Friday, May 13, 2011

On Screen -- Waterloo Bridge (1931)

"Waterloo Bridge" (1931) is my favorite version of the film because it's a little grittier and not as polished as the 1940 film starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, and the story is told a little differently.  I think I read that the '31 film storyline is closer to the original story.  It's a really sad, romantic, and tragic story all at the same time.  The film was released before the production code went into effect in 1934 so to some viewers it may seem a little risqué or racy but it's still very tame by today's standards.

The film takes place in London during World War I.  "Myra" is an American chorus girl who followed a show to Europe but is now out of work resorting to street walking to make ends meet.  "Roy" is a naive young American who went to Canada to join the military so that he could fight in the war.  Roy meets Myra out on the street during a zeppelin attack on London and he immediately falls in love with her not realizing that Myra is a prostitute, while she misleads Roy explaining to him that she's a chorus girl.  The pair becomes very friendly as Myra invites him back to her apartment but then avoids Roy's questions about her history and background.  When he tricks her into spending the weekend with his family at their estate in the country, Myra begins feeling comfortable in her surroundings and around everyone in Roy's family, but then gets scared and runs off back to the city where she resumes her work.

Mae Clarke is beautiful and brilliant in her portrayal of "Myra", Kent Douglass stars as "Roy", Doris Lloyd stars as "Kitty, Myra's neighbor and "coworker."  And in one of her first roles Bette Davis costars as "Janet Cronin", Roy's sister.  The film is directed by James Whale in one of his first few directorial efforts... , yes, the same James Whale that directed "Frankenstein" (1931), "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935) , and "The Invisible Man" (1933).

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