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USA 1953
Directed by
Ida Lupino
80 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Bigamist

Harry Graham (Edmond O’Brien) is a successful traveling salesman who has an rather empty  marriage to Eve (Joan Fontaine) with whom he owns an electrical appliances business. The childless couple decide to adopt a child, but when the state's adoption investigator (Edmund Gwenn) looks into Harry’s past he discovers that Harry is a bigamist and living a double life with Phyllis (Ida Lupino). The film explains how such a decent ordinary Joe got himself into such a situation.

Ida Lupino and her second husband, screenwriter and producer Collier Young, founded their own independent production company called The Filmakers in 1950 to make social issue movies and to give Lupino the opportunity to direct, something which was a very unusual occurrence in Hollywood at the time

The Bigamist fulfills both purposes but the outcome is unremarkable. I’ve never understood how Edmond O’Brien managed to become a leading man. He’s a good puddin’ head and that suits his part here but he’s hardly a riveting presence.  Lupino and Fontaine are much more engaging but they cannot really lift the flat and sentimental tenor of the film. Given that the subject of bigamy would have been quite controversial at the time how much Lupino and Young were constrained by the Production Code is impossible to say.  The main part of the film has some credibility although you want to ask how such a decent guy as Harry managed not to ‘fess up that he was married but packaging the drama as a social issue and Lupino apparent willingness to endorse society’s moral  viewpoint, embodied in the Gwenn character but particularly in a gratuitous closing courtroom sequence, robs the film of much of its dramatic potential whilst the low production values make it look somewhat dated.

FYI: Lupino and Collier divorced before the shooting began. Collier married Joan Fontaine and when Jane Greer backed out of playing the role of Eve, Collier got Fontaine to replace her.  Joan Fontaine’s mother, Lillian, appears as Phyllis’s landlady.




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