During World War I, believing her fiance to be dead, a young ballerina loses her job and is forced to turn to prostitution. From there, things only get worse for her in this tragic, heart-wrenching, love story.
On the eve of World War II, a British officer revisits Waterloo Bridge and recalls the young man he was at the beginning of World War I and the young ballerina he met just before he left for the front. Myra stayed with him past curfew and is thrown out of the corps de ballet. She survives on the streets of London, falling even lower after she hears her true love has been killed in action. But he wasn't killed. Those terrible years were nothing more than a bad dream is Myra's hope after Roy finds her and takes her to his family's country estate.Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
When asked what her favorite film of her own was, Vivien Leigh brushed aside her Oscar winning roles as the southern belles Scarlet O'Hara and Blanche Dubois, settling on this little-known but much loved gem, Waterloo Bridge. This may come as a surprise to many whose favorite movie is Gone With the Wind or stage actresses who study every nuance of her Blanche, once you see this movie there is no doubt that this may be her loveliest performance--while her Oscars prove that she could deliver astoundingly good work under the notoriously difficult shoots on her famous two films, Waterloo Bridge is a testament to her grace, her subtlety, and her ability to never feel sorry for herself or beg the audience for pity--and therefore earns every inch of our attention.
Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor), an aging soldier on the eve of WWII, remembers years earlier during the First World War (it's better if you ignore the obviously "modern" clothing and just enjoy the damn movie). He met and ballerina Myra Lester (Leigh), and oh boy how the fell in love (I have yet to see a sweeter or more beautifully photographed love scene than the Candlelight Club). However, just before they can find a way to get married, Roy is called unexpectedly early to the front. Myra misses a performance to say goodbye to him and is fired from the dance company. Along with her faithful best friend Kitty, Myra sinks lower and lower into poverty, and her faith is lost when she believes Roy is dead. Hopeless, she falls into prostitution (this is where Leigh is at her best--there is not a shred of self-pity in her performance when Myra becomes a "fallen woman."). How will she cover up her past when Roy shows up alive and suggests that she meet his crusty, upper-class family?
The synopsis provided above has all the inklings of a sappy, forgotten melodramatic "woman's movie" that were popular in the 1940s. So why is it so good? Because in the hands of director Mervyn LeRoy and his stars Leigh and Taylor, they make you believe in these characters, hope for them and root for them. Myra is no Scarlet in the sense that she does not whine and wait for her love to come home. Even while delivering lines like, "I loved you, I've never loved anyone else. I never shall, that's the truth Roy, I never shall," Leigh is never flashy as her Scarlet may have been--when Leigh sinks into a role, she gets lost in it. Vivien Leigh gives a spirited and beautiful performance--she proved that her handling of Gone With the Wind was not mere luck but that she was talented and here to stay. Though Robert Taylor's role is not as complex as Leigh's--remember, this is a "chick flick"--they have wonderful chemistry together, obviously comfortable with each other's presence. While most romantic movies of today are simply composed of throwing two stars together without much chemistry, this is a movie that makes you ache for the old days and the old movies full of ambiguity, wry double-entendres and, above all, a sense of hope for real love.
Do you think you'll remember Waterloo Bridge now?
NOTE: Because of some cosmic fluke, this movie isn't available on (Region 1) DVD and a VHS copy is rare, but because of some cosmic fluke, this is one of the most popular movies of all time in China, resulting in many various imports. This is a movie worth seeking out, but double-check where you buy it.
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