Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mae Clarke, Douglass Montgomery, Doris Lloyd, Frederick Kerr, Enid Bennett, Bette Davis, Ethel Griffies, Rita Carlyle, Ruth Handforth
Written by: Tom Reed, Benn W. Levy, based on a play by Robert E. Sherwood
Directed by: James Whale
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 81
Date: 01/09/1931

Waterloo Bridge (1931)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bridging the Gap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The highly accomplished 1930s-era filmmaker James Whale is almost exclusively known for his four horror films, although he made at least fifteen other movies that deserve recognition. One of them is Waterloo Bridge, featuring Mae Clarke in a truly great, heartbreaking, sympathetic performance for the ages. She plays a poor American girl, Myra, stuck in London during the war, making ends meet by picking up men on the title bridge.

During an air raid, she meets an American soldier, Roy (Douglass Montgomery), who doesn't realize the truth of her situation. They fall for each other, but secrets and circumstances continually interfere. Working in the days before the Hays Code, Whale gets away with all kinds of subversive behavior here, implying that Myra is a prostitute, etc. And though the material could have been dreary and stagebound, he sets it aloft with his gentle touch and impeccable pacing. Bette Davis appears in a supporting role.

Waterloo Bridge is available in the DVD box set Forbidden Hollywood Collection - Vol. 1, from Warner Home Video, also including two different cuts of the great Baby Face and Jack Conway's Red-Headed Woman (1932), with Jean Harlow.

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