to the characters.
    .. Which is why I find Ida Lupino so interesting, and wish there were more of her directorial films out there.
    So glad you liked it.

    1. Actually, you just made me realize something Ray. Maybe it's intentional that Ida Lupino is less attractive than Joan Fontaine (again, I sound like such a heel for saying so), because then it becomes obvious that it's not just about som horny, middle aged man and that his feelings were actually rooted in love. Good catch!

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