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In World War I London, Myra is an American out of work chorus girl making ends meet by picking up men on Waterloo Bridge. During a Zeppelin air raid she meets Roy, a naive young American who enlisted in the Canadian army. They fall for each other, and he tricks Myra into visiting his family who live in a country estate outside London, where his step-father is a retired British Major. However Myra is reluctant to continue the relationship with Roy, because she has not told him about her past. Written by
The original Broadway production of "Waterloo Bridge" by Robert E. Sherwood opened at the Fulton Theatre on January 6, 1930 and ran for 64 performances. See more »
Although the film is set in 1918 the cast are wearing early-1930s fashions See more »
Lovely night, huh?
Lovely night for what? Air raids? Those fellows up there give me the willies.
Well, they're men, aren't they? I'd rather they throw bombs on me, than take no notice of me at all.
I expect they do that just to please you, dearie.
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Sweet, not saccharine, daring, and some sharply fresh performances
Waterloo Bridge (1931)
An amazing movie. Set in London during World War I, directed by the man who directed the original (and also amazing) Frankenstein, and with photography by the less known but first rate Arthur Edeson (Frankenstein, yes, but also Casablanca, no less). And throw in an astonishing actress, Mae Clarke, and you can see why it doesn't falter. She plays a struggling chorus girl and prostitute with snappy, lively believability. The lead male, Douglass Montgomery, playing a sweet hearted American soldier, is also a surprise face, totally charming, a perfect complement to Clarke. As characters, the young soldier's bright optimism brings out the best in the struggling but good hearted street girl.
The story is fast, and not completely predictable, and has a blow-out of an ending, really nice. Though set in the teens it feels modern (maybe too modern, historically). I never knew that London had a kind of Blitz experience in WWI, just as they would a decade after this film was released, and looking it up I found the Germans used zeppelins over London in the first war much the same was as they did (with planes) in WWII--to demoralize the civilian population. It adds tense excitement to the film throughout, and to the last scenes in particular, even if it isn't completely realistic (for some reason people don't scramble for cover even as the bombs are being dropped, maybe to portray that stiff upper lip thing).
Is this just a silly romance? No, no way, not when the two actors in it are so fresh and convincing, giving sparkling, nuanced performances miles away from the stiffness we associate with early sound films (or with many silent movies). This is a first rate and fast movie and honest, only 79 minutes long, with fully formed soundtrack and solid supporting cast (including a young Betty Davis, who is already confident and familiar as the sister of the leading man). The LeRoy remake of 1940 is a testimony to the strength of the story (and it is also really good). But if you want to see an early gem on its own terms, here it is. Highly recommended.
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