Zoom Salon of The Bigamist (1953) 80 min | Mechanics' Institute

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Zoom Salon of The Bigamist (1953) 80 min
October 2020: Women of Noir

CinemaLit Popcorn Pop-Up Salon: October-- Women of Noir

Hello Film Lovers,

Welcome back to CinemaLit! We have missed our Friday night gatherings. Laura, Pam, and I are excited to launch this new format for CinemaLit as we Shelter at Home. We will be viewing films on Kanopy and gathering online for a Popcorn Pop-Up Salon!

All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom two days in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.

 Matthew Kennedy, curator and host

CinemaLit Film Series

October 2020: Women of Noir

For October, we return to a longtime CinemaLit favorite – film noir. Our focus is on women in noir, in front of and behind the camera. Three films feature women as the dominant story-driving character – Woman on the Run (1950) starring Ann Sheridan, Sudden Fear (1952) starring a well-served Joan Crawford, and The Naked Kiss (1964) starring a way over-the-top Constance Towers. As an added bonus, two films this month, Woman on the Run and Sudden Fear, offer dazzling footage of their mid-century San Francisco locations. Two other films feature Ida Lupino directing. Lupino was a brilliant actress, as well as one of the very few women who had directorial responsibilities in American films of the 1950s. In The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Lupino artfully locates film noir in a remote desert setting more redolent of Westerns. In The Bigamist (1953), Lupino both directs and stars. Joan Fontaine and Edmond O'Brien are the two other points of what the title accurately suggests is a love triangle. For The Naked Kiss, we are delighted to welcome back CinemaLit emeritus curator and host Michael Fox as emcee.

October 23 - The Bigamist (1953) directed by Ida Lupino, starring Ida Lupino and Joan Fontaine

Ida Lupino's The Bigamist uses flashbacks to tell the story of how Harry (The Hitch-Hiker's Edmond O'Brien) came to marry Phyllis (Lupino) in Los Angeles while wed to Eve (Joan Fontaine) in San Francisco. The Bigamist was a production of The Filmakers, a company Lupino founded with producer-screenwriter husband Collier Young. They were divorced before The Bigamist was made, but remained business partners. Meanwhile, Young married Joan Fontaine in 1952. When Jane Greer backed out of the film, Fontaine stepped in, but as Hollywood scandals go, this was a non-starter. Fontaine agreed to appear in the film, and with a deferred salary, only if Lupino was guaranteed to direct. The tabloids were disappointed while the divorce and production were convivial, with everyone remaining friendly.

Andrew Spicer, author of Historical Dictionary of Film Noir, claims The Bigamist is the first American film in which an actress directs herself. Her Phyllis is warm and sympathetic, while Lupino the director avoided the story's tawdry potential. The Bigamist paints a sensitive portrait of the two-timing husband. Harry is no calculating cad, but someone more pitiable. Marriage to Eve had become all business, saddened by infertility but hopeful for adoption. Harry is not looking to be unfaithful, much less to commit bigamy, when he meets Phyllis, a lonely waitress aching for a love affair.

This hardly sounds like the stuff of noir. There's no gunplay, murder, or femme fatale. The film's humor, including a bus tour of Hollywood star homes, is more gentle than mordant. The only mystery is how Harry was compelled to wed Phyllis, and the reason is predictable. The noirish elements include an adoption agent investigating Harry, slashing shadows cast from Venetian blinds, and a dramatic courtroom finale. But it could just as easily be called melodrama as film noir. Rather like its director-star, The Bigamist avoids easy labels.

Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”

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CinemaLit Films

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Public Sliding Scale Free to $10
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Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
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