The Bigamist (1953 film)

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The Bigamist
The Bigamist 1953.jpg
Directed by Ida Lupino
Written by Collier Young
Larry Marcus
Lou Schor
Starring Joan Fontaine
Ida Lupino
Edmond O'Brien
Edmund Gwenn
Cinematography George E. Diskant
Edited by Stanford Tischler
Distributed by The Filmmakers
Release date(s) December 3, 1953 (1953-12-03)
Running time 80 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Bigamist is a 1953 film noir directed by and starring Ida Lupino. The film's other leads are Edmund O'Brien, Joan Fontaine and Edmund Gwenn. It was written by Collier Young from a story by Larry Marcus and Lou Schor. Young was married to Fontaine at the time and had previously been married to Lupino. The Bigamist has been cited as the first film in which a female star of the film directed herself.[1]

The actual homes of Jack Benny and James Stewart on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills as well as those of Edmund Gwenn and Jane Wyman are shown during a coach tour of Beverley Hills.


Harry (Edmond O'Brien) and Eve Graham (Joan Fontaine) want to adopt a child. Adoption agent Mr Jordan (Edmund Gwenn) warns the couple that he would need to investigate them thoroughly. Harry looks curiously at Jordan, something that worries Jordan.

Harry travels to Los Angeles frequently for work. Jordan arrives at the Harry's LA office looking for information about Harry. The receptionist calls around to all the hotels but none of them have a Harry Graham registered. One or two of the managers remember Harry but he hadn't been checked in to their hotels in months. Jordan is very puzzled and even more adamant in investigating Harry. He finds a letter opener on Harry's desk with the name 'Harrison' Graham. Jordan discovers an address for that name in the phone book.

When he arrives at the address, Harry opens the door. He tries to get rid of Jordan when suddenly a baby cries from the next room. Jordan now understands Harry's secret. When Jordan is about to call the police, Harry tells him how he got into the situation.

One day about 8 months earlier, while staying in a hotel in LA, Harry gets lonely for Eve. He goes for a walk and finds a tour bus going around showing the homes of Hollywood stars. He becomes interested in Phyllis (Ida Lupino) sitting across the aisle. At first she doesn't seem very interested in him, but once the tour ends, she asks if he wants to get dinner at the restaurant where she works. They talk and spend time together. Harry doesn't expect to ever see Phyllis again.

When he gets back to the hotel that night, he tries to tell Eve everything about Phyllis, and about his loneliness, but Eve changes the topic. Back home, he tries again, planning a vacation for the two of them, but she dismisses the idea and turns away to sleep. Pretty soon Harry's begun a relationship with Phyllis.

Eve gets a telegram about her father and she rushes to be with her family in Florida, but before she leaves, she apologises to Harry for the way she had been behaving and tells him she wants to adopt a child. For the next few months Harry stays close to home and begins the adoption process. Three months later, Harry goes back to LA looking for Phyllis, but she is no longer working at the restaurant. He tracks her down at the boarding house she's living in and that's when she tells him that she's pregnant.

Harry plans to call Eve and ask for a divorce when she calls him to give him the news of her father's death. Hearing how distraught she is, he can't go through with his plan. But he can't bring himself to leave Phyllis either, and instead proposes to her.

Once Harry has told his tale to Jordan, he expects Jordan to call the police, but Jordan doesn't. He simply leaves. Harry writes a farewell letter to Phyllis and leaves. Eve returns to their home in San Francisco as Harry is about to meet the police who are waiting for him.

Harry ends up in court, where the two women finally meet. He loved both women, but the denouement is left unclear.



The film felt into difficulty when RKO Pictures pulled out of the picture, leaving the filmmakers to distribute it themselves.[2] The film received mediocre reviews at the time of release, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times calling it "just an average melodrama about cops".[2] It has since earned acclaim from critics and is included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Chris Fujiwara calls it a "haunting film" which is "one of several out-of-nowhere masterpieces" to be directed by Lupino. He particularly praises the final courtroom scene, which he considers to be "shattering", with a "combination of ambiguity and intensity that recalls both Carl Dreyer and Nicholas Ray".[3] The Encyclopedia of Film Noir considers The Bigamist to be "unusually ambiguous" for the period.[4] Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner remark that The Bigamist is "not a sensationalized rendering of a potentially sordid subject, but a very human story of a man (Edmond O'Brien) tangled between two women".[5]


  1. ^ Spicer, Andrew (19 March 2010). Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Scarecrow Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-8108-7378-0. 
  2. ^ a b Spicer, Andrew; Hanson, Helen (27 June 2013). A Companion to Film Noir. John Wiley & Sons. p. 242. ISBN 978-1-118-52371-1. 
  3. ^ Schneider, Steven Jay (1 October 2012). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die 2012. Octopus Publishing Group. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-84403-733-9. 
  4. ^ Mayer, Geoff; McDonnell, Brian (1 January 2007). Encyclopedia of Film Noir. ABC-CLIO. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-313-33306-4. 
  5. ^ Hagen, Ray; Wagner, Laura (17 September 2004). Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames. McFarland. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-7864-8073-9. 

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