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Film Review: “Waterloo Bridge” (1940)


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I remember watching this movie for the first time when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I also remember, very well, crying like a child at the end of the film… And now, after so many years I found myself crying again after watching this sentimental and extremely beautiful film. But not because of its sad ending, no, but because of its charm, beauty, and the excellent performance of Vivien Leigh, who quite deliberately, delivered flawless and natural scenes- seemingly difficult scenes.

A war creates heroes. It also shows how courageous a man can be; to face a common enemy, to defeat it, and bring victory to his country. It also unfolds another part of people, less pleasant, and uncompromised;  where people have to struggle in order to survive, especially a young and out of work woman. During WWI, Myra, who believes that her fiancé is dead, and who loses her job, is forced to turn to prostitution to make ends-meet. But, when the soldier comes back from the war alive, he finds a tired, vulnerable woman, with tragic results.

Waterloo Bridge is truly one of the most romantic films ever made, even though the ending is hard to bear. And it begins with Myra (Vivien Leigh), a young ballerina, who meets a high-ranking officer, Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) on the infamous bridge – Waterloo, where they immediately fall in love. With a desire to wait no longer, Roy asks Myra to marry her, and she agrees. Soon after, he takes her to the church to tie the knot. Unfortunately, Cronin is called to duty just before they are to be married, leaving Myra heartbroken. Soon after, we find Myra treated badly by her ballet instructor, Madame Olga Kirowa (Maria Ouspenskaya), who throws her out because of her new love.

Sadly, the most repugnant part of Myra`s life is yet to come, when she finds Roy`s name in the list of fallen soldiers. Being out of job, and treated badly at the first meeting with her soon-to-be mother-in-law, Myra follows the footsteps of her friend Kitty (Virginia Field) and goes to Waterloo Bridge to start a new, unpleasant chapter, of her life. After this, it is almost impossible to watch all of Myra`s struggle without tears, compassion, and sympathy for Vivien Leigh`s Myra, who is as fragile as any other victim of the war.

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Waterloo Bridge has so many remarkable scenes to talk about. Vivien Leigh is no longer Scarlett O`Hara, who would never have put herself into the position Myra did. I recall the scene when Myra goes to the Waterloo Bridge to think over her life, and hears the voice of a man who is unseen for us. We hear his pleasant and approachable voice towards Myra when she suddenly realizes that this is the time she must reconsider her life and make some changes if she does not want to starve to death.

The second, and one of the most powerful scenes I have ever seen, is when we find Myra,  well-dressed and ready to meet another soldier at the train station. She stands on the train and calmly looks around to find a suitable man for herself, when she suddenly sees Roy coming off of the train. After giving her a hug, Conin asks her how she found out that he was coming back that exact  day… And seeing Myra`s face, portrayed spectacularly by Vivien Leigh, you can see how happy and desperate she is at the same time. She can`t find the right words to tell him the real reason she was at the train station. How could she tell the truth to a man, whom she loved so much and thought was dead?

Waterloo Bridge is close to perfection for a film.  So beautiful, powerful, and mesmerizing, yet with a philosophical side that will grab even people who do not care much for melodramas. Great cinematography, beautiful writing and the superb performance delivered by Vivien Leigh is what makes Mervyn LeRoy`s, Waterloo Bridge, timeless.  It shows us ironically that love can build bridges between people, and just as easily destroy it. But for us, as the viewer, we know only one fact – that this film manages to build bridges between generations, all the way from the 1940s to 2015, making this film still relevant, interesting, and so very unforgettable.

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About Ulkar Alakbarova (984 Articles)
My name is Ulkar Alakbarova. A wonderful name, is it not? I come from the exotic land of Azerbaijan but now I live in the hub of Hollywood North – Toronto, Canada. How lucky I am to be able to enjoy and indulge in my favourite avocation of watching movies. Movies of every genre are screened here in Toronto. There are black and white classics, avant garde, independently produced, and of course, newly released movies for all to enjoy. Let me share this treasure of entertainment with you. Read my thoughts and opinions then let me know if you agree.

5 Comments on Film Review: “Waterloo Bridge” (1940)

  1. Saw this years ago! Wow, thanks for the memories on this!

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I enjoy watching old films. Waterloo Bridge is one of my favorites… right now I am watching only old films to write about them here.

      • I think that’s a great idea! When I was a kid, my mother and I would watch old black & white movies so she could remind me how it all started. Looking forward to your reviews.

      • Have you ever heard of Lilian Gish? If not, google her. I am going to watch “Way Down East” with Gish and directed by Griffith in 1920. I’ve seen it once. If you enjoy watching silent films, then you will certainly love this one.

      • Of course I know Lilian Gish! Can’t wait to read your review! I haven’t seen that movie in twenty five years.

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