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January 1, 2019

A Binge Too Far #2: Waterloo Bridge

Frame from Waterloo Bridge (1940).
Robert E. Sherwood wrote a stage-play called Waterloo Bridge: A Play in Two Acts, based on his own experiences with a prostitute during WWI (World War I). Although the Broadway play lasted for a mere year and a total of 64 performances, it gained good reviews, and the buzz that it created was such that producing extraordinaire Carl Laemmle Jr. decided to turn it into a movie. We take a look at Waterloo Bridge (1931) and its first remake.

Spanish DVD box art for Waterloo Bridge (1931).
Waterloo Bridge (1931)

Set in WWI, In London, this is about two young Americans, Myra [Mae Clarke from Frankenstein (1931)], a prostitute, and Roy [Douglass Montgomery, later in The Cat and the Canary (1939)], a soldier, who fall in love when they meet by chance.

The major studio (Universal Pictures), the producer (Carl Laemmle Jr.), and the director (James Whale), that brought you the unforgettable horror of Frankenstein (1931), also made this the same year, which is shamefully neglected, mainly because it is not a genre picture per se, but is leaning towards the straight drama area.

This pre-Code flick was made on a modest $252,000 budget (and a shooting schedule of a mere 26 days), and the source material was adapted for the screen by Benn W. Levy and Tom Reed. The film enjoyed a proper theatrical release (albeit with some issues with censors in places such as Chicago and New York, due to the sensitive – for the time – subject matter), but it proved impossible to be re-released after the imposition of the Production Code in 1934.


U.S. DVD box art for Waterloo Bridge (1940).
Waterloo Bridge (1940)

This remake (which you can also call a sequel, in a way) by MGM is moving the action to the eve of WWII (World War II) as we are introduced to soldier Roy Cronin [Robert Taylor, later in Quo Vadis (1951)], who goes back to the titular location, where in the previous war he had met the attractive dancer cum prostitute Myra (Vivien Leigh, no introduction needed), who is now going through difficult times, mostly because she thought her loved one had died.

Produced by Sidney Franklin (who is mostly remembered for the films he directed) on a $1.1 million budget, this is much slicker than the first film, but it failed to make the same impression as it grossed only $1.2 million. The main difference director Mervyn LeRoy [The Wizard of Oz (1939)] comes up with is that now the tables have turned and the soldier is wiser, whilst the prostitute is a bit more naïve.

Afterword


Gaby (1956) is another remake of the same source material, which I was not able to track down by the time of this writing.

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