Film: The Bigamist

Film - Feature | February 17 | 8 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

In The Bigamist, Edmond O’Brien is a salesman whose icy wife (Joan Fontaine) runs the business (freezers) while he travels. He becomes involved with a warm and spunky waitress (Ida Lupino) and, when she has his child, marries her out of a sense of propriety. Thus he embarks on a double life, commuting between two marriages, two classes, and two cities: Fontaine’s patrician San Francisco and Lupino’s lively, slightly shabby Los Angeles. The story, told in flashback, unfolds in director Lupino’s characteristically taut style, its mounting tension exacerbated by her cutting observation of behavioral detail. Presenting the two women as polar opposites (or perhaps two sides of one woman?) is both engaging and problematic; but as a film about the emotional spread of a middle-aged man, The Bigamist is remarkable. The moot point here is the moral efficacy not of adultery or bigamy, but of marriage.

- Judy Bloch

 bampfa@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0808