Cast & Crew
In San Francisco, California, Harry Graham shows discomfort as he signs an application allowing an investigation of his life so that he and his wife Eve may adopt a son. As Harry's deep-freezer business takes him frequently to Los Angeles on sales calls, the adoption agency's investigator, Mr. Jordan, also checks Harry's references there. Jordan learns that while former employers praise Harry, the people in his own office think he is anti-social. The secretary is unable to locate a hotel where Harry is a registered guest, and Jordan's curiosity is further piqued upon finding a letter opener engraved with the name "Harrison Graham." Jordan goes to the address listed in the telephone book for that name and finds Harry at home with another wife and a baby. Harry confesses that he has been leading a double life and reveals that when he and Eve discovered they could not have children four years earlier, she put all her energy into their business. As a result, Harry felt estranged from his wife. He reflects that his current problems began on a Sunday eight months earlier: Harry takes a bus tour of the homes of Hollywood stars and meets Phyllis Martin, who is sitting across the aisle from him. Although Phyllis initially rejects his attempts at conversation, by the end of the tour she takes him to the Canton Café, where she works as a waitress. Harry walks Phyllis home that night, but does not expect to see her again. In San Francisco, his wish for a weekend alone with Eve is thwarted by the dinner party she has thrown for their attorney, Tom Morgan, and a potential client, Carl Forbes. When they are alone later on, Harry remarks that he and Eve have only been together for six days in the previous month, but Eve is too tired to take interest in his suggestion that they take a vacation together. A disillusioned Harry renews his friendship with Phyllis but when his birthday arrives, he cancels plans to go out with Phyllis because he realizes he is falling in love with her. Phyllis comes to Harry's hotel room unexpectedly, and after her obvious affection changes his mind, they spend the evening together. The next day, Harry returns home where he finds Eve packing for a trip to Florida because her father has suffered a heart attack. Before her plane takes off, Eve apologizes for her behavior during the previous four years, and they agree to adopt a child. Harry remains in San Francisco to look after the office, but when Eve does not return for an extended period, he travels to Los Angeles on business. Harry learns that Phyllis has quit her job and that she is pregnant with his child, conceived on the night of his birthday. Harry is torn by his responsibilities, but after Eve informs him that her father has died and she will remain longer in Florida to help her mother, he proposes to Phyllis. Phyllis is fiercely independent and initially refuses on the grounds that she does not want Harry to feel forced into marriage. However, Harry assures her that he is in love with her, and because she also loves him, she accepts his proposal. Harry returns to San Francisco to find that Eve is home and has begun adoption proceedings. He then concludes that he should wait to tell her about Phyllis until after the adoption is legal. Harry's double life continues, until one night when Eve surprises him with a visit in Los Angeles for their eighth wedding anniversary. Eve's suspicions are aroused when Ricky, a young man on the street, asks Harry for a ride home. However, Harry explains Ricky's request by saying that his hotel is near Ricky's house, and that he often dines with the family. The next morning after Eve departs, Harry goes home to Phyllis and their son Daniel. Phyllis is furious because Ricky's mother told her that Harry was seen with another woman. She throws Harry out, and Harry is relieved that he will now be able to end his double life. However, the next day, Phyllis changes her mind and they return home together. This brings Harry to the present. Although Jordan initially considered calling the police, he now calls a taxi and leaves. His conscience troubled, Harry writes a farewell note to Phyllis and goes to San Francisco, where he also bids farewell to Eve and turns himself over to the authorities. In a courtroom, Tom pleads for mercy as a judge considers Harry's bigamy. The judge weighs Harry's decent intentions against the criminality of his actions, and points out that it is unlikely that either wife will wait for Harry. The judge then adjourns court for the next week, when he will pass sentence on Harry. As Phyllis and Eve watch, Harry is led away by police.
Now, let's say that your investors for this no-budget marvel have rejected every one of your story ideas save one: a story about a man with two wives. And just for toppers, let's imagine that you've cast yourself as one of these wives, and as the other woman you've brought in your own real-life rival in your own, very public, romantic entanglements.
Stressful? Perhaps, but you've just assembled the pieces of a bona fide soap opera so fascinating that you're all but guaranteed popular attention regardless of how well-or how poorly-you do your job.
Meet Ida Lupino-actress, writer, director, producer, and all at the tender age of 33. Not another woman in Hollywood even came close to such an accomplishment, not at the dawn of the Father Knows Best 1950s.
Not that strong women were few and far between back then-in fact, quite the opposite. During the war years, sisters were doin' it for themselves. When the boys came back, they found a capable and confident workforce dominated by women. Men retook the reins, but it was not so simple-their gals had gotten used to playing the same games, and the economy favored two-earner couples. Social mores continued to expect that good hubbies were the sole breadwinners, and believed that if a wife worked it was a matter of scandal, but the misfit between those increasingly outdated attitudes and the changing economic landscape caused no small amount of sexual tension. Just the stuff for dramatic movies.
Ida Lupino and her then husband Collier Young founded their own independent production company The Filmakers (where's the missing m? You tell me) in 1950 and launched a series of "social issue" pictures about: a dancer who gets polio, a strained mother-daughter relationship, rape. These were made-for-Lifetime movies two generations beforehand.
But Lupino was more complex than that. She could play steely-hard better than anyone, and she had a hard-boiled sensitivity. So she dabbled in noir as well, and her 1952 thriller The Hitch-Hiker was a white-knuckle suspense flick about a killer who takes a pair of philandering husbands hostage; it stands today as one of the most intense thrillers of the noir era. It was her biggest commercial success, but while the critical accolades flowed easily her way, most of the cash flowed into the coffers of distributor RKO.
So, Collier Young suggested that they simply walk away from RKO and distribute their own films. It would mean more risk up front, but substantially increase the (hoped for) rewards. The plan was to produce a quorum of flicks for $125,000 apiece, but in the end the investors only backed one, The Bigamist (1953).
Despite the provocative title (and the fact that it only barely passed muster with the Production Code censors as it was), The Bigamist is a solidly melodramatic and not at all sexy piece of work. Doughy frontman Edmond O'Brien (see also The Hitch-Hiker, D.O.A. (1950), The Killers (1946), and other noir fare) plays Harry Graham, a traveling salesman based in San Francisco. His wife Eve (Joan Fontaine, Hitchcock's Rebecca, 1940) is an ice-bitch corporate executive. In a reversal of typical women's movie tropes, Harry is hungry for family, intimacy, and emotional connection--but she's all business. In a cruel stereotype, it turns out she is literally barren, unable to have a child of her own any more real than the tin robot she buys in anticipation of a kid unlikely to ever come. Lacking any human closeness at home, Harry wanders. On a sales trip in Los Angeles, he kicks off an affair with Phyllis, a waitress in a Chinese restaurant (Lupino). This chick is tough as nails, unsentimental, and a little coarse, but she's a little more earthy and real than Eve. When Phyl (50s films often featured rugged dames with mannish names) turns up pregnant, Harry does the honorable thing and marries her-but as his wife is grieving her father's death and trying to adopt a child of her own, he feels unable to divorce her just yet. So, he straddles the two marriages. Neither life is particularly desirable, neither woman is a "bad guy," and the whole situation is more sad than tawdry.
When the investigator for the adoption agency (Edmund Gwenn, Santa Claus himself from Miracle on 34th Street, 1947) starts to look into Harry's squirrely-ness, the jig is up. Cue a flashback and a courtroom scene - but because this is a low-budget art film and not a formulaic major studio release, don't expect a tidy conclusion or satisfying coda.
Mainstream movies were bifurcating in the 1950s. Exploitation pix aimed at teens dumbed the form down for big profits, while foreign imports tended to appeal to more refined tastes. Lupino savvily aimed her film at the latter crowd, expressly offering adult-themed drama that one couldn't find on TV and otherwise might have to endure subtitled pretension to enjoy in theaters. Along with the serious treatment of a controversial subject, Lupino giddily tossed in some fun in-jokes as well: at one point, Harry takes a "star tour" of Hollywood and sees the palatial retreat of Edmund Gwenn, who is of course one of the actors in the movie.
The press made much of the curious overlap between fact and fiction in the movie. The film depicts a man who is married to both Joan Fontaine and Ida Lupino-a situation well understood by the film's screenwriter Collier Young, who could basically claim the same thing. Not long after founding The Filmakers, Young and Lupino divorced, but remained professional partners. Young quickly married Fontaine, while Lupino married actor Howard Duff; the two couples were on good terms and socialized together. "We want to be grown up about it all," said Young; "Ida and I are old friends," added Fontaine, "I knew her before Collier did."
According to Joan Fontaine, the original plan had Jane Greer playing the Eve role, and when Greer dropped out the production was left in a quandary, short of time, short of funds. Considering it her "wifely duty," Joan stepped up to take the role, and agreed to defer her salary so long as Ida agreed to direct-although Lupino had once vowed never to direct herself.
Unintentionally, the consequence of these choices would echo throughout the film in subtle ways. Joan Fontaine's onscreen character is a cold fish, barren in all senses of the word, while Ida Lupino's role is the more wifely, even if she plays it with a street-hardened edge. Privately, the two women were living similar roles. Ida Lupino had found what her biographer William Donati called "everything she wanted: fame, fortune, beauty, a career, Howard Duff and a child." By contrast, in her autobiography, Joan Fontaine writes bitterly about what she refers to as "the aridity of householding and child care," saying that "the web of domesticity tightened about us." The onscreen depiction of the two women also reinforces the distinction between them. Fontaine's scenes are somewhat flat, almost perfunctory, whereas Lupino's scenes are full of noir atmosphere and rich expressive shadows. Fontaine recalls, "after shooting all my scenes, director Ida saw the rushes, didn't like the photography, and changed cameramen before actress Ida began her own scenes!" What Fontaine remembers as a flash of feminine vanity may have been more than that-director Lupino had plenty of good thematic reason to depict the two households in fundamentally distinct lights.
Production took place in June and July of 1953 at a rental soundstage at Republic Studios. Director Ida hashed out a cut with one editor, then fired him and continued with Stanford Tischler until she was happy with the structure: a noir-style investigative opening, a flashback sequence delving into the characters and their drama, finishing with a melodramatic courtroom sequence. The finished 79 minute film was sent out on Christmas Day 1953 to positive reviews but performed poorly at the box office. The Bigamist spelled the end of The Filmakers. Lupino would not direct again for a dozen years, not until 1966's The Trouble with Angels.
Lupino's Filmakers group may have indulged in made-for-cable melodrama, but this oddball gem is something the Lifetime audience would certainly reject. The Bigamist stands today as a rare treat: a woman-made "woman's picture" that avoids sentimentality and obvious emotion, a low-budget film that eschews genre convention and revels in top-drawer acting talent, a somber study of life-altering decisions that makes marriage seem more like a curse than a blessing. For a happily married woman at the top of her craft, her film bespeaks a quiet anguish and cynicism one doesn't often find outside the world of film noir.
Producer: Robert Eggenweiler, Collier Young
Director: Ida Lupino
Screenplay: Collier Young, Larry Marcus (story), Lou Schor (story)
Cinematography: George Diskant
Film Editing: Stanford Tischler
Art Direction: James Sullivan
Music: Leith Stevens
Cast: Joan Fontaine (Eve Graham), Ida Lupino (Phyllis Martin), Edmund Gwenn (Mr. Jordan), Edmond O'Brien (Harry Graham), Kenneth Tobey (Tom Morgan), Jane Darwell (Mrs. Connelley).
by David Kalat
Donati, William, Ida Lupino: A Biography.
Kuhn, Annette, editor, Queen of the Bs: Ida Lupino Behind the Camera.
Fontaine, Joan, No Bed of Roses.
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.
Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).
Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)
I've been a salesman too long not to recognize sales resistance when I see it.- Harry Graham
I can't figure out my feelings towards you, I despise you, and I pity you. I don't even want to shake your hand, and yet I almost wish you luck.- Mr. Jordan
This would be the last feature film directed by Ida Lupino for more than 12 years until _Trouble With Angels, The (1966)_ .
The opening title credits read "Edmond O'Brien as The Bigamist." The June 26, 1953 Hollywood Reporter production chart credits Dick Harris as editor, but his name was replaced by Stanford Tischler in later charts. The extent of Harris' contribution to the final film, if any, has not been determined. A March 27, 1953 news item noted that actress-director Ida Lupino was co-writing the screenplay with writer-producer Collier Young; however, her contribution to the final screenplay has not been confirmed. According to a October 30, 1953 news item, the production budget was $175,000, and both Lupino and actress Joan Fontaine deferred their salaries. As noted in the Los Angeles Times review Lupino was formerly married to Young, who was married to Fontaine at the time of filming. Although the Variety review refers to the actor playing "Ricky" as Mac McKim, he is listed in all other reviews as Sam McKim.
Released in United States 1991
Released in United States August 2, 1990
Released in United States Fall October 1953
Released in United States January 15, 1989
Shown at Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) (Hard, Fast, and Beautiful - Ida Lupino Filmmaker and Actress) February 1 - March 9, 1991.
Shown at Pacific Film Archive August 2, 1990.
Released in United States 1991 (Shown at Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) (Hard, Fast, and Beautiful - Ida Lupino Filmmaker and Actress) February 1 - March 9, 1991.)
Released in United States January 15, 1989 (Shown at Women in Film Festival, San Francisco January 15, 1989.)
Released in United States August 2, 1990 (Shown at Pacific Film Archive August 2, 1990.)
Released in United States Fall October 1953
Shown at Women in Film Festival, San Francisco January 15, 1989.