Friday, January 20, 2023

Three Bigamy Stories

I discuss the history of the bigamy melodrama in my upcoming book.  I came across three bigamy films that didn't fit within the discussion. 

A unique type of bigamist appears in The Men She Married (1916).  Ralph Semple (Arthur Ashley) is married, but he disregards his marriage when he has the opportunity to marry wealthy Beatrice Raymond (Gail Kane).  He steals $10,000 from Beatrice and fakes his death to avoid capture.  He later learns that Beatrice is preparing to remarry and returns to blackmail her.  He springs from one crime to another - from bigamy to theft to fraud to blackmail.  It is admirable that the adroit manner in which he juggles his various wrongdoings.

Whirlpool (1934) provides an interesting twist on the bigamy premise.  Buck Rankin (Jack Holt) is sent to prison for accidentally killing a man during a brawl.  His pregnant wife, Helen (Lila Lee), vows to wait for him, but he wants her to find another man and move on with her life.  He obtains stationary from the warden's office and writes a fake letter notifying Helen that her husband was killed during a prison break.  Helen marries a judge and lives a comfortable life.  Buck is released from prison after serving his sentence and becomes a successful nightclub owner under an assumed name.  Unfortunately, he is called as a witness in a high-profile trial and fears that his reappearance will jeopardize Helen's marriage.

A Mother's Confession (1915) focused on a benevolent bigamist.  Henry Patterson (Sydney L. Mason) goes broke from a bad investment.  He worries that he will no longer be able to support his wife Lola (Christine Mayo) and infant son.  He sees a solution when he meets a wealthy heiress, Louise Douglas (Carrie Reynolds).  He marries Louise though remaining married to Lola.  He is now able to access Louise's bank account to regularly send checks to Lola.  Years pass.  Louise entrusts Henry to deliver a large sum of cash to an investment firm in New York.  Henry figures to use the money to run off with Lola and his son.  But Lola has developed a friendship with an artist, Fred Warren (Austin Webb), who hopes to marry her.  Fred is angered by Henry's arrival.  He reminds Henry that he is a bigamist and belongs in prison.  The two men fight.  Henry draws a gun, but Fred is unafraid and attempts to wrestle the gun away from him.  The gun accidentally discharges, killing Henry.  Henry may have meant well, but he was ultimately punished for his intrigues.

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