Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Monday, May 30, 2022

Film Noir #8


Noir: Bewitched and The Bigamist

BEWITCHED (1945) --- Forty millions were said to have listened to this on radio, so said MGM’s trailer, idea to presell a modest programmer written and produced by Arch Oboler, an airwave wunderkind off O. Welles pattern who might in the end have been a greater mainstream success than Orson, if not a more accomplished talent. Bewitched was near as Metro came to “experimental,” as in doing something out of their ordinary and entrusting much to singular artist that was Oboler (only five foot one, really?). He had directed a single film prior, Strange Holiday, which among others (Claude Rains, Gloria Holden) featured my elementary school band teacher Priscilla Lyons, who had I but known once worked with Dracula’s Daughter, would never have got a moment’s peace in her mid-sixties classroom. You could say, then, that Bewitched was Oboler’s Magnificent Ambersons after Kane that was Strange Holiday, if one wanted to belabor similarities between Oboler and Welles. Bewitched has a cult, if a small one. I recall one collector being quite proud of his print, at a time when MGM titles were nearly impossible to come by on illicit-owned 16mm film.

dealt with dual personality on serious, near-clinical terms, detail of which head doctor Edmund Gwenn explains to a 1945 public assumed to have never heard of such malady. So how common are split personas? I might name several of acquaintance without knowing any to be textbook instances. Phyllis Thaxter has an evil side that kills, perhaps a film-first apart from horror usage. Her sickness is a matter of much discussion, after fashion of radio where talk is chief, Oboler laying down his diagnosis, via Gwenn, as though he seconded in medicine behind dramatist skill. Door prize to murderess Thaxter is getting away with the crime once Governor Minor Watson is convinced it was the other Thaxter who was guilty, him promising a cursory investigation, maybe brief treatment, to clear the mess up. Psychiatry fascinated folks in the forties, lots willing to suspend disbelief however specious Oboler explanations were. There was key ad art of Phyllis Thaxter with scissors in attack mode for lure, and yes, she uses them on Henry H. Daniels, Jr., formerly a most obscure of Meet Me in St. Louis household, kept to ever smaller parts after. Don Miller had nice things to say about Bewitched in his B Movies book, a key study that came years before others cared about small budget stuff. Warner Archive offers a DVD.

THE BIGAMIST (1953) --- Is bigamy still a crime? I wonder because so many things that were verboten are not any longer. It seems in a way quaint to watch a movie about a man with two wives unless it's a comedy. Have there been, among oceans of rom-coms, one where a man or woman turns up with two or more spouses? Not that I would necessarily care to watch them, as I found The Bigamist something of an ordeal. Maybe it was the waiting for hapless Edmund O’Brien to be caught, which of course, he inevitably would be. He isn’t a bad sort, just one trapped by circumstance of not wanting to disappoint alternating wives Joan Fontaine and Ida Lupino. It is Eddie’s kind nature and selflessness that puts him on the pan, and we are sorry at seeing him fry. How often do such sympathetic figures turn up in noir?

Would it even be possible to marry twice or more today? Surely spyware loosed upon us would prohibit it. Even in 1953 such things could not have been easily managed. O’Brien does not do his crime for anything other than consideration toward mutually likeable partners. This is a triangle with no one to root against, or favor to exclusion of the other. The ending implies that O’Brien will keep one of his wives, maybe both if the trio has their way. I’d like to have seen The Bigamist end with husband/wives headed happily home to a menage a trois. These folks give every promise of making a go at it. Director Ida Lupino had almost as free and easy deal with husband Collier Young (writer-producing) plus star Joan Fontaine (Young's ex), forming their own threesome to make The Bigamist. Imagine Code quagmire had The Bigamist offered the ending we prefer. Here was noir offbeat for not a shot being fired or fist connecting. There is even kindly S. Claus (Edmund Gwenn) and several in-jokes referring to his most famous part. Gwenn refreshingly sees piteous circumstance of title figure O’Brien but judges him harshly anyway, status quo to be maintained whatever a viewer’s sentiment. The Bigamist is part of an Ida Lupino Blu-Ray set (of four) from Kino. My chips are down for this as one of her most interesting auteur efforts.


Blogger DBenson said...

One of Blake Edwards's better late efforts was 'Micki and Maude" (1984), in which reasonably innocent TV newsman Dudley Moore ends up married to lawyer Ann Reinking and cellist Amy Irving, struggling to keep them unaware of each other even as they go through pregnancy simultaneously. The end is anti-climax and a little ambiguous, coming after farcical scrambling in a maternity ward.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Every day is a good day for a shout-out for Don Miller's B MOVIES. Essential is such a weak word when describing what this book meant to us 40 plus years ago. In a pre-internet, pre-DVD, pre-youtube era, Miller's succinct little write-ups were certainly all we thought we would ever see of so many little films. Still the a first stop reference on the subject of B budget second features.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

MY FAVORITE WIFE with with Cary Grant/Irene Dunne/Gayle Patrick is bigamy played for laughs, as was it’s aborted remake, SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE, and it’s completed one, MOVE OVER, DARLING.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

I heartily second Dave K's words of affection for Don Miller's B MOVIES. A joy to read when it came out and still fun to browse through all these years later. Love Miller's writing style, also on glorious display in his indispensable book on the B westerns, HOLLYWOOD CORRAL. I believe Miller died very young. What a loss.

Have watched "Bewitched" a couple of times, the last time this year - hoping to enjoy it but never getting there. It seems like an attempt to recreate the magic Val Lewton was delivering with his occult styled thrillers at RKO. But to no avail. The atmosphere just isn't there. And it all leads to the limpest of wrap-ups.

I must say, though, that leading man Henry H. Daniels Jr. was more than okay. I like him in "Meet Me in St. Louis" too. Though he's certainly overshadowed by all those talented females.
He does get lovely June Lockhart as a prize, though, at the fade-out.

Recently watched (on YouTube) a 1947 film in which he's top-billed. It's a Poverty Row item called "The Burning Cross" about the dangers posed by the KKK. And way better than you might expect. The budget must have been miniscule but the film still packs a punch. And both Daniels and leading lady Virginia Patton (a niece of General Patton, I believe) register strongly. They certainly deserved longer and more successful film careers. I believe this was Daniels' last movie. And Patton was gone by the end of the 40's. Too bad.

1:43 PM  
Blogger William Ferry said...

In the original Arch Oboler radio drama (which was entitled The Voice Within Me, or something of that nature), the girl is found guilty and executed. However, there is some mercy that's provided, in that the "good girl" is no longer tormented by the evil personality. It ends with her good, real spirit saying with relief, "I'm free, I'm free".

2:19 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer considers the latest noir selections:

On Memorial Day, TCM included in its programming, almost inevitably, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.” In an early scene, Phyllis Thaxter surprises hubby Van Johnson at an air base. The two find some privacy after a chorus of appreciative whistles, where he kisses her and asks, “Honey, why are you so pretty?” She replies with a charming smile, “I had to be, to get such a good looking fellow.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but such words have never dropped from my lips or touched my ears, but Phyllis Thaxter is so bright and pretty and sweet that they seem not only entirely natural, but to be anticipated and yearned for. Indeed, they will be reprised in this picture to good effect. Had Amber Heard comported herself in a similar fashion, the jury would not only have awarded her Johnny Depp’s fortune, but his tail and ears as well.

I suppose, then, that it was almost inevitable that someone would have the idea of casting her against type in a picture like “Bewitched,” where that sweetness would only be a lure for the unwary, like the scent of a Venus Flytrap, with the unfortunate Henry H. Daniels, Jr. the adventuresome fly.

It was rather like the transition of Joan Fontaine in her career, going from playing the shy, demure second Mrs. de Winter in “Rebecca,” the ethereal Tessa in “The Constant Nymph,” and the eponymous Jane Eyre to the murderess in “Ivy” and the manipulative Christabel in “Born to Be Bad.”

I believe that, on one occasion, someone interrupted my quiet tears at the end of “The Constant Nymph” by wondering aloud how a double bill of that picture and “Born to Be Bad” would have gone over.

Incidentally, given that Miss Fontaine was in real life closer to the first Mrs. de Winter in personality, her loving acceptance of the Edmond O’Brien character in “The Bigamist” was surely a demonstration of her acting ability. Her regard for husbands who disappointed her, such as Brian Aherne and William Dozier, was a good deal less sanguine.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Dr. OTR said...

I think the plot of "While You Were Sleeping," a Sandra Bullock vehicle from about 30 years ago, involves a wedding coming to a halt because the groom is already married. (Spoilers, I guess?)

5:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024
  • March 2024
  • April 2024
  • May 2024
  • June 2024