Tag Archives: Waterloo Bridge

Waterloo Bridge (1931) – Waterloo Bridge Three Post Series #2

Waterloo_Bridge_(1931_film)_jpegMae Clarke and James Whale are both best remembered for the 1931 Frankenstein that introduced Boris Karloff to immortal fame as the Frankenstein monster. Mae Clarke was the fiancé of Dr. Frankenstein (played by Colin Clive), although she didn’t have much to do besides remonstrate earnestly with her fiancé and faint at the sight of Karloff. Frankenstein was also a turning point in the career of the director, James Whale. The movie was so successful that he was given a tremendous amount of artistic freedom for several years at Universal Studios and directed The Invisible Man (1933), The Old Dark House (1932) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

However, before Frankenstein was released in 1931, another movie was released that same year and shows that both Whale and Clarke are much more than makers of monster movies. In fact, Mae Clarke gives a very moving performance as a chorus girl turned prostitute who falls in love with a young soldier during WWI. This movie is not as well known as the remake in 1940 at MGM with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, but is an excellent, concise, grittier look at a particular moment in time. The movie is based on a play by Robert E. Sherwood, which in turn was based on his memories of a chance meeting with a prostitute on Waterloo Bridge during an air raid, and the movie captures that sense of random chance throughout.

Mae Clarke is Myra Deauville, who came from America to England in the chorus of a show. But when the show closes and she is out of work and cannot pay her landlady (a constant problem in this movie), she resorts to prostitution. Her method, employed by many other women, is to go to Waterloo Bridge to pick up men.


It is at Waterloo Bridge where she meets Roy Cronin (Douglas Montgomery) during an air raid. I hadn’t realized it before, but London did endure bombings during WWI from zeppelins. Roy is a very young soldier, innocent and eager and a bit lonely during his leave in London. She sees him as a potential client and brings him back to her apartment, where they have dinner. He is so innocent, though, he doesn’t even realize that she is trying to pick him up and just thinks that she is being friendly, but he is smitten with her. He even offers to pay her landlady, who is demanding her rent and also assumes that Roy is there as a client. However, Myra quickly realizes that Roy just wants to talk and is touched by his innocence, and she refuses to let him pay the rent. Later that night, after he has gone, she goes out again in search of another man so she can pay the still looming rent.

Roy does not forget her so easily, however, and come back and meets Myra’s friend, Kitty, another lady of the night. Kitty can see that he is mad about Myra and tells Myra that she should marry him, but Myra feels that she would be using Roy and it would not be fair to him, who doesn’t  know what she does for a living. However, Roy manages finally to get Myra to visit his family, where she meets his father, mother and sister (Bette Davis in a tiny role). They are very welcoming, but the mother can see what her son evidently cannot or doesn’t care about, that there is a huge gulf between Myra and the Cronins. The Cronins are very wealthy people, upper class, while Myra is just a chorus girl from America who has had to make her own way all her life. Roy proposes, but that night Myra tells his mother the truth. His mother is appalled, though sympathetic and appreciative; however, she does not want Myra to marry her son and Myra leaves, with Roy going after her.

waterloobridgeIt is a heartbreaking story, in it’s own way. It is not lushly romantic like the 1940 movie, but is more gritty, more like a straight-forward narrative of what could a real story, more explicit about the life that Myra is living and how much she hates it, though she does it every time she wants something (like a new dress) or must pay bills. There is a tragic little moment when her landlady has demanded her rent. Myra sits down in front of her mirror and begins to get herself ready to go out, with an expressionless face that still expresses so much. She gets up and goes out the door and the scene ends.

Douglas Montgomery is a little on the awkward and inexperienced side as Roy Cronin, but since the character is supposed to be young and inexperienced, his acting is not a serious detraction from the movie. Roy is a completely naïve, romantic young man who doesn’t really care where she came from or what she does. His view of her is a purified version of the real woman. Myra comes across as much older than he is, though not necessarily in actual age. She is the one who is painfully aware of the class differences between them, let alone the fact that she is a prostitute, and knows there is no future for them.

MBDWABR EC013Mae Clarke really did lead a hard-scrabble life for a while, like she portrays in the movie, though without the streetwalking. She (her real name was Violet Mary Klotz) and Barbara Stanwyck (still Ruby Stevens) and one other girl all shared one shabby room in New York when they were in their teens, dancing at nightclubs, getting work in a chorus whenever they could, each washing out their one pair of stockings each night. She found some initial success, but her career never quite took off and almost all of her leading lady roles came in the pre-code era. The rest of her career was spent in bit parts. Ironically, she made her most famous movies in 1931. Along with Waterloo Bridge and Frankenstein, she also appeared in another highly successful film, The Public Enemy, where she infamously gets a grapefruit shoved in her face by gangster James Cagney.

Waterloo Bridge was both a critical and financial success when it was released; however, owing to it’s frank portrayal, it was never released in theaters during the era of the production code and was overshadowed by MGM’s remake. The film was rediscovered in 1975, but because both Universal Studios and MGM owned the rights, they were not able to come to an agreement and it was not generally seen for another twenty years. It was not available for home-ownership until 2006, when Waterloo Bridge was released in the first of the TCM sets called Forbidden Hollywood, Vol. 1. It was paired with Jean Harlow’s Red-Headed Woman and Barbara Stanwyck’s Baby Face and is really a movie worth rediscovering.


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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Movies


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Waterloo Bridge (1940) – Waterloo Bridge Three Post Series # I

MV5BMTQ3NzUzOTc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzcwMDkxMTE@__V1_SX214_When I first watched the movie Waterloo Bridge from 1940 with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, my reaction was twofold; I reacted to the movie itself and to it as a remake of the 1931 Waterloo Bridge with Mae Clarke and directed by James Whale. I wanted to compare the movies, but I also thought that both movies deserved to be analyzed on their own, as individual movies, so I’ve decided to write a three post series about each movie and ending with a comparison of the two, with each post being released on a Monday: the 22nd (today), 29th, and the 6th of October.

The original story was a play by Robert E. Sherwood who is said to have based it loosely on events of his own life while he was stationed in London during WWI. The play was released in 1930 and was made into a movie only a year later, and was remade nine years after that when MGM bought the rights to the play from Universal (who made the first one) for the first movie Vivien Leigh made following her Oscar winning, fame-catapulting and fiery performance as Scarlet O’Hara the year before.

The 1940 Waterloo Bridge is by far the most beloved and well-known of the two movies. In fact, it is a highly beloved movie, period; inspiring real affection and not just liking in many of its viewers.

The movie opens with Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor), an officer in the British army during WWII, who must leave London and stops at Waterloo Bridge to remember another time, during the first world war, when he was young and first met the woman he loves on that same bridge. The rest of the movie is a flashback, and I don’t believe I am giving anything away when I say that you just know by the way the older Roy is reminiscing that the story does not end happily. The entire movie is drenched in gentle, yet tragic, remembrance; most of the movie taking place in the evening or at night, as if to say that the story was over even before it began. The song “Auld Lang Syne” is the theme of the movie, gently playing and foretelling the inevitable end of the story.

tumblr_ln0agaei1L1qiwalto1_500Except the end isn’t inevitable, really. And that’s why it is also so frustrating, because it is also about the inherent defeatism that we impose on ourselves, which defeat does not come from the outside world.

At the beginning of the flashback, Roy meets a group of ballerinas on their way to the theater and when there is an air raid, they all take refuge in a shelter, where he meets Myra Lester. He is instantly attracted, and she is too, but because he must leave the next day, she assumes that they will never meet again. However, that night he puts off a dinner with his colonel and goes to see her dance. Despite being forbidden to go out with him by the director of the ballet troupe, (Maria Ouspenskaya – highly memorable, as always), her much more worldly, though kind-hearted, friend Kitty (Virginia Field) arranges for Myra to meet Roy.

They have dinner and dance and talk and fall so deeply in love that you know no one else could ever do for these two people, no matter what happens. In many ways, though, they are quite different in their attitude towards life. He is eager to embrace life and to make life happen. He is brash, warm-hearted and confident and unwilling to ever let her get away from him, no matter if there is a war. She is young, very innocent and trusting, but with a much less aggressive attitude towards life. She assumes that life happens without her and when he says that she is a defeatist and that she could imagine never seeing him again, she agrees. She does not expect to see him again.

But when Roy is given unexpected leave for two days, he rushes to Myra’s house and proposes. It is so unexpected and magical and wonderful for Myra and it is as if she were infused with the same spirit as he is as they both rush to get married. It is too late in the day, however, for the reverend to marry them and before they can marry the next morning, Roy’s leave is canceled. Myra then misses the ballet performance because she had rushed off to say farewell to Roy, and she is fired along with Kitty, who stood up for her.

1822457,ZIPp_ZrhMBsQR1mNUksR_qhMKuWNa0vMvaD19GLii+37Y6ndrWVt3TSkakTsbdK0YDjzV1xJTYwtQa_3w1eR_w==And then Myra reads in the newspaper that Roy has died. After she falls ill and finally recovers, she realizes that Kitty has resorted to prostitution to pay the bills, including Myra’s medical ones. Myra doesn’t want the burden to fall on her friend and soon becomes a prostitute as well. But Roy was not really dead and he comes back completely unexpectedly to carry her off to meet his family without knowing what has transpired.

Spoiler Warning: the rest of this post contains spoilers.

This was quite interesting because the main obstacles in this film to the couple’s happiness are the war and her own defeatism. The war constantly drives them apart, but it is not insuperable. And unlike the first Waterloo Bridge film, there is no class or family prejudice against her. Everyone who meets her absolutely love her. The only thing that stands in her way is the fact that she is hiding from him that she worked as a prostitute during the time he was away and her own guilt over it. She is afraid to tell him and ultimately she is the one who decides that she is not worthy of him and his great family name; and because she can no longer imagine living without him, she walks in front of an army truck on Waterloo Bridge and kills herself.

Roy does find out, however, about her past. After she had left him he goes to Kitty and hears the whole story and what is so tragic is that it would not have mattered to him if she had been a prostitute or not. He loves her and he knows that she always loved him and all he wants is to be with her. It is so sad because she did not realize just how much he loved her and she never even gave him the chance to tell her. She makes her decision far to quickly and takes the irrevocable way out of the situation. Even if she had simply chosen to leave Roy – without killing herself – the simple act of choosing to live would probably have meant happiness for them both since Roy would have found her and they could have been happy.

c318b0edc8eeb1677b6701c95f56500dGoing along with the sense of defeatism is also the sense that Myra had that all her happiness was unreal. She asks several times in the movie if it is real, as if she can hardly believe that so much love could really come to her. The irony is that every time she says it, it is because of something Roy has done to make her happy. He works to make happiness. He is the one who puts off his duty so he can see her again and he is the one to propose so quickly. When he was presumed dead, he was really in a German prison camp and he escapes, returns to England, and brings her to his family home. She has trouble accepting what would essentially be a fairy tale ending for her; and one wonders if she never, in her heart, subconsciously believed in happy endings.

And in the end, in a tragic twist, it is now Roy who echoes Myra’s defeatism when he says that he knows he will never find her again. He says it the same night that she kills herself.

I still can’t decide whether or not I enjoyed it. It’s a very haunting film and the pathetic tragedy of the theme song, “Auld Lang Syne” stayed with me long after the movie was over. Of course, it didn’t help that afterwards I was reading about the tragic death in prison of Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Franz Ferdinand of Austria – which sparked WWI – and about the love between Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia and how their final thoughts before they died were of each other and about how their two sons were sent to Dachau in the late 1930s when they opposed the Nazi takeover of Austria. It put me in a regular, reflective funk about life, loss and suffering. And how the greatest tragedies in life – like WWI – are often self-inflicted.

However, there is a slight, hopeful note at the end of the movie, despite the tragedy. After Myra kills herself, we flash forward to WWII where Roy Cronin is remembering her. It is clear that, despite the tragedy, what he is really remembering is her and how much he loves her and how much he knows she loved him. Their love has endured, despite her death. It is another cosmic romance.



Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Drama, Romance


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A Remake of Ben-Hur and Movie Remakes in General

MV5BMTQ3NzUzOTc1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzcwMDkxMTE@__V1_SX214_Waterloo_Bridge_(1931_film)_jpeg I didn’t use to think I was a fan of movie remakes, but it has come my attention that frequently I do like them. I just watched the movie Waterloo Bridge with Vivien Leigh and that was a remake of the 1931 movie starring Mae Clarke (of Frankenstein fame) and directed by James Whale (also of Frankenstein fame). Both movies are actually quite interesting and I liked both, though they are very different. One is a pre-code film (which means it is much more upfront about the main character’s job as a prostitute) and has a definite class element to the story and a bit more of an edge to it. The remake is far more gentle and sentimental (in a good way), more coy about prostitution, and fits the mood much more of 1940, when Europe was at war and people didn’t want the edges of the early ’30s.

I also actually like both movie versions of Sabrina. I saw the 1995 version with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormand first and then was enchanted by the original that was directed by Billy Wilder and stars Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. I also love both Ninotchka (with Greta Garbo) and the musical remake, with songs by Cole Porter, called Silk Stockings (Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse).

I guess I’m coming around to the idea that you cannot have too much of a good thing, if they really are a good thing. Since I love George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion;” I also love the movie (with Leslie Howard), the musical “My Fair Lady, multiple cast recordings, and also the movie version of My Fair Lady. I am even about to listen to a radio dramatization of the play.

And I cannot tell you how many different movie versions I have seen of Pride and Prejudice (at least five) and Great Expectations. Of course, there are an awful lot of awful remakes out there, but I am trying not to be judgmental.

But what put all this in my mind is that I just read online that Ben-Hur is going to be remade and will come out in 2016. And I also must confess that, despite all my enforced goodwill for remakes, my first thought was “Oh really? I wonder how that’ll work out.” Old habits of cynicism regarding remakes die hard.





Actually, the book Ben-Hur has been remade many times and the famous 1959 movie with Charlton Heston was the third movie adaptation. Published in 1880, it was originally adapted as a play (that must have been fun to stage!) and was then made into an unauthorized movie in 1907. It was fifteen minutes long and Lou Wallace’s estate sued and from then on movie makers were much more careful about getting the copyrights of a book before making a movie. The next version was made in 1925 (still a silent movie) with Ramon Novarro and was a huge hit.

And of course, it was made in 1959, directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston. It was nominated for twelve academy awards and won eleven of them, a record it shares with Titanic and Return of the King. There was also an animated Ben-Hur made in 2003, with Heston providing the voice of the main character. And there was a 2010 miniseries made in Britain with Joseph Morgan in the main role and a supporting cast that includes Ray Winstone and Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame).

Apparently, Jack Huston has been cast as the eponymous Ben-Hur. He is best known for his role in the show Boardwalk Empire, which I have never seen so I cannot judge whether or not he is a good choice. The producers of The Bible miniseries, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, will be executive producers and it will be directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who has directed such movies as Wanted, Night Watch, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I will try and quash my doubts and wish them luck!


Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Movie Thoughts


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