Movie Notes: Ida Lupino’s The Bigamist

In the pursuit of my goal to alleviate the burden of my cinematographic cretinism, I bought a book titled 1,001 Movies to See Before You Die. I opened it at random, and found a movie called The Bigamist from 1953. It starts Edmond O’Brien, Ida Lupino, Joan Fontaine, and Edmund Gwenn. I have no idea who these people are but they are very good actors. The plot is very simple, and there isn’t much to the movie but the acting, which I like. I vastly prefer movies that are held together by the acting. What I don’t get is why everybody speaks with a vaguely British accent.

The main character of the movie is a traveling salesman. Apparently, they made great salaries, $180,000 in today’s money. But it was a sad, lonely, peripatetic life. So the salesman cheated on his chic executive wife with a working class girl and tried to fix the whole situation by marrying her. But everybody was a very good, decent person. There’s no happy ending and no easy answers. Where did that movie industry of talented people doing good work even go?

One movie down, a thousand more to go!

17 thoughts on “Movie Notes: Ida Lupino’s The Bigamist”

  1. The accent is “transatlantic” and, depending on who you talk to, was A) Americans faking a posh accent , B) A deliberate artificial hybrid of British and American accents, C) A deliberate hybrid accent developed to be crisply and universally understood over crackly radio and TV broadcasts, or D) any combination of those.

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    1. “hybrid accent developed to be crisply and universally understood over crackly radio and TV broadcasts”

      I remember my aunt always pronounced the number 0f with two syllables – apparently a pronunciation taught for phone usage… NIGH-un where it could be mistaken for ‘five’. Always drove me crazy….

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      1. Most of my great-aunts who lived in that era worked as telephone switchboard operators in their teens, and one of them made a lifelong career of it and became regional manager. They used to joke about connecting to the operator in Cleveland, and hearing the lady say “The LI-on is BISS-ee”. They thought that bissy lion was the most hilarious thing they’d ever heard on the switchboard.

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  2. Clarissa ! It is obvious that you are a newcomer to the USA to this 85 year old, who looks back at the 1950’s with great nostalgia. Edmund Obrien and Ida Lupino are old friends to those of us from America’s vanished golden era. We Americans had decades of incredibly wonderful movies, musicals, plays, etc. etc. in the America that was. I am disheartened that the left today despises with such great hatred our magnificent (not without flaws) past. Following WWII there seemed to be so much unity and love between all Americans. The country I loved is gone forever ! But I am glad you emigrated to our country and are working hard to make it better for your family and your students. ¡Buena Suerte ! (Yo hablo español) Hodman

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lynchings, segregation, week resources for reproductive health, etc., etc. are some key features of the late 40s, 50s, early 60s, sho’ ’nuff. Lovely era…

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      1. “Lynchings, segregation”

        What’s unusual about the US isn’t that it had major faults that resulted in suffering, but that it made efforts to overcome those and largely succeeded.
        To go from legally mandated segregation of African Americans to a Black president in under 60 years is an incredible feat (it seems slow on the ground but that is light speed social transformation).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The 1930’s was a terrible era for lynchings, however nothing like the genocide of the Nazis, the Communists in Russia and China who murdered over 100,000,000 innocent people. Yes, several thousand blacks were horribly murdered, but the black people survived in vast numbers, over 15 to 20 million. This does not excuse these crimes in any way, but by the ’40’s, ’50’s, and ’60’s lynching was basically over, as the US moved towards racial equality for all. The US has never had equivalent crimes, such as I just mentioned, in addition to nations such as Uganda, Nigeria, and Indonesia. I am deeply disturbed by your comment on “reproductive health” that has resulted in the murder of more the 50,000,000 babies in the United States. Where was their “right to life”, and their right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? My first employer as a very young man was a wonderful black man by the name of Napoleon Cade. What a magnificent human being, who started his own catering service in the very Southern state of Florida in 1948. Most of our crew was white; I never heard a racist comment from any of our staff about him, as we all recognized that he was a magnificent human being. Later in life, I encountered in my work and professional life, black and minority individuals that hated me because I was an a “a person of white privilege” who started life with absolutely nothing. This diversity of hatred has to stop !

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you, Hodman! What a kind comment. It’s incredible how much Hollywood changed, and it’s all for the worse. There used to be such great acting and directing in this country. I wonder if anybody knows why it all disappeared. Usually, you need a big cataclysm to destroy the whole movie industry, like happened with the fall of the USSR. But here the talent seems to have quietly walked away.

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      1. “I wonder if anybody knows why it all disappeared”

        One this is that the… acting infrastructure in the US has always been weak. I understand that actor training in the UK is a bit like vocational training and produces well-rounded capable performers, but the US has always been oriented toward stars with natural talent (or not….). Everything going on in the culture for the last 50 or so years has been moving away from training and sustained effort toward catching lightning in a bottle…. and there’s just not that much lightning lying around now.

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  3. “with a vaguely British accent”

    Well there’s the artificial Transatlantic movie accent as already mentioned. Also, Ida Lupino was born in England and only moved to the US in her teens (too late to naturally lose her accent and you can hear it come through now and again in her roles). She’s very good in Road house (where she sings!) and in the Hard Way as a stage sister (rather than stage mother).

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  4. Short history lesson:

    What happened to American movies is that they grew up with the changing U.S. culture, leaving behind the cloying hypocrisy that required actresses to say, “I think I’m in trouble,” because the censorship rules in effect from 1934 to 1968 wouldn’t allow the word “pregnant.” It also wouldn’t allow any depiction of drug abuse or homosexuality or unhappy endings that didn’t teach a moral lesson.

    You’ve probably never heard of the once-famous “Legion of Decency.” That ridiculously named but very powerful organization was an official arm of the Catholic Church in America, and every month until the late 1970’s it published a list of “condemned movies” that American Catholics weren’t allowed to see. Yeah, that sounds silly — but if it condemned a movie, the most American movie theaters wouldn’t risk losing money by screening it.

    Two movies changed that: “Whatever Happened to Virginia Woolf” (1966) and “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). “Whatever…Virginia Woolf” showed two alcoholic, self-loathing middle-aged academic couples using unacceptable language to each other like”Screw you.”

    “Rosemary’s Baby” was much more blunt. It showed nuns acting like the vicious shrews that that I remember from my childhood, and the title, about a spawn of Satin, was a deliberate mockery of the Biblical tale of the Virgin Mary’s Christ child.

    “Rosemary’s Baby” was a spectacular success despite the Legion of Decency’s strongest condemnation, and that organization finally recognized its defeat and kept a low profile until it permanently closed shop in the the late 1978.

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    1. This is also why a lot of middle class snobs like socialism because it means that people would be forced to watch the kind of movies they think people should watch rather than what the people actually want to watch.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I believe you meant ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’”

        Definitely, thanks! The proofreader part of my brain was nodding off when I typed that around 3 a.m.

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    2. I don’t know, I feel like Hollywood today is cloying and toothless. Everything is predictable, there’s always a happy ending or a facile, didactic moral lesson. The Bigamist, in my view, offers a much more nuanced portrayal of reality than the stuff Hollywood does today. It looks like when they couldn’t say “fuck,” actors and directors made an effort to be interesting. Now that they can say it, they don’t do anything else.

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