• Angus McGregor

First Time Watch: Ida Lupino Double Bill - Part 2

Welcome back to my Ida Lupino Double Bill, yesterday I started the MUBI highlighted duo of films, starting off with the first female-directed Noir film 'The Hitch-Hiker'. I would implore you to check the film out and MUBI as a whole, as it allows you to catch up on many classics and hidden gems from all over the world.

Part 2 of the double bill also holds some record of historic importance, as it is a film that is cited to be the first American film in which the female star also directed the film. It's quite depressing that it took until 1953 for this to happen but nonetheless, Ida Lupino's 'The Bigamist' sits firmly in Film History and paved the way for many to follow in the footsteps of. At the time, this dual role would have been groundbreaking and to be honest, to a certain extent now it's still massive news if a woman is able to breakthrough in Hollywood and hold such responsibility on a project. For Lupino to do so in a heavily male-dominated Hollywood system was incredible in its own right, and hopefully, the film could match her achievement.

Plot Synopsis: San Francisco businessman Harry Graham (Edmond O'Brien) and his wife and business partner, Eve (Joan Fontaine), are in the process of adopting a child. When private investigator Jordan (Edmund Gwenn) uncovers the fact that Graham has another wife, Phyllis (Ida Lupino), and a small child in Los Angeles, he confesses everything. In flashback, Graham tells of the strains in his marriage with Eve and how he found himself falling for the kind-hearted waitress Phyllis while on a business trip.

The year 1953 was host to a couple of really famous Romance movies, most notable 'Roman Holiday' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'. 'The Bigamist' as easily given away, is a romance to a certain extent, but one that is deeply harrowing and not a very hopeful one. Following the infidelity of a refrigerator salesman, 'The Bigamist' explores the effects of loneliness within a relationship, insecurities as well as issues that were considered taboo such as cheating and infertility. The lead character Harry's relationship with his first wife Eve seems to go downhill following finding out the improbability of having a child, forcing the duo to somewhat resent one another and focus on their business ventures instead. Featuring dreadful communication and a lack of intimacy, Harry wrongfully looks elsewhere, something that seems to be a common excuse in these situations.

The film does a great job at allowing you to understand the psyche of Harry, despite not painting him in great light or even trying to invoke sympathy towards him. We see step by step how he digs himself in a hole that becomes impossible to escape and as this continues, the devastation caused will only grow greater. From this, you feel incredibly sorry for the two blinded women by a horrible man whilst also seeing just what causes such events. This causes a lot of tension as you grow more and more enraged by the actions of Harry, anticipating the eventual blowout.

However, the blowout never really comes and Harry doesn't really get his comeuppance bar a couple of looks that weren't overly sinister. It's unsatisfying but also does describe the way in which affairs like this end, the spouses come off a whole lot worse. With the 1950s Hollywood lifestyle, this clearly could be seen as a commentary on relationships, with many bouncing between partners - including Lupino herself. Scarily and weirdly enough, Lupino released this film in 1953, written and produced by her second husband Collier Young, who she was divorcing in 1951 after she got pregnant from an affair from her third husband Howard Duff. It would be safe to say that 'The Bigamist' was a depiction of real-life events she endured, which may explain the lack of a payoff to the man who played these two women.

Whether some kind of memoir or just a coincidence, 'The Bigamist' doesn't shirk from letting its audience know that this behaviour isn't commendable but does she light on this issue. To some, it may not be very enthralling, as little actual character is developed to allow you to further develop this storyline and create some more conflict. Nonetheless, this feature is very solid all-round, with a story that does invoke a reaction within its viewer, succeeding massively in that aspect.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

Another successful viewing on this series, it was about time I did a review on a couple of true classics. Make sure to come back for more reviews of films from the past as we continue to go on without cinemas. As usual, I hope you enjoyed reading this review and have gone away with intrigue to seek this film out. Continue to stay safe and hope you return soon!

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