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The Bigamist (1953)
Nothing Big about "The Bigamist"
Someone recommended this for me to see as I am a bona-fide film-noir freak. Maybe I read it on a noir list, but another draw for me was the CAST and the SUBJECT matter. Well friends, this is certainly NOT noir in any sense or element of the genre. The subject of a man living a double life and married to two women in separate cities at the same time may have been controversial, and I applaud Ms. Lupino for undertaking it, but found it very sanitized and not thrilling at all. I won't offer a "spoiler" for the ending, since there essentially was none and this audience felt especially ripped off. Maybe somewhere there is a longer print with more meat and substance.
I found the cast at no where near their collective best performances. Joan Fontaine (Eve Graham), God bless her, was just in her early stages of a long string of bombs. "The Bigamist" may have led to her accelerated decline as one of Hollywood's greatest legends. After her stellar performances in Hitchcock's "Rebecca" (1940) and "Suspicion" (1941), and then her zenith in "The Constant Nymph" (1943), she ended her feature film career in 1966 with Hammer's "The Witches / The Devil's Own" in the horror genre where so many talented greats crash-landed.
Edmond O'Brien (Harry / Harrison Graham) had done better and had since done better than this one. He was stiff and emotionless, but I guess he usually was anyway. He plays fine as a regular-type guy, never cast as the handsome girl-magnet but capable just the same. Look for far superior performances from him from that same year (1953) in "The Hitch-Hiker", in "D.O.A." (1950) and "White Heat" (1949). "The Bigamist" was certainly not his best.
Edmund Gwenn plays Mr. Jordan, the adoption agency investigator who uncovers Mr. Graham's secret. Adequate in his role, and maybe the most interesting of all characters, I just couldn't get passed remembering him as "Kris Kringle / Santa Claus" in "Miracle On 34th Street" (1947). In fact, the film made a couple of sneaky references to that great film. Maybe some inside jokes. Listen carefully to the dialog.
Last but not least, Ida Lupino (Phyllis Martin) does deserve a hand for handling the picture, this being the only time she directed herself in any film. She was quite the pioneer of her day, but this was no directorial gem. It may have been handled differently had it been directed by a man, but all in all, no great shakes here. For Ida's best performance, look her her in "They Drive By Night" (1940). As a Warner's contract player and usually cast as second or third lead, she later proved much more capable outside the studio contract system. Her role here as the "other woman" was just okay and nothing better.
No noir, no great mystery (as the cast plays it like they don't even care), no femme-fatales, no guns, no violence, but yes - some sympathy for Mr. Graham, the lead, for his predicament.
The final scene was the ultimate disappointment.
Alpha's DVD print is not too bad but not great either. They offer mostly public-domain films and now I know why the rights to this one were never picked up or renewed.
The Big Sleep (1946)
A Delicious Mess
One of the most, if not THE most convoluted yet enjoyable noirs I've seen in years. The DVD (R1) version explains some intriguing production points: Filming began in late 1944 on the tails of the success of pairing Bogie & Bacall in "To Have And Have Not". The pre-release print of the film (Spring 1945) did not favor Bacall as flatteringly as the final print we've all grown to love. Her agent (same as director Howard Hawks') implored production chief Jack Warner to re-shoot some scenes and add dialogue for Bacall. Warner agreed and today we actually can see on DVD both versions: The 1945 Pre-Release and the 1946 Final Cut in their entirety. There are out-takes and scene comparisons as extras too. Chandler is quoted as noting that at one point HE didn't even know who killed who! Bogart, Bacall and Vickers are all excellent and the machine-gun banter is extraordinary. The dialogue alone is worth the price of admission. Definitely a 9 out of 10.
Olivia's final contract picture with Warner Bros. Studios
"Devotion" was filmed in 1943 but not released until 1946. This was Olivia DeHavilland's final picture with Warner Bros. Studios. She had an ongoing battle with the studio over quality scripts and was suspended several times for her refusal to work in second rate productions. She eventually won her case and had her contract "fulfilled" in court. This was the beginning of the end of the studio-contract system. Bette Davis had begun this war with Warner Bros in 1937, leaving the studio and causing a battle in court. Davis won the battle (getting superior scripts from 1938 onward) but Olivia won the war. Olivia continued as an independent into remarkable projects from the mid 1940's and onward, never to be shackled with chains to a long-term contract again. Hollywood owes her a debt of gratitude.
The Hours (2002)
Engrossing, intelligent story-telling.
What director Stephen Daldry has presented here is a masterpiece. Certainly not for everyone's entertainment tastes, but on a much deeper level, a stab at the heart of slice-of-life reality. The performances of Streep, Moore, and Harris are riveting.
Watch this carefully without distraction and you will be pulled into the lives of these women. One of the most intelligent films of the past decade. Philip Glass' score is mesmerizing and adds brilliant shades to the dark subject that the characters share. Excellent film.