The Bigamist is directed by Ida Lupino and adapted to screenplay by Collier Young from a story by Larry Marcus and Lou Schor. It stars Lupino herself with Edmund O'Brien, Joan Fontaine, Edmund Gwenn and Kenneth Tobey. Music is scored by Leith Stevens and cinematography by George Diskant.
Harry Graham (O'Brien) tells adoption agency inspector Mr. Jordan (Gwenn) how he came to have two wives. One in Los Angeles (Lupino), the other in San Francisco (Fontaine).
Initially released as part a double bill with Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker, The Bigamist is the lesser known film and the lesser thought of picture at that. Where The Hitch-Hiker is a more aggressive and claustrophobic noir picture, The Bigamist is more a Sirkian melodrama with noir touches. What transpires in the gifted hands of noir darling Lupino is a film examining a complex male protagonist, a guy suffering desperately from loneliness and alienation, his only moments of happiness comes in the arms of two women. If this sounds like Lupino is taking a sympathetic approach to Harry Graham? Then yes that is true, but he is portrayed as being morally ambiguous and weak, with the deft insertion of fate's deadly hand into the story as Harry tries on occasions to do the legal and right thing.
"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."
Once the story reaches the pinnacle, female parties are left dislocated, hurt and confused about their emotions, Harry is crushed, and we believe his pain because he is not a selfish bastard. Some of the most telling passages of dialogue come from other men, Gwenn's agency inspector and the Judge (John Maxwell) presiding over the court case, these helping to not stereotype the Graham character. The finale also refuses to take an easy way out, it's left deliberately ambiguous, the final shot open ended. Shot at real L.A. and Frisco locations, film has some nice visual touches. Harry in shadowy hotel rooms, his lonely walks down town, while venetian blinds feature and a shadowed bathed staircase banister showcases the talents of Diskant (On Dangerous Ground/The Narrow Margin/Kansas City Confidential). It's not an overtly film noir picture visually, but there are snatches in the mix. Cast are bang on form, with O'Brien particularly impressive when portraying conflicted emotions.
It's not perfect, strong characters the lead trio may be, but they are all so nice, there's no edge there. There's an inside joke that comes off as flat and misplaced, while Stevens' score is often intrusive in desperately trying to set up emotional impact. But these are small complaints that don't stop the picture's great strengths from storming through to hold the attention. It's an interesting picture, a cautionary tale choosing to analyse rather than point the finger. It deserves to be more well known these days and certainly shouldn't be viewed as an apology for Bigamy. 7.5/10