Cancel Culture
11 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I watched Waterloo Bridge in its entirety tonight for the first time. There are things I like very much about it and other things I don't care for. The ledger comes out with a profit in watching it but I can't forget either side of it.

I love the sweet sentimentality of the film: how many films today have that quality? The score might seem cloying to some. Every sentimental song composed before 1940 seems to be in it with "Auld Ang Syne" the dominant theme, but it works to create the proper mood and the scene where they dance to that song without further dialog is perfection. I love the performances of the gorgeous leads: Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh, here playing a far more likeable character than Scarlett O'Hara. Taylor later morphed into a leathery tough guy. His early performances as Armand in Camille and this film are a revelation. I particularly like that Taylor's parents, (actually C. Aubrey Smith is his uncle), are sympathetic and understanding characters: they are not the cliche snobbish villains. That's left to minor characters. The only 'heavy' in the film aside from the unseen Germans is Maria Ouspenskaya as a demanding, unsympathetic ballet teacher/director who from what I've heard is a pretty realistic character.

I've recently read an Audrey Hepburn biography and she seems to have been living under somewhat similar circumstances as Myra, with one large exception, a decade later. She would have been excellent in a remake but not better than Vivien here. In fact the similar Leslie Caron did do a remake of this film called Gaby in 1956.

The things I don't like about the 1940 film are: -the fact that Taylor is supposed to be a Scots aristocrat but affects no accent, (I assume it was because he wasn't good at that sort of thing), while the other characters all have authentic accents. Leigh was able to do a southern accent for both of her Oscar winning performances. Maybe that's Taylor never got one. Taylor enacts the part well but he's obviously and American, (they could have made him the son of rich Canadians resident in Britain). Leigh wanted her soon-to-be husband, Laurence Oliver, to play the part. He would have lacked Taylor's charm but would have sounded right.

  • Hollywood was big on tragic coincidences, (see Love Affair/An Affair to Remember) and this story is chock full of them as events conspire to keep the lovers apart. It's kind of hard to swallow, although war is full of roadblocks to happiness.

  • The film makes it abundantly clear that Myrna is turning tricks to pay the bills but the production code insisted that the word "prostitute" never be said. So Instead we get some dreadful dialog: "That thought which is now in your mind that you are telling yourself cannot be true is true!" and "She'd never go back to the.....You don't have to say i. I understand." Ugh.

  • This is one of what must be a hundred films from the depression era in which lovers of different social and economic classes find their relationship to be 'impossible' and one of them, (usually the woman) has to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the reputation of her beloved. I have the very modern attitude that if you've found your soul mate, let the world be damned. But it was a different world back then, when too many things other than love mattered. The fact that Taylor's mother and uncle are so obviously tolerant makes Leigh's decision to allow everything to be ruined hard to take.

  • The ending, which is not in the book, the original 1931 movie of the same title or in Gaby is an obvious rip-off of Anna Karenina, which Leigh would play 8 years later. Viv needs to pay better attention to on-coming traffic. In the original Myra dies as the result of a bomb explosion and in Gaby her lover, (John Kerr), saves her from the bomb and tells her "Let's forget the terrible things this war made us do."

  • That's my favorite ending. If a woman falls on hard times and has to do something desperate to survive, she shouldn't be treated as a pariah by people who have never faced desperation. If the right guy comes along, she should have the right to pursue happiness. Watching this film, I became angry that Myra didn't. 'Cancel culture' is nothing new.
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