Harry and Eve Graham are trying to adopt a baby. The head of the agency senses Harry is keeping a secret and does some investigating. He soon discovers Harry has done an unusual amount of traveling from his home in San Francisco to Los Angeles. Harry gets tracked down in LA where he has a second wife and a baby. Via flashbacks, Harry tells the adoption agent how he ended up in two marriages.Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
How can a man call a woman his wife for eight years - someone who you love, who loves you - how can you call her and tell her that you must have a divorce? Worse than that, you've been unfaithful - you're going to be a father. How can you hurt someone so much?
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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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