Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Did anyone catch "Waterloo Bridge" (1931)?


Recommended Posts

It was on this evening, and really made a nice addition to the war-themed line-up.

 

I really, really like the 1940 version- which is one of the unsung gems of 1940 and an undervalued Vivien Leigh performance, but this early version done by Universal was pretty good- albeit quite different than the later version; which (if I recall) focused more strongly on the war.

 

Both are commendable for not backing away from the fact that the main character is a prostitute at some point; although they did make her a fallen ballerina in the Leigh/Taylor version; she's straight hooking at the start-up to the pre-code version. Ultimately, of the two, the precode gets right to the point; but I still prefer the MGM remake. 

 

Mae Clark is the- American this time- hooker living in London. She was quite attractive and good, and very likeable- reminded me a tiny bit of Irene Dunne. Bette Davis is in it. She looks great and has an awful, pointless role. The male lead is unsteady. The supporting cast good. Great sets.

 

SPOILER, ENDING(s):

 

There are a lot of clunky scenes early on, but it is made up for by an effective- albeit relentlessly bleak ending which differs a touch from the 1940 version. (In the MGM version, the girl commits suicide; in the Universal version she agrees to marry the soldier and then dies when a bomb drops right on her as she walks along Waterloo Bridge.) There was an impressive crane shot of the girl which makes you sit up and notice it- not at all unlike the technique used later by Orson Welles at the beginning of Touch of Evil.

 

I wondered who directed it when I was done watching and I wikied it and found out it was James Whale. He was an innovator.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I prefer the 1940 version as well.  The problem I have with Whale's earlier picture is that Kent Douglass (later billed as Douglass Montgomery) has softer features than the leading lady. I think the part does require a more rugged war hero type, and Robert Taylor seemed to fit it better. John Kerr took over in the next remake, GABY, also by MGM.

 

Another thing the second film has is the great Lucile Watson as the soldier's mother and Madame Ouspenskaya as the ballet teacher. Just better casting all around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also prefer the 1940 version because the plot was better developed, but I do think that Kent Douglass (AKA Douglass Montgomery) was also good, and very well cast for the part.  One of the reasons for my thinking this is that he bore a striking resemblance to the soldier on the cover of Paul Fussell's landmark book, The Great War and Modern Memory.  Remember that this was a 19 year old boy, and not a 29 year old man, which was Robert Taylor's age at the time of the remake.  These weren't grizzled war veterans, they were for the great part young innocents who'd been thrust into history with no real preparation for the carnage that they were to see.154472.jpgtumblr_m66fm2w4Aa1qe6nze.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SPOILER, ENDING(s):

 

...There are a lot of clunky scenes early on, but it is made up for by an effective- albeit relentlessly bleak ending which differs a touch from the 1940 version. (In the MGM version, the girl commits suicide; in the Universal version she agrees to marry the soldier and then dies when a bomb drops right on her as she walks along Waterloo Bridge.) . ...

 

Full disclosure: I've not seen the James Whale version, although now I wish I had. Maybe next time.

 

However, I took note of your description of the ending. Just going by this, it seems to me the ending in this version is less bleak than the 1940 version. There's something terribly wrong and sad with the girl's deciding to kill herself because she feels, now that she's become a prostitute, that she's no longer "worthy" of her fiance. I hate movies about prostitutes that end with the woman offing herself because she's not "pure" and therefore does not deserve any kind of happiness.

I know, I know, "times were different then", etc. etc.  Still.

 

If, in this 1931 "Waterloo Bridge", the girl is planning to marry the soldier anyway, that's a much more postive turn of the plot. Of course, she has to be killed, she has to be punished for being a prostitute, but at least it just happens, she doesn't die by her own hand because she feels she has no right to marry him.

Somehow it seems less tragic to me.

Of course, as I said, I haven't actually seen it, so my opinion has little validity I suppose, until I do.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also prefer the 1940 version because the plot was better developed, but I do think that Kent Douglass (AKA Douglass Montgomery) was also good, and very well cast for the part.

 

 

I like the 31 version better because the 40 version is completely unbelievable.

 

Vivien Leigh was much too attractive, high class, and educated, to not be hired for all kinds of good jobs or to receive many offers of marriage. She was much to conservative to go out and pick up unknown men for xxx.

 

In the original version, some comments in the beginning of the film informs the audience that the dancing girls getting various dancing jobs sometimes supplement their income by prostitution, which I don’t think a ballerina Vivien Leigh type would do.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like the 31 version better because the 40 version is completely unbelievable.

 

Vivien Leigh was much too attractive, high class, and educated, to not be hired for all kinds of good jobs or to receive many offers of marriage. She was much to conservative to go out and pick up unknown men for xxx.

 

In the original version, some comments in the beginning of the film informs the audience that the dancing girls getting various dancing jobs sometimes supplement their income by prostitution, which I don’t think a ballerina Vivien Leigh type would do.

I think you make some good points, Fred. I know she is a ballerina in the 1940 remake, but I guess when I watch it I see that as a cover for her prostitution, because of the production code. I do not take her seriously as a ballet dancer.

 

Vivien Leigh was able to play roles in different socio-economic classes. In THAT HAMILTON WOMAN, she runs the gamut.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931) is appearing again on TCM in September as part of the spotlight on pre-Code films. 

 

The 1940 version has some good moments (especially the first meeting between Vivien Leigh's Myra and Roy's mother) but Robert Taylor is not convincing in the role of Roy. He speaks as if he is delivering lines rather than conversing. Also his American accent is distracting since his character in this version is supposed to be British (unless I missed some explanation for the accent).

 

Kent Douglass in the 1931 version is believable as a naive young man (19 years old) who falls in love with a prostitute (although in the 1940 version Myra is not a prostitute when she and Roy meet).

Mae Clark's gritty and naturalistic performance as Myra is captivating and moving.

Mae Clark is probably best known as the woman that got a grapefruit in the face from James Cagney in THE PUBLIC ENEMY, but her performance in WATERLOO BRIDGE is one that deserves more recognition.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931) is appearing again on TCM in September as part of the spotlight on pre-Code films. 

 

Thank you for that FYI.

 

According to the imdb trivia section, James Whale shut down production for something like three days to work with the leading man of Waterloo Bridge because he was such a novice. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that lesson.

 

Also- Bette Davis was quoted some time later as saying she was furious the whole time of filming because she wanted to play the Mae Clark Role. I liked Mae Clark in the film, but I do think Bette could've done it and been British too and been better...she would have probably been an even bigger pain in the a** for Whale than she already was with her teeny tiny and rather unnecessary role. . 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931) is appearing again on TCM in September as part of the spotlight on pre-Code films. 

 

The 1940 version has some good moments (especially the first meeting between Vivien Leigh's Myra and Roy's mother) but Robert Taylor is not convincing in the role of Roy. He speaks as if he is delivering lines rather than conversing. Also his American accent is distracting since his character in this version is supposed to be British (unless I missed some explanation for the accent).

 

Kent Douglass in the 1931 version is believable as a naive young man (19 years old) who falls in love with a prostitute (although in the 1940 version Myra is not a prostitute when she and Roy meet).

Mae Clark's griity and naturalistic performance as Myra is captivating and moving.

Mae Clark is probably best known as the woman that got a grapefruit in the face from James Cagney in THE PUBLIC ENEMY, but her performance in WATERLOO BRIDGE is one that deserves more recognition.

A lot of people like to use James Cagney's name in the same sentence as Mae Clarke. And a lot of people fail to recognize that she became one of Republic's most dependable character actresses in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

According to the imdb trivia section, James Whale shut down production for something like three days to work with the leading man of Waterloo Bridge because he was such a novice. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that lesson.

 

Also- Bette Davis was quoted some time later as saying she was furious the whole time of filming because she wanted to play the Mae Clark Role. I liked Mae Clark in the film, but I do think Bette could've done it and been British too and been better...she would have probably been an even bigger pain in the a** for Whale than she already was with her teeny tiny and rather unnecessary role. . 

 

I think Bette would have given an interesting peformance as Myra, but I am glad that we have Mae's performance in the film. I don't mind Myra being American. She was American in the Robert Sherwood play that the movie was adapted from.   

 

I had also read about James Whale's private coaching of Kent Douglass.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Bette would have given an interesting performance as Myra, but I am glad that we have Mae's performance in the film.

 

It probably stoked the fire that sent Bette to the top; so it worked out just fine. Mae got to have her moment; Bette had years of cake to come.

 

Found this tidbit on wikipedia:

"Whale completed "Waterloo Bridge" $50,000 under budget, and Laemmle was so impressed he gave the director the choice of any property the studio had in the planning stages. He selected Frankenstein and went on to become one of the leading directors at Universal."

 

(end quote)

 

Frankenstein, which of course, featured Mae Clark...and she's very good in it. I want to say she couldn't be in Bride of Frankenstein because of scheduling and they had to get a 15 year old Valerie Hobson to play Elizabeth- which was a slightly bigger and certainly showier role this time around.

 

Hobson is great in her own screwy, insecure, histrionic way, but I'm sure Mae would've been good if given a crack at the role.

 

I imdb'd Mae Clark and she had a bazillion credits- running into TV stuff and features in the 50s and 60s: hardly any of them had I heard of with a couple of exceptions (the 1954 version of Magnificent Obsession for one.)

 

But hell, she worked.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

However, I took note of your description of the ending. Just going by this, it seems to me the ending in this version is less bleak than the 1940 version. There's something terribly wrong and sad with the girl's deciding to kill herself because she feels, now that she's become a prostitute, that she's no longer "worthy" of her fiance. I hate movies about prostitutes that end with the woman offing herself because she's not "pure" and therefore does not deserve any kind of happiness.

 

 

Well, there's an abruptness to the ending of the 1931 Waterloo Bridge; there's no MGM aura and crescendo to THE END.

 

It's just overhead shot (long): the girl walking on Waterloo Bridge. Suddenly and without warning- a bomb falls. Split second view of the impact. Then people running; shot of the rabbit stole in the gutter. No discernable dialogue as I recall. 

THE END

 

A Universal Cast is Worth Repeating!

 

etc.

 

There's a shocking sudden impact of the ending to the 1931 version, which is technically quite well-done, but a lot more straightforward and violent and again: abrupt than the almost romanticized Anna Karenina- like tone of the 1940 version's ending.

 

So maybe it's not less bleak than the 1940 version; but it is- I have to say- more memorable.

 

(And I get all your points about "Ye Doomed Hooker" roles.)

 

It was an ending that really stayed with me, try to catch it when it comes on in Sept.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
  • 7 months later...
  • 3 months later...

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931) is airing on TCM on August 20 as part of Mae Clarke's day during Summer Under The Stars.

 

Thank you so much for digging this up!

 

Only thing I'll add is that the film is showing at 8:00 pm and the day is laden with a lot of early thirties precodes and the like, PENTHOUSE on at 1:45 pm is one I've always been interested in and want to catch.

 

I also also add that any of you who DVR'd the Vivien Leigh version of WATERLOO BRIDGE, it's really interesting to contrast them both and there are enough differences, you can even enjoy them back-to-back.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

     I like both versions but I prefer the 1931 version because of the grittiness. The MGM version is too

polished. I also think Douglass Montgomery was perfect as the inexperienced teen boy-soldier. Robert Taylor was too old and simply not suited for that part. He wasn't believable as the young soldier.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't catch the film recently, but taped it a few years ago.  It is interesting to compare the similarities and differences of both films.  Around the time I watched it I really came to like

the little-known Douglass Montgomery, whom I felt was very good in this film and several others.  I really enjoyed him as Heather Angel's admirer in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Also, his performance with Evelyn Venable in Harmony Street was very memorable.

 

THere is a good point shown here that Douglass was more suited to the role of the inexperienced soldier who fell in love with the ballerina.  Robert Taylor was a little too old  in '40 to evince this role creditably.

 

I do like both versions.  In the '40 version the music is absolutely gorgeous as Myra and the soldier continue on and on dancing.  I never heard Auld Lang Syne sung and danced to so beautifully! (Most of it was instrumental.  Early on we hear the voices singing the song so earnestly!)  That part is a treat to watch!

 

But in the Mae Clark version, we see these two people falling in love, only to end in eventual tragedy.  Yes, you are right that it was very sad as a bomb fell across the bridge.  IT almost seems like retribution with Mae's lifestyle, and yet this was not this naive adult's conclusion.  I simply concluded that it was one of those chance things in life - a  bombing disaster and eventual tragedy.  Had Myra been totally virtuous this could still have happened to her.!  Random tragedies independent of wartime  can ocur. In this case, WWI was raging and the young soldier was about to return to his duties.  (Doris Lloyd was very good as her sympathetic friend.

 

We know that in the other film, Myra had "walked the streets" to survive.  Iniially, she had been ill and her friend (beautifully portrayed by Virginia Field) had no source of income  when her search for work falls through.  She saves Myra's lif when she falls very ill,  by paying for a doctor. and Myra is very touched - until she learns of the source of payment.

 

Later, when Myra's fiancee is reportedly killed in action, she becomes embittered and spirals downward in the same direction as her friend.  When she finds it was all a mistake and Robert's character is revealed to be  alive, Myra is warmly  welcomed into the family - her impending wedding makes her feel very guilty however,  and she reveals her guilt to her fiancee's  mother (the great Lucile Watson)..  Though the lady tries to be sympathetic, Myra is overcome by guilt.  She  takes her own life by jumping onto the bridge just as a train approaches.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Waterloo Bridge" by Claude Monet

 

waterloo-bridge-1901-1.jpg

This is a gorgeous painting!  Yes, I don't like that in films either; a woman not feeling worthy because she had been a prostitute.  THereby the '40 film seems more tragic because of her suicide.  Especially sad, because she had become a lady of the streets through necessity.  One gets the feeling that Robert T. was beginning to forgive her - and his mom and granddad (the teriffic C. Aubrey Smith) felt great sympathy with Myra.  (Initially, his mother was not so understanding when hearing the news.  When she realizes that her future daughter in law had done this to survive, she began to sympathize with her.  Also, Myra had given up all hope of him being alive at the time.  (Robert's mother upon hearing of the mistaken report of her son's death begins to see why Mra had seemed strange when meeting  a few months earlier.  When the happy news is proclaimed, she does everything she can to find her these 2 factors might have led to her acceptance into this nice family.  But she could not do this and felt unbearable to continue her life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

© 2022 Turner Classic Movies Inc. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...