Saturday 20 April 2024

Movie Review: The Bigamist (1953)

Genre: Romantic Drama  
Director: Ida Lupino  
Starring: Joan Fontaine, Edmond O'Brien, Ida Lupino, Edmund Gwenn  
Running Time: 80 minutes  

Synopsis: In San Francisco, traveling salesman Harry Graham (Edmond O'Brien) and his wife and business partner Eve (Joan Fontaine) are being vetted for an adoption by bureaucrat Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn). Although Harry's reputation in the community is stellar, Jordan senses something is off and keeps digging. His sleuthing leads him to Los Angeles, and the discovery that Harry is also secretly married to Phyllis (Ida Lupino) and a father to a young baby. In flashbacks, a despondent Harry recalls how he ended up leading a double life.

What Works Well: This is a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of two loves co-existing in one man's heart, and writer Collier Young (Lupino's ex-husband, Fontaine's current husband) studiously refuses to pass judgement. Occupying most of the running time, the details of Harry and Phyllis finding companionship then passion are tragically heartfelt. Harry's love for Eve remains true even as it melds with business partner appreciation, while Phyllis provides domesticity and an escape from loneliness on the road. Director Lupino maintains a sombre tone but also peppers the drama with inside Hollywood jokes, a few at the expense of Edmund Gwenn.

What Does Not Work As Well: With the shock premise surrendered in the title, the mostly mopey tone results in a running time that feels longer than 80 minutes. The annoying lack of courage to hold honest conversations is the catalyst for almost all of Harry's problems.

Conclusion: Relationship status: really complicated.

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