Published on Tuesday, 14 September 2010 20:00
Written by Rock
||James Whale (1931)
Mervyn LeRoy (1940)
||Benn Levy, Tom Reed (1931)
S. N. Behrman, Hans Rameau, George Froeschel (1940)
Both adapted from the play by Robert E. Sherwood
||Mae Clarke, Kent Douglas, Doris Lloyd, Bette Davis (1931)
Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Lucile Watson, Virginia Field, Maria Ouspenskaya, C. Aubrey Smith (1940)
||1931 & 1940
||Warner Home Video
|By It Now On
The effect of the Hays Code on Waterloo Bridge!
More often than not, we reviewers here at KillingBoxx utterly loathe the re-made movie, and dissect them vehemently. This Reviewer, in particular, has also seen fit to publicly denounce the Hays Code on one or more occasion. However; as one friend has so candidly pointed out, there were many fine films produced after the enforcement of the code, most notably films such as Double Indemnity
(1944), Mildred Pierce
(1945), Dark Victory
(1939), and The Maltese Falcon
(1941), to name a very select few. Though the studio system needed a way to persevere and prosper during this period of fascist censorship, some stories, and the films derived from them, falter somewhat. Of particular speculation, Waterloo Bridge
(1940), falls far short of its earlier model, lacking the same 'stones', production value, and integrity.
Fresh from the success of Gone With The Wind (1939), Waterloo Bridge (1940) was the next project for actress Vivien Leigh. When MGM Studios opted to create this film, they secured the rights by purchasing the 1931 version from Universal Studios. Due to the nature of the original storyline, the original film was rendered non-viewable by the Hays Code, so Waterloo Bridge (1940) had an obligation to water down its premise. Nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Music and Best Cinematography, Waterloo Bridge (1940) also had the distinction of being Leigh's and Taylor's favorite project.
The 1940's version depicts a chance meeting of dancer Myra (Leigh), and soldier Roy (Taylor), during an air raid on Waterloo Bridge, in the era of the first World War. Seeking refuge in a bunker, the pair becomes enamored with one another, and soon begin an awkward romance. This causes trouble for Myra, as her dance troupe matron Madame Olga Kirowa (Ouspenskaya) forbids any kind of inappropriate fraternization. Roy soon proposes to Myra, but, their relationship peaks when Roy is sent abroad, and the Madame fires Myra for disobeying her wishes. To add to her misery, Myra soon reads of Roy's demise overseas. Broken and penniless, she resorts to granting 'personal services' to any soliciting soldier coming across Waterloo Bridge, as they return on leave.
Unfortunately for Myra, Roy is very much alive, and was merely interred in a German Prison Camp. Roy escapes and comes home, desperately wanting to marry her, but, having 'ankled up' for the troops, she is hesitant. Hailing from a wealthy and respected family, Roy finally convinces Myra to take his hand, but, is unaware of how she made ends meet, so to speak. Myra, however; is guilt ridden over her lack of bringing her events of indiscretion to Roy's attention. She confides her 'half-and-half history' to Roy's mother (Watson), whom is unusually understanding. Unable to convey the truth to Roy, and not wanting to dishonor him, she runs away and throws herself in front of a truck. The End.
The 1931 version of Waterloo Bridge
is a much closer adaptation of Sherwood's play. Based somewhat on his own experience during the First World War, it is the story of an American Chorus Girl whom fell on 'hard times', and succumbed to the profitability of prostitution. The play ran for a short time on Broadway, but, did little in terms of garnering any serious attention. Enter Carl Laemmle, Jr., a Hollywood Producer whom saw potential for Sherwood's play, and contracted the rights for Universal. Impressed with the work of Director James Whale, Laemmle obtained his services for this endeavor, giving the young director $250,000 and less than a month to create it. Whale delivered the film on schedule, and under budget, gaining enough favor to secure any project he deemed to so do. That film was Frankenstein
Though actress Mae Clarke, an easy favorite of this particular Reviewer, was well utilized in Waterloo Bridge (1931), her co-star Kent Douglas (later known as Douglass Montgomery), was not an exceptional actor. Whale had to briefly halt production in order to tutor this fledgling actor. Even with this setback, though, this version of Sherwood's story remains superior, and given that contractual stipulations prevented this fine work from viewers eyes for decades, thankfully, it is now readily available to the general public.
This version begins with Myra on Waterloo Bridge, ready to greet the horny soldiers as they return on leave. As fate would have it, Zeppelin's begin bombing the bridge, and Myra is escorted to safety by the naÃ¯ve soldier Roy. Roy brings Myra back to her apartment, and seeing her financial hardship, pays her rent. Though Myra returns to the streets following Roy's departure, she is somewhat taken by the honesty of this soldiers character. He soon carts her off to meet his privileged and wealthy family, but, his mother (Enid Bennett) is not fooled. She discourages Myra from any marital vows with Roy, and encourages her to quickly depart.
Having received orders to return to the battlefield, Roy hunts down Myra, only to learn the truth of her stature. He still begs for her hand in marriage, and Myra agrees, but, as Roy departs, she is killed by a bomb on the bridge.
As one may readily observe, there are some slight differences within the plots of these two feature films, yet, only one maintains the integrity of the plays synopsis. This reviewer was delightfully impressed with the opening sequence of the original, viewing the Zeppelin's bombing London. Previously, I had been largely ignorant of the fact that events such as this had actually taken place. Aside from all the asinine remarks contained within this review, the Waterloo Bridge films touch upon a subject that is easy to judge, yet, points out the fact that the disenfranchised woman had to use whatever means at her disposal in order to survive, and a very important revelation about people in a dark place and time. It is as much a story of the weakness of men, as it is the strength of women.
So there you have it, one can either discern viewing the Gone With The Wind version of Waterloo Bridge (1940), or deem to witness the Frankenstein version of Waterloo Bridge (1931). There was yet another creation of this film, called Gaby (1956), which this Reviewer probably will never entertain. All three versions are currently owned products of Warner Brothers Studios.