Bigamist, The (1953): Ida Lupino Directs and Stars in Marital Melodrama

Ida Lupino was not only a talented actress–she was also a good director, one of few women to work during the studio system. The Bigamist is considered to be the first movie in which the female star directed herself

The film is personal in other ways: Producer-Screenwriter Collier Young was married to Fontaine at the time, and had previously been married to Lupino.

Harry (Edmond O’Brien) and Eve Graham (Joan Fontaine), who’s infertile, wish to adopt a child, and agent Jordan (Edmund Gwenn) warns them that he would need to investigate them.

Harry and Eve are co-owners of a business in San Francisco; Harry travels to Los Angeles frequently for work. Upon investigation, Jordan finds a letter opener on Harry’s desk with the name ‘Harrison’ Graham. Jordan visits the address, and finds out that Harry has a wife and a baby.  About to call the police, Harry relates to Jordan his story.

Feeling lonely during the long stretches he spent away from Eve, Harry met in a hotel in L.A. Phyllis (Ida Lupino).  On his next trip to L.A., Harry began seeing Phyllis again, platonically at first, and romantically later. Phyllis had not allowed Harry to share with her his background and thus remained ignorant of his marriage. On Harry’s last night in town, his birthday, they spent the night together.

Upon returning home, Eve apologized for being emotionally distant, and embraced the idea of adopting a child. But her father had taken ill, and she needed to go spend time with him in Florida.

Harry began the adoption process, but months later, with Eve still away, Harry returned to L.A. to tend to the business. Once there, he found that Phyllis was pregnant, but not wanting to trap him. However, Harry planned to confess his infidelity to Eve, and ask for a divorce.

However, distraught by the death of Eve’s father, he couldn’t go through with his plan. Harry had hoped to maintain his secret double life long enough for the adoption to be finalized and then divorce Eve, who would at least have a child.

Harry writes a farewell letter Phyllis and leaves the house. Eve returns home in San Francisco as Harry is about to meet the police. Harry ends up in court, where the two women finally meet. The judge notes: “it won’t be a question of which woman he’ll go back to, but rather which woman will take him back.”

The film ends with Harry awaiting his sentencing hearing.