Waterloo Bridge (1940) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

Vivien Leigh has had one of the most interesting film careers that Hollywood has ever known. She won her first Academy Award for playing the fiery southern belle Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), her second Oscar for her role as the tragic southern belle Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and has even played Cleopatra in the film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). Despite playing some of the most iconic women in film history, Vivien Leigh’s personal favorite film of her own is actually a black-and-white romantic drama set in World War I. That film is Waterloo Bridge (1940), an interesting war-based film that was both made and set right between World War I and World War II.

A Toast

Considering that this film was made and released in 1940, Waterloo Bridge is a great example of world history impacting cinematic history. Robert Taylor stars as Roy Cronin, a British officer who visits the titular location right before World War II, and then remembers the romance he had with a young ballerina during the chaos and confusion of World War I. The idea of lovers directly impacted by warfare is a popular type of romantic drama film, and other famous examples include the French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which is the film that Vivien Leigh made right before starring in Waterloo Bridge (1940).

Her performance as Myra might not be as well known as Scarlett O’Hara, but Vivien Leigh still manages to deliver a heart-wrenching performance in a film that presents the universal fact that love stories are oftentimes filled with obstacles. This film is a great example of the famous line “the course of true love never did run smooth” from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In spite of such bleakness, the film is still beautifully made, and even received Academy Award nominations for its dream-like cinematography and soulful original score. This film is a great example of an old-school Hollywood romance even though it is not as well-known as other romantic films, such as Wuthering Heights (1939).

Verdict

Meryn LeRoy is best-known for this uncredited directorial work for The Wizard of Oz (1939), but Waterloo Bridge is still an underrated classic. The love between Myra and Roy is so strong that it is no wonder why Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor both call this film their personal favorites from their extensive filmographies. Film lovers who enjoy Hollywood romances should definitely see Waterloo Bridge in order to enjoy one of the most beautiful love stories to ever unfold during one of the most chaotic times in history that the world has ever known.

Waterloo Bridge (1940) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time there is a romantic moment that might make audience members swoon

Take a Drink: every time there is a powerfully rhetorical question (i.e. Myra asks, “Do people have to kill each other to – give them a heightened sense of life?”)

Drink a Shot: for every reference to warfare

And Do Not Be Sober: during the powerfully melodramatic ending

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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