Edmond O’Brien

D.O.A. (1950)

D.O.A. 1950 Poster

When Frank Bigelow (Edmond O’Brien) announces he’s taking a quick trip to San Francisco, his girlfriend Paula (Pamela Britton) is nervous about him going alone, but reluctantly agrees to let him go. As soon as he gets to his hotel, Pamela calls to tell him Eugene Phillips has been urgently trying to contact him and refuses to leave a message. Frank also meets Sam Haskell (Jess Kirkpatrick) who invites him to join a party in his hotel room.

The party moves to a nearby bar and when Frank notices his drink tasting strangely, he doesn’t think anything of it. When he wakes up the next morning not feeling well, he goes to a doctor and finds out his drink had been spiked with a lethal poison that has no known antidote. He only has a few days to live and plans to spend it finding out who could have poisoned him and why. Sam is nowhere to be found and the bar they visited is closed. Later, Pamela calls to let him know that Eugene Phillips had suddenly died, the reason for his important call still unknown.

Sensing there may be a connection between his poisoning and Eugene’s death, Frank goes to Eugene’s place in Los Angeles and finds out he had committed suicide. Everybody close to Eugene is acting strangely and nobody knows why he’d want to talk to Frank. Meanwhile, back home, Paula has finally found Eugene’s connection to Frank — Frank had notarized a bill of sale for a purchase of Iridium that Eugene had been involved in. When Frank discovers that Eugene’s death was actually a murder, he suddenly finds himself caught in the dangerous position of knowing too much.

Three words for D.O.A.: essential film noir. D.O.A. is anything but dead on arrival; it has one of those opening scenes that grabs your attention instantly and holds onto it with a tight grip until the last frame. Does it get any more purely film noir than an opening scene of a man staggering into a police station to report his own murder? An extremely intriguing story that is very effective without trying too hard. D.O.A. is everything I want from a good film noir.

A Cry in the Night (1956)

A Cry in the Night PosterLike many teenagers, Elizabeth Taggart (Natalie Wood) enjoys spending evenings with her boyfriend Owen (Richard Anderson) at the town’s Lovers’ Loop.  Elizabeth and Owen are engaged, but it’s a secret engagement because Elizabeth is afraid that her overbearing father, police captain Dan Taggart (Edmond O’Brien), won’t approve.  One night at Lovers’ Loop, a disturbed man named Harold Loftus (Raymond Burr) hides among the trees watching the couples.  When Owen hears a noise, he goes to investigate and is knocked unconscious by Harold.  Harold then drives off in Owen’s car with Elizabeth inside.

After Owen comes to again, he tries to get help from the police, but the officers mistakenly think he’s drunk and take him to the station to sober up.  Meanwhile, Harold has taken Elizabeth to an abandoned shack where he tries to force her into being his girlfriend.  Back at the jail, Owen is examined by a doctor who realizes Owen isn’t just another drunk.  The police finally listen to his story and realize Captain Taggart’s daughter is involved.  When Captain Taggart finds out his daughter has been kidnapped, he blames Owen for the ordeal.

While the police are investigating Elizabeth’s kidnapping, Harold’s mother calls the station to report that he has gone missing.  The way Harold’s mother talks about him makes a criminal profiler realize that Harold might be the man they’re looking for.  They manage to track down the shack, but Harold isn’t willing to let Elizabeth go without a fight.  During the fight, Owen saves Captain Taggart’s life and when Harold finally surrenders, Captain Taggart finally gives his blessing for Elizabeth and Owen to be together.

I was somewhat underwhelmed by A Cry in the Night.  The cast is quite good; Raymond Burr made an excellent creep and Edmond O’Brien nailed the overbearing aspect of his character.  A Cry in the Night isn’t a bad movie, but unfortunately there just isn’t a lot of substance to it.  It’s an alright way to spend 75 minutes, but it left me wanting something more.

The Bigamist (1953)

The Bigamist PosterAfter eight years of marriage, Eve (Joan Fontaine) and Harry (Edmond O’Brien) Graham decide to start the process of adopting a child.  They go to see adoption agent Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn), who insists on conducting thorough background checks on his applicants.  Eve isn’t bothered at all by this, but Harry has reason to be concerned.  Since Harry often works out of town in Los Angeles, Mr. Jordan makes a trip out there to do some investigating.  Although Harry claims to stay in hotels when he’s in town, strangely, he isn’t checked into any of them and some hotel owners say he hasn’t been around in a while.  It isn’t long before Mr. Jordan tracks Harry down to a house where he is found living with a baby and another woman.

The only thing Harry can do is tell Mr. Jordan how he wound up in this situation.  It all started several months earlier when Harry was stuck in Los Angeles on business.  He had been feeling particularly lonely one night, so he distracts himself by going on a bus tour of movie stars’ homes.  He ends up sitting next to Phyllis Martin (Ida Lupino) and tries to strike up a conversation with her.  At first, she isn’t interested, but she warms to him and asks him to dinner after the tour.

Harry and Phyllis have a pleasant evening together, but Harry never intends for it to become anything more serious.  Later, Harry calls Eve to tell her about Phyllis, but Eve doesn’t take him seriously.  When Harry returns home, he finds Eve very distant and not interested in his suggestion of taking a vacation together.  Back in Los Angeles, Harry turns to Phyllis for companionship again but  this time, it turns into a real relationship and Phyllis soon becomes pregnant.  Harry plans to leave Eve, but doesn’t have the heart to so soon after the death of her father.  Not knowing what else to do, he proposes to and marries Phyllis.

With his secret out in the open, Harry decides to leave Phyllis and go home to Eve.  But after being reunited with Eve, Harry finds police officers waiting to arrest him for bigamy.

The Bigamist wasn’t one of my favorite movies, but it was certainly intriguing.  You just don’t see many movies that deal with the subject of bigamy and it’s certainly not a subject many people would expect in a movie from the 1950s.  Not only is it an unusual subject, it was also directed by Ida Lupino, so we get to see this unusual subject told from a woman’s perspective, another rarity for the 1950s.

The Bigamist features some very strong performances from its three lead actors and has some fine direction from Lupino.  And the fact that it was directed by a woman undoubtedly added some very interesting elements to it.  Even though Eve and Phyllis are married to the same man, there is no animosity between them when they meet in a courtroom.  No confrontations, no catfights, no snarky remarks to each other.  Even though most of the movie is told from Harry’s perspective, who is trying to be seen as sympathetic, it’s ultimately Eve and Phyllis who remain the most sympathetic throughout the movie.

Even though The Bigamist may not be one of the all-time great movies, it has a lot going for it that makes it worth taking a look at.