Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Bigamist

TCM is marking the birth anniversary of Ida Lupino today, so it's unsurprising that TCM is spending the day with a bunch of her movies. I've mentioned a few times in the past that Lupino became a director, but what I didn't realize is that she was actually only credited as the director of six films. To be fair, though, this doesn't count On Dangerous Ground, and she did a lot of directing for television as well. TCM is showing the movies in which Lupino is one of the stars, but that does happen to include one movie which she also directed: The Bigamist, at 4:45 PM.

At the start of the movie, our bigamist, Harrison Graham (played by Edmond O'Brien), is living in San Francisco with his wife Eve (Joan Fontaine). He's a successful salesman of commercial freezers and she's his secretary, but his work constantly takes him to Los Angeles so the two rarely see each other. They don't have any children and she seems to have trouble conceiving, so they decide to adopt. Here comes Mr. Jordan (played Edmund Gwenn, and the lousy pun was intended), the adoption agency investigator. What he discovers shocks him, although it shouldn't shock any of us since we know from the title what's coming.

Harrison Graham, is, in fact, a bigamist! How could such a thing happen? Well, let the movie tell you. As I said earlier, Harrison travels a lot for business, which has made him lonely. One day in Los Angeles, he takes a tour of the stars' houses, which is where he meets Phyllis (Ida Lupino), a waitress at a local café. (Her being on the tour is about as realistic as Priscilla Lane's character prtending to be a department store salesgirl and winding up in the Statue of Liberty for the climax of Saboteur, but that's another point.) At first it's just friendship, but you know that things are going to get more serious than that. Eventually, Phyllis tells Harrison that he's knocked her up. Well, she doesn't use that sort of language; the Production Code would never allow it. So he proposes to her, even though he's married to another woman. Since I mentioned the Production Code, you also know that it means Harrison is bound to be caught, and since Mr. Jordan has found out about the bigamy, Harrison is going to face a court trial.

If you're looking to see why people talk about Ida Lupino as a director, I don't think this is the movie to start with; something like The Hitch-Hiker would be better. The problem with this movie is, I think, not really Lupino's fault; to me it seems more a problem with the script. The whole movie is just kind of there. It comes and goes like one of those old TV movies trying to highlight an important issue. Lupino as director and actress does a capable job, and to be fair to the rest of the actors, they do as well. But they're doing their jobs in the service of mediocre material. The ending is also left hanging, but again that's a script problem.

I believe The Bigamist hasn't gotten a DVD release. It's worth a watch, but everybody involved with the film has done much better.

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