Directed by the actor/filmmaker Ida Lupino, The Bigamist (1953) is the story of Harry Graham, a salesman travelling between two towns and two wives. In its portrayal of Harry’s "double life," the film takes on a double life of its own, hovering as it does between two genres. Telling the story through Harry’s voice-over, yet eschewing the iconic character of the femme fatale, Lupino’s film reveals and recasts film noir as male melodrama par excellence. In its rendering of this emotionally paralysed man, able only to reveal the truth of his duplicity to us, the film audience, The Bigamist is a fascinating study of the post-War male.
A collaborative affair, The Bigamist was written and produced by Lupino’s ex-husband Collier Young and co-starred his current wife, Joan Fontaine, as bride number one. The last of six films that Lupino directed for the independent production company that she co-founded, The Filmakers, it was notably the only film of its period with a woman director who also played a starring role.
Amelie Hastie explores the film in the context of independent Hollywood, at a time when the studio system was beginning to dissolve, and as a commentary on the fraught institution of marriage. She also considers The Bigamist in relation to Lupino’s personal and professional history. Lupino was one of only two women members of the Directors’ Guild of America in the classical Hollywood era, and The Bigamist, Hastie argues, reveals multiple traces of Lupino’s experiences of working as both director and actress in the movie business.
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