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The Bigamist More at IMDbPro »

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55 out of 65 people found the following review useful:

Lupino-directed not-quite-weeper betrays archaic attitudes

Author: bmacv from Western New York
26 May 2002

Selling deep-freezes has been very good for west coast salesman Edmond O'Brien. He maintains a posh apartment in San Francisco and a bungalow in Los Angeles, both equipped with all the appurtenances of post-war prosperity, including a wife in each. In the city by the bay, Joan Fontaine serves as his helpmate not only at home but at work, where she serves as his executive secretary. But those long trips south can get lonely, and one afternoon, killing time on a tour bus, he flirts with Ida Lupino. Next thing, she's pregnant and married to him, too.

He might have gotten away with living his bigamous life but for the fact that he and the barren Fontaine decide to adopt a child. Enter Edmund Gwenn, an investigator for the adoption agency. No flies on Gwenn: He delves into O'Brien's background as if he were vetting him for Secretary of Defense. Caught in his two acts, O'Brien divulges his sad saga, in flashback, to the fascinated Gwenn.

Directed by Lupino, The Bigamist looks like it's going to turn into a weeper but doesn't quite make it. For one thing, odd touches crop up. The San Francisco high-rise is decorated in chic Chinoiserie, while in Los Angeles, Lupino slings chop suey in a dump called the Canton Café. Then, on the tour of Beverly Hills mansions, the driver points out the homes of movie stars; among them is Edmund Gwenn's. Meant as a light in-joke, it ends up as a distancing ploy when O'Brien and Lupino start chatting about Miracle on 34th Street.

But, closer to the bone, The Bigamist treats O'Brien with lavish sympathy. To be sure, there are the ritualistic mentions of `the moral laws we all live by' and the like, but on the whole he's portrayed as a victim of circumstance. For every victim, however, there's usually a villain. In this case, the finger wags at Fontaine, who can't bear a child and who takes her husband's work more seriously than she takes his ego.

Much is made, justifiably, of Lupino's bucking the male-dominated system by daring to direct movies. Yet The Bigamist demonstrates how hard it must have been to buck the social outlook of America in the early Eisenhower era.

Gossipy note: Writer/producer of The Bigamist was Collier Young, Lupino's second husband. They divorced in 1951, two years before they collaborated on this movie. She went on to marry Howard Duff; he to wed none other than Joan Fontaine. It must have made for an interesting production.

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37 out of 43 people found the following review useful:


Author: RitaRisque from Australia
24 March 2002

A couple who have been married for 8 years, and can not have children, wish to adopt one. When going through the form-filling procedure, Mr. Graham pauses very noticeably at one form which allows the adoption agency to delve into their private lives and "check him out", if you will.

The reason for this pause is told in retrospect to the agent after it is found that he not only has another wife, but a son by her.

Joan Fontaine was the standout star from this film. Just watch her face in the final courtroom scene - her expression really speaks a thousand words.

A short film, but utterly compelling. If you get the chance to see it - do!

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35 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

very strange, but good, by gum!

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
24 February 2006

This is one of the strangest films I have ever seen coming from Hollywood in the 1950s. It is a very engaging film about Edmond O'Brien and his double-life. He is married to Joan Fontaine and loves her, but there marriage is very distant--both emotionally and because O'Brien is on the road so much as a traveling salesman. Eventually, he is driven by loneliness to another woman in another town. Over and over, he vows to break it off but eventually this other woman becomes pregnant and he just can bring himself to either leave her or his wife! The movie is shown through flashbacks. And, despite the sensational plot, the movie is actually done very sedately and avoids sensationalism. Instead, it tries to portray O'Brien in a pretty sympathetic light--while not excusing his actions. And, by doing so, the movie really gets you thinking. An excellent job of acting by all, but the star of this picture is Ida Lupino who plays the second wife and so deftly directed this little film. It's well worth a watch.

PS--one very cute little inside joke was when O'Brien and Lupino were on a bus going past homes of the stars. Among the many stars' homes that were pointed out by the tour guide was that of Edmund Gwenn--who actually plays a major role in the film as an adoption agency investigator!

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34 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

One of a Kind!

Author: julianhwescott from United States
27 April 2002

Ida Lupino was a genius and way before her time! All of the films that she has directed including "The Bigamist", to me, have something in them that I'm always surprised that the censors didn't take out! Excellent story, good cast that work together wonderfully, great cinematography, good script! This film is almost a film-noir as there is an air of mystery about it! Enjoy!

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26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Interesting Drama With Some Thoughtful Moments

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
7 December 2005

An interesting drama with some thoughtful moments, "The Bigamist" succeeds in offering a sympathetic look at everyone involved in an emotionally trying situation, and in maintaining drama and tension for the entire running time. Ida Lupino does a good job both in acting and in directing, playing one of the key characters while telling the story in a careful fashion that does not oversimplify the issues involved.

As the three main characters, Lupino, Edmond O'Brien, and Joan Fontaine all give believable and effective performances. All of them make their share of mistakes, and yet all three characters are worth caring for, and their mistakes are understandable ones. The double-life situation and its consequences for all concerned is set up so as to go against some of the usual preconceptions. O'Brien's character is lonely, but by no means ill-intentioned, and the situation is sad, never sordid.

The tone is somber almost from the beginning, and except for a couple of amusing references to Edmund Gwenn's earlier role in "Miracle on 34th Street", there are few or no moments of humor to break the tension. Thus you can feel the unending sense of foreboding that O'Brien's character feels in regard to the complications he has caused.

Lupino and the script also manage to provide an honest look at the situation with few hindrances from the strict production code of the era. Only at a couple of odd moments can you tell that they had to shift gears slightly so as to placate the censors. Although the movie is low-key and straightforward, it's a commendable effort, and it makes for good drama.

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24 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Ida Lupino was Outstanding

Author: whpratt1 from United States
28 June 2007

Always enjoy a film in which Ida Lupino directs and stars in the same film. This story has a twisted tale about a guy named Harry Graham, (Edmond O'Brien) who is married to a very successful woman, Eve Graham, (Joan Fontaine), who devotes her entire life to her business along with her husband who is a traveling salesman for their company. When Eve found out she could not have any children, she unknowingly neglected her husband and they went their separate ways, only seeing each other maybe once or twice a month. Harry meets up with a young woman, Phyllis Martin, ( Ida Lupino ) on a tour bus in Los Angeles and they both get interested in each other. One day, out of the blue Eve Graham asks Harry if he would like to adopt a child and so they engage the help of Mr. Jordan, (Edmund Gwenn) who works for a child adoption agency. Mr. Jordan explains that he will have to investigate both of their backgrounds and Mr. Jordan begins to have his doubts about Harry. It is at this point in the film when it gets very interesting. This is truly a great 1953 film Classic; I was surprised to learn that Joan Fontaine and Ida Lupino were both married to Collier Young who wrote the screenplay for this film.

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17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Who Do You Love?

Author: Bucs1960 from West Virginia
26 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ida Lupino was a tough little dame, both on the screen, behind the camera and apparently in real life. The daughter of British music hall star Stanley Lupino and niece of Lupino Lane also in the Halls, she was a trouper from day one and specialized in playing hard-boiled, world-weary women. Here, she is directing and co-starring in a tight little film about a man who gets himself in hot water with two wives, one baby and an adoption agency investigator who looks like Santa Claus(!).

Edmond O'Brien, the everyman of film, portrays the bigamist of the title, who just can't seem to help he helps himself to both Lupino and Joan Fontaine. All goes well for a while but circumstances catch up with him and then it hits the fan. The ending leaves the unanswered question, "Who do you love?", and leaves the viewer wondering which one will take him back. My money is on Lupino.

Joan Fontaine plays the rather elegant business woman "first" wife in her usual cool and detached manner. She was coming off of a glorious career but was starting the descent that was inevitable for female stars of the 1940s. O'Brien does a yeoman's job as the man with the wedding bell blues and Edmund Gwenn, the real Santa Claus of 34th Street, is a little less jolly as the investigator. Jane Darwell, a staple of the 30s and 40s, has a bit part as the cleaning lady.

Lupino was directing Fontaine, who was the wife of her ex-husband Collier Young, who was the producer. Got that? All they needed was Howard Duff, Lupino's next husband to pop up as a detective!....or maybe Brian Aherne, Fontaine's former husband, to be the judge. All that aside, this is not a bad film and it did receive some good reviews when released. It's worth a watch.

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Intelligent, Compassionate, Romantic Drama

Author: ZenVortex from United States
13 January 2009

Ida Lupino sparkles as the director and star of this deeply moving romantic drama. The subject of bigamy is unusual for a Hollywood movie of that era and is handled in an intelligent, compassionate way.

Edmond O'Brien convincingly portrays a traveling salesman in love with two women -- his cute, barren, career-minded pre-feminist wife (Joan Fontaine) and a lonely, stunningly beautiful waitress (Lupino) -- neither of whom know of the other's existence.

The direction is excellent and elicits beautifully nuanced performances from the entire cast. O'Brien is portrayed as a decent human being who becomes entangled in a romantic triangle and tries to find a viable solution for everyone. Unfortunately, his well-intentioned plan to be a loving husband to both women comes unstuck when a nit-picking adoption investigator (Edmund Gwenn) probes too deeply.

Although not classic film noir, there is some sharp, insightful dialog. For example, the courtroom scene effectively challenges traditional American values when the judge sympathetically remarks: "If you had simply taken her as your mistress instead of marrying her, you would not be here now."

This is a well-crafted and provocative movie that showcases Lupino's considerable talent as an actress, director, and student of human nature. Ida Lupino was an extraordinary woman, years ahead of her time. Enjoy.

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14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

I despise you but I pity you!

Author: dbdumonteil
21 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ida Lupino was one the few women who dared to direct a movie: at the time it was almost unknown.There's another example in France (no,it's not Agnes Varda): Jacqueline Audry ,who,like Lupino ,was filming woman's subjects during the forties and the fifties.

Lupino made only six films but all of them are interesting ;four deal with woman's condition: this one, "Outrage" (story of a rape) ,"Hard Fast and Beautiful" (story of a Steffi Graf of the fifties)"never fear " (story of a ballerina who suffers from polio).Her best film ,however,remains "the hitch hiker" which was not really Lupinesque but was an excellent suspense story which is to be recommended.The last one was "trouble with angels". "The bigamist" is an interesting effort: although overtly feminist,Lupino has pity on his male character .When the judge speaks ,he is probably Lupino's spokesperson:"should this man have taken a mistress,he would not have had such problems ;but he did give his name to his child."Several feminist concerns appear in the movie: Fontaine's character cannot have a child,so she works very hard ,she is a businesswoman ,which in melodramas leads the heroine to lose the man she loves .Lupino's work is not really melodrama:it could happen (and is still happening today);her treatment is classic as she uses the flashback all along her film.

When he goes out of jail,he will not choose the woman he'll live with.It will be up to both of them....(the women).

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Lupino's best, a downbeat melodrama of loneliness worthy of Sirk

Author: OldAle1 from United States
8 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Lupino's second 1953 directorial effort (her first was the nightmarish road-movie/film-noir "The Hitch-hiker") is at first glance an entirely different affair -- pun intended -- charting the investigation of San Francisco adoption agent Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn) into the background of a childless couple who wish to become parents, Harry and Eve Graham (Joan Fontaine and Edmond O'Brien). For the first couple of reels, the investigation is the story, as Jordan discovers several rather suspicious items about the husband, a traveling salesman who makes quite regular trips to Los Angeles. Suspecting that all is not as it seems, Jordan eventually follows Graham to L.A. and discovers that he goes under a different name, and doesn't seem to register at any of the typical hotels. We know from the title what is going to happen, and sure enough when Jordan tracks Graham to a small house out in the suburbs, a baby cries, and Graham's big lie unravels....

Yes, Graham has another wife, Phyllis Martin (Ida Lupino), a waitress and the mother of his baby boy. He admits it all to Jordan, admits that he fell in love with Martin because she offered something that his career-woman wife and partner Eve could not -- real love, need, romance. Most of the rest of the film is a flashback, detailing the last year or so of Graham's life; probably the best part of the film lies in the next couple of reels, O'Brien showing real pathos as the lonely husband, the romantic and would-be lover whose marriage has become a business arrangement, wandering a large and unfriendly, alien city -- Lupino does a beautiful job of conveying the desolation and unfriendliness of Los Angeles -- and finally striking up a tentative friendship and would-be romance with a tart-mouthed waitress from Pennsylvania who's still dreaming of a better life. Eventually that friendship becomes a one-night stand on Graham's birthday that results in the unexpected, but not unwanted child, and when back in San Francisco Eve decides to finally look into adopting after 8 years of childlessness, Graham realizes that difficult choices are closing in, though he avoids them until caught.

What's most striking about The Bigamist to me is how it avoids taking an easy way out, avoids making any of the characters into villains or clichés, though Fontaine's Eve is a little scantily fleshed out and is probably the least likable character of the trio; the film really comes off as an indictment of the career and capitalist-based world, of the conflicts between money and real joy that we face in this society, and it nearly achieves mastery in its exploration of these themes through the great location work and fine acting (especially by O'Brien) -- until a weak and fairly slapdash moralizing courtroom ending which boils it down all too simply. Still, for the most part this is a beautifully worked out look at the challenges people face alone and together, and a bravely realistic portrait of a crime that was barely talked about in an era where even divorce was often taboo. Though I haven't yet seen all of her films, I suspect this is Lupino's best; and though stylistically it couldn't be more different, in theme and feeling it is rivaled in its era in American film only by Douglas Sirk. Kino VHS rental.

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