Plot: Myra (Mae Clarke) was once a chorus girl with adoring fans and a wonderful beau, who once gifted her a mink that made her peers quite envious. But times change and a couple of years later, Myra’s mink is worn and she feels the same, unable to even make rent most weeks. London is under constant air raid watch, but she tries to make some money on Waterloo Bridge, hoping a soldier on leave might want the company of a pretty girl for a night. When an air raid sounds, she finds herself helping an old woman gather her spilled potatoes and a soldier stops to help. Roy (Douglass Montgomery) lends a hand to collect the potatoes, then gets the women to safety and finds an instant spark between he and Myra. The two begin a rushed, but genuine courtship, but Myra is plagued by self doubt and feels like she doesn’t deserve a good man, given her current place in life.
Entertainment Value: Based on the stage play of the same name, Waterloo Bridges follows an unlikely courtship between a good natured, well to do soldier and a woman who fallen on hard times and turn to prostitution. This leads to some interesting situations to say the least, as he is a naive, optimistic person and she is more worn down by life, with a negative outlook, especially when it comes to herself. This only intensifies as he continues to pursue her and even introduces her to his social circles, where she feels more than a little out place. The movie centers on Myra’s inability to see herself as a person of value because of how her life has turned out, as even when Roy is kind and affectionate, she pulls back and doesn’t feel worth his attention. Mae Clarke has the lead and is excellent, bringing all the nuance the role calls for, from her remarkable charm to the more introspective, downbeat elements. I do wish she had a better costar to play off, as Douglass Montgomery is passable at times, but doesn’t have much charisma or presence to work with. The supporting cast is impressive however, with Bette Davis, Enid Bennett, and Frederick Kerr, while James Whale serves as director and he ensures the focus stays on Clarke, where it belongs. I think the movie is a little slow at times, but has some real style throughout and Mae Clarke is fantastic, while the scenes with Kerr and Bennett are also highlights. So if you appreciate classic cinema and want to see Mae Clarke burn up the screen, Waterloo Bridge is worth a look.
No nakedness. But an early scene features some sheer bras that enable some naughty nipples to peek through, which was likely one of the reasons the movie was so heavily censored upon release. The movie is also quite open about Myra’s prostitution and how she views herself, as well as how others react to that part of her life. So while not over the top, it is easy to see how Waterloo Bridge could have offended some viewers at the time and raised the ire of the censors. No blood. The movie takes place during a tense period that involves frequent air raids, which factor into the narrative several times and aren’t mere background elements. Some interesting visual tricks can be seen at times, for those who appreciate old, old school special effects work. The dialogue shines when Clarke or Frederick Kerr have the focus, as Clarke is terrific in her role here and Kerr is a constant source of comic relief. Some might get tired of his hard of hearing routine, but I think it works well. Clarke nails the comic and dramatic angles to her role, which includes some sharp dialogue and some powerful exchanges. As for craziness, the end sequence is kind of wild, but otherwise, Waterloo Bridge keeps things grounded and doesn’t get too out of control.
Overall Insanity: 1/10