The Bigamist, 1953

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A Compassionate Look at a Taboo Subject


The Bigamist,” released in 1953, is another groundbreaking film directed by Ida Lupino, who was no stranger to tackling controversial and complex subjects. The film explores the life of a man entangled in a bigamous relationship, offering a nuanced and compassionate look at a topic that was, and often still is, considered taboo.

Ida Lupino’s Directorial Approach

Lupino’s direction in “The Bigamist” is marked by her characteristic sensitivity and depth. She avoids sensationalizing the subject matter, opting instead for a more humanistic approach that allows the audience to empathize with all the characters involved. Her storytelling is balanced, providing insights into the emotional and ethical complexities of bigamy without passing judgment.

Plot and Character Dynamics

The film follows Harry Graham, played by Edmond O’Brien, who finds himself married to two women: Phyllis, portrayed by Joan Fontaine, and Eve, played by Ida Lupino herself. The narrative unfolds as a courtroom drama, with Harry recounting his life choices that led to his bigamous situation. Each relationship is portrayed with care, showing how Harry, despite his moral failing, is a complex character caught in an intricate web of emotions and circumstances.

Themes of Love and Morality

The Bigamist” delves deep into the themes of love, commitment, and moral ambiguity. It raises questions about the nature of love and the ethical boundaries that society imposes on relationships. The film does not offer easy answers but invites the audience to grapple with the complexities of human emotions and moral choices.

Cinematic Techniques

Lupino employs a range of cinematic techniques to enhance the storytelling. The courtroom setting serves as a framing device, allowing for flashbacks that reveal the backstory. The use of close-ups and medium shots during key emotional scenes adds another layer of intimacy, making the audience privy to the characters’ internal struggles.

Reception and Legacy

Upon its release, “The Bigamist” was met with mixed reviews. While some praised its daring subject matter and nuanced storytelling, others found it morally ambiguous. However, the film has gained more appreciation over the years, particularly for its balanced portrayal of a controversial subject. It stands as a testament to Lupino’s courage as a filmmaker and her ability to tackle complex social issues.

Concluding Remarks

“The Bigamist” is a film that challenges societal norms and questions traditional moral frameworks. Ida Lupino’s nuanced direction and the strong performances by the cast make it a compelling watch. While it may not provide clear-cut answers to the ethical questions it raises, it serves as a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of love and morality. It’s a film that was ahead of its time and remains relevant even today.