Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Waterloo Bridge (1931)
I selected this film because I decided to do one that didn't have Bette Davis in it, because I don't want you people (though as of now I haven't had any confirmation that anyone other than myself is reading these posts) to think that I'm one note. Well apparently I am, because I forgot that Bette Davis IS in this movie. Granted, it's one of her earliest films and it's a very small part, but Miss Davis does grace the screen during the course of this film. But who cares? You can never have enough Bette Davis.
But anyway, Waterloo Bridge! Hookers and the Army Virgins who love them! Old British Hookers and the Men who Don't! Rich Upper-Crust families who are *Gasp* not judgmental douches?
Yes, Waterloo Bridge has it all and more!
It also has Mae Clark as Myra, a former-chorus girl turned hooker. One day while trolling her usual spots, she meets a naive young (19 years old, wow) army virgin named Roy (Douglass Montgomery). Thinking that he wants a role in the hay, she takes his back to her place, only to discover that he is sensitive and stupid enough to suddenly fall in love with her.
Myra wants none of it and tries to throw him out. Shocked that a man is willing to love her for free, she feels conflicted, she wants to be with him, but it would destroy him to find out that his lady love has been strutting the street for coin so she tries to push him away. Unfortunately for her, as previously stated, he is naive and stupid and will not leave her alone, going as far to trick her into visiting his family. Myra feels worse because his family is well-to-do, but they accept her with open arms, which is kinda surprising. One day, in a fit of guilt, she tells Roy's mother who basically accepts it, knowing that Myra will break off the relationship because she doesn't want to hurt Roy.
Myra takes off and Roy follows, goaded into pursuing her by Myra's older hooker friend Kitty (That can't be her real name) since Kitty believes that Roy could take Myra away from her life of hookery and provide for her.
The plot progresses from there, but I don't really want to spoil any more than I have already. And though I treat the film lightly, it's really a great film. Mae Clark is great as a character who hates herself and assumes that everyone else in the world will too if they got to know her, yet she is conflicted because she sees Roy as a chance for love and some sort of redemption from the lifestyle she is currently living.
Douglass Montgomery is good as well, though his character is much more two-dimension than Clark's role. Roy is, as I said, naive and stupid, he's like a little kid who has his first crush. But it works, because it allows for all the conflict to come from Myra's struggle with her profession, as opposed to some sort of issue between the two. We get the sense that Roy won't really care about Myra being a prostitute, so it's really a matter of Myra coming to terms with it herself than a fear of Roy suddenly going crazy and leaving her (If you want a movie like that, see Bette Davis' Deception or Greta Garbo's Anna Christie which has a very similar plot).
The film is well worth watching, especially since it's pre-code which makes it somewhat shocking to see full-blown prostitutes sulking around London in search of some money, in addition you actually see Mae Clark's nipples through a bra that she's wearing, which is crazy-shocking, especially if you watch a lot of classic film and are used to films being sexless. But even without trolling whores and nipples, the film is strong enough on its own. So watch it.