Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, and Edmond O’Brien as “The Bigamist”

The Bigamist (1953) is an American drama film directed by Ida Lupino and starring Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, Edmund Gwenn, and Edmond O’Brien. The cinematography was by George E. Diskant (They Live by Night) and the music was by Leith Stevens (The Wild One).

Married couple Harry (O’Brien) and Eve Graham (Fontaine) are about to adopt a child. Mr. Jordan (Gwenn), the adoption agent informs them that as a matter of routine, he needs to check into their backgrounds.

This worries Harry because he’s been living a double life with another woman named Phyllis (Lupino). Their relationship develops into a serious one and they get married.

What happens now? Will Harry be able to get himself untangled from the mess he’s made of his life or will his life spiral out of control?


Edmond O'Brien, Edmund Gwenn, and Joan Fontaine

Ida Lupino (1918 – 1995) was an English-American actress, director, and producer. She appeared in over 50 films and was one of Warner Bros.’s biggest contract players during the 1940s starring in High Sierra (1941), The Sea Wolf (1941), and The Man I Love (1947). After she left Warner Bros., Lupino formed her own production company, producing, writing, and directing films that tackled subjects the big studios wouldn’t touch. During the 1950s, Lupino was the only female director working in Hollywood. She directed several small independent films but really made a name for herself directing for television. Lupino directed episodes of The Twilight Zone (starred in one too), The RiflemanBonanzaGilligan’s IslandIt Takes a ThiefFamily Affair, and Columbo. In 1966, she directed her one-and-only big-budget studio picture, The Trouble with Angels starring Rosalind Russell and Haley Mills.

Joan Fontaine (1917 – 2013) was a British-American actress who starred in more than 45 films during Hollywood’s “Golden Age.” After secondary roles in Gunga Din (1939) and The Women (1939), her fortunes turned with her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film, Rebecca (1940). She was nominated for Best Actress for her role in that film but lost to Ginger Rogers. The next year, she worked with Hitchcock again in Suspicion and this time won the Best Actress Oscar, beating out her older sister Olivia de Havilland. She received a third and final nomination for The Constant Nymph (1943). Other popular Fontaine films include This Above All (1942), From This Day Forward (1946), Ivy (1947), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), The Emperor Waltz (1948), and Ivanhoe (1952). After the late-1950s, she appeared less in films and more on stage and television. Fontaine and her sister are the only siblings to have won major acting Academy Awards. 

Edmund Gwenn (1877 – 1959) was an English stage and film actor. He is best remembered for his role as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Gwenn made his Hollywood film debut in Sylvia Scarlett (1935) and went on to have a long career in that town. He was a member of what was known as the British Colony—British ex-pats who were working in Hollywood. So of his other films include Pride and Prejudice (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Lassie Come Home (1943), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), Undercurrent (1946), Apartment for Peggy (1948), and Mister 880 (1950). The actor Cecil Kellaway was Gwenn’s cousin. 

Edmond O’Brien (1915 – 1985) was an American stage, screen, and television actor. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Barefoot Contessa (1954). O’Brien had leading roles in some of his earlier films but mostly worked as a supporting actor in films like The Killers (1946), A Double Life (1947), and White Heat (1949). He had lead roles in noir classics D.O.A (1950) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953). Other film roles include Julius Caesar (1953), D-Day the Sixth of June (1956), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).


Ida Lupino and Edmond O'Brien

The Bigamist trivia

  • It is believed that this is the first sound film where the female star directed herself. It was the only time Lupino did so.
  • Writer-producer Collier Young was married to Joan Fontaine at the time of production. Lupino was previously married to Young; they founded the Filmakers production company.
  • This was the last film Lupino directed until The Trouble with Angels (1966).
  • There are several inside jokes at the expense of Edmund Gwenn.
  • Joan Fontaine’s mother Lillian has an uncredited role.
  • Jane Greer was originally cast to play the role that eventually went to Joan Fontaine.
  • Edmund Gwenn, Joan Fontaine, Edmond O'Brien, and Jane Darwell were all Oscar winners.


Click here to watch the movie on YouTube.


Click here to join the online discussion on January 29, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Once you RSVP, you will receive and invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.


Discussion questions

  1. How do you think the subjects of adultery/bigamy were handled?
  2. Did you think that the film took a position?
  3. Was the situation between Edmond O’Brien and Joan Fontaine’s characters believable or realistic?
  4. What did you think of the performances? Did one stand out to you?
  5. Was the ending satisfying? If not, how would you have liked to the movie end?



1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to revisiting this. Interesting trivia!

    -- Karen


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