Log in

No account? Create an account
16 February 2010 @ 05:17 pm
Bette Davis Marathon 2010: Movie #2–-Waterloo Bridge (1931)  
Firstly, thank you guys very much for the interest in and the positive feedback on Recap #1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it! This one is going to be a bit different, but hopefully still entertaining. Since I can't take screencaps of movies that I only have available to me on YouTube (without getting a picture of my entire browser), there won't be any pictures accompanying this, just me ranting/rambling/recapping. I feel like this will be rather dull, so I'm sorry, but I can't think of a better way to do this one.

Here's where you can watch Waterloo Bridge:
Just FYI, if you want to go straight to the Bette content--of which there isn't a whole lot--she first turns up at the tail end of part 5 and makes her last appearance at the end of part 7 (although technically she's in the first, like, second of part 8). This movie isn't half bad, though, especially not compared to some of the horrors to come, so if you've got the time, and don't mind comparatively little Davis, I'd recommend giving it a go, if only to compare/contrast with the Vivien Leigh version.

Okay, as there aren't any screencaps to be had, I'm going to structure this so that each YouTube segment of the film gets roughly one (probably rather lengthy) paragraph, so that if you want to watch something to see what on earth I'm on about, it'll be slightly easier for you to find it. Hopefully.

This, the first film adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's play Waterloo Bridge, was released on 1 September 1931. Sherwood also wrote the play The Petrified Forest--which we'll be running into later--and the screenplays for Rebecca (Oscar-nominated) and The Best Years of Our Lives (Oscar-winning). It's directed by James Whale, who is most famous for his horror films (Frankenstein and Claude Rains's talkie debut The Invisible Man, to name just two). As an overall film, this is a much higher-quality project than The Bad Sister. Not saying this is a masterpiece, but, although she has a miniscule part, it's a step up for Bette.

Bette's dropped down to sixth billing, but her name's still all in capital letters. Considering how completely irrelevant her character is, that's rather impressive. The film opens on the grand finale of a theatrical production. It seems to be a musical revue set during the French Revolution (??) and the crowd is going ABSOLUTELY NUTS. This is the most AMAZING THING EVER, apparently. Although the music is either so blaringly loud that nothing else can be heard or the crowd is somehow going ABSOLUTELY NUTS while remaining mysteriously dead silent. It's quite comical watching these people standing up, yelling from their seats, ladies waving handkerchiefs, applauding uproariously and... not a sound. As we zoom in on the stage... Okay, when IS this revue set? There are some guys in top hats dancing around, which I'm pretty sure was not particularly trendy in 18th century ANYWHERE. Why am I questioning this? It's the most AMAZING THING EVER. Who cares about period costumes? (No one in this entire movie, as we will soon discover.) After panning across a row of cheering chorus girls, lo and behold, there's our main character among them: Myra Deauville (Mae Clarke, who was on the receiving end of James Cagney's famous grapefruit in The Public Enemy). The ensemble is, for whatever reason, cheering 47 times to end the show. In between cheers, Myra yawns, then quickly springs back to near-demented enthusiasm. That's kind of endearing. After the curtain falls, as the band plays God Save the King, everyone mingles around backstage in their disparate historical dress. Stage managers back then apparently didn't give a shit, because this guy tells a stagehand to lower a border while, like, sixty people are still milling aimlessly about directly underneath it. Way to endanger people, dude. Myra escapes that reckless madman and says her goodbyes to someone who is dressed differently and has a lot of flowers, so I'm assuming she's the star of the show. As we cut up into the dressing room, we hear an outrageously posh person talking about how she doesn't have another job yet. Well, of course you don't. You're posh! I'm surprised you're took THIS job. One of the girls accuses another of stealing her pants. Oh, showbiz shenanigans! Myra is given a package from "Dick". OMG it's a fur! Everyone oohs and aahs over it. Clearly Myra has connections, and the rest of this movie will just be her merry adventures with the upper-class social set. As she leaves the theatre, she meets "Dick", an English soldier (presumably no relation to the famous Dr. Dick), who has hired a car. Off they merrily go together. I just know those two crazy kids are going to stay together. With no indication of any time whatsoever passing, we are now shown Myra and another woman (Doris Lloyd, who we'll apparently see in a couple of other Bette films later. The only one in which she has a credited role is The Letter.) standing in front of a theatre where "Chu Chin Chow" is in its third year--is this supposed to be the same theatre? I honestly can't tell. More importantly, where's "Dick"? Either this drama has taken a turn that's WAY ahead of its time, or Myra was ditched an indeterminate length of time ago. Now, I'm not sure whether the play's getting ready to start or just finishing, because people dressed for a night out at the theatre are both exiting and entering the building. Anyway, a woman with a crazy up-do and a coat with enormous sleeves shows up and everyone goes into a sort of awed hush. People are curtseying/bowing to her and someone calls her Your Highness. Who IS she? Why was it at all relevant that she showed up? Yay for totally random sequences that contribute nothing! Okay, I just heard someone say, "Was that really the Queen?" Um... okay. It looked incredibly vaguely like Queen Mary, only way WAY too old. Maybe it was supposed to be Queen Alexandra? I don't know. I'm going to stop being a British monarchy geek now. This whole section of the film is pointless and I've spent way too much time dithering about it as it is. Carrying on! So Myra's new friend is a fake cockney woman. Whose name is apparently Kitty. Good to know. (The actress playing Kitty is from Liverpool. Hollywood always had trouble with the fact that not every British accent is automatically interchangeable with cockney.) Myra picked the wrong follow-up show to "Does Anyone Know What Era This Is Set In: The Musical" and now... she's a prostitute? I guess? Anyway, they fruitlessly wander around and try to pick up men for a while. And they are repeatedly rejected. Myra heads down to Waterloo Bridge to try to attract the attention of some incoming soldiers. Behind her is a London skyline that looks like the bloody Sgt. Pepper cover--rows of cardboard cut-outs. By the way, the costumes are so ridiculously 20s/30s that if they hadn't started talking about "returning from the front" and "air raids", I would have had NO IDEA this was set during the First World War. Maybe an oddly prescient flick about WWII, but definitely not something set in the Teens. Period costume fail is a motif in this film.

And there's an air raid now! Carriages and people and trucks are all over the place. General mayhem ensues. There are some shenanigans with a crazy old lady (Rita Carlyle, who played "Inquisitive convict" in Madame Racketeer)--she really is COMPLETELY nuts--and her potatoes, but the main important thing is that Myra meets an American soldier, who eventually introduces himself as Roy Cronin (Kent Douglass, aka Douglass Montgomery, Little Women (1933)). He goes back to her apartment with her and there's ANOTHER damn air raid. Do those zeppelins never quit? When Roy goes out to get some fish and chips, Myra's incredibly abrasive Cockney landlady (Ethel Griffies, the irate ornithologist in the restaurant from The Birds) barges in demanding rent. And, thirty seconds later, Roy has returned. Golly, Roy got that food quickly! While they eat, Roy briefly brings up his family, who we will later find out are TOTALLY AWESOME. Most of this movie is waiting around to experience that awesome.

They continue chatting and eating. Roy manages to pronounce Buckinghamshire correctly (which kind of makes up for a really cringe-worthy Bucking-HAM Palace later on). Myra gracefully avoids talking about herself at all. Hmmm, I wonder if this will have anything to do with the film's major conflict? Then, out of nowhere, he practically begs her to let him pay her rent. Naturally, being the most hopelessly naïve person in the history of the known universe, precious little Roy doesn't even remotely suspect the unsavory profession of the woman he has abruptly fallen utterly in love with. Good lord, now he's insisting on buying her a pink dress! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS. I'm all for random acts of kindness, but this is a little ridiculous. Myra, in a sudden fit of conscience, throws his money back in his face and tells him to leave. She suddenly gets very indignant about the whole affair, and he clears out. Rifle and all. He's barely a step out the door before she's calling him back. What is WITH these people? They are constantly making totally arbitrary decisions and then changing their minds. And then changing them back. Roy continues prattling naïvely, leaning suggestively (and extremely awkwardly) on Myra's bed. Why? Because he wants Myra to knit socks for him while he's away. How quaint. Mrs. Hobley the landlady comes banging on the door yet again. She wants them to know that the All Clear is being sounded--in other words, she's desperate for an excuse to spy on them. Roy thinks Mrs. Hobley is sweet and charming. In case you haven't noticed, Roy is kind of an idiot. Since the All Clear is being sounded, Roy decides to shove off. He invites Myra to come down to the country with him tomorrow to meet his TOTALLY AWESOME FAMILY. She begs off because, she claims, she'll be looking for a job. He says he'll come see her before he goes to the country. Poor sap. Anyway, he's FINALLY gone, and Myra tarts up, puts on her distinctly flapper-ish hat, and goes out looking for a less naïve beau. If you know what I mean. Nudge nudge wink wink say no more.

So I think Myra might have a lot of self-loathing going on. I'm just inferring that based on the totally disgusted facial expression she wears while she souses herself with perfume and turns off the lights in her flat. Oh, now it's the next morning! Captain Idiot strolls jauntily out of some shop or other, carrying a huge bouquet of flowers and a package that looks suspiciously like it might contain a certain pink dress. Who wants to bet that Myra isn't home when he gets there? Any takers? Some REALLY American children harass him for change. Have I mentioned that Hollywood is totally accent incompetent? Mrs. Hobley makes some allusions to Myra's profession ("out shopping is right!"), which completely go over Roy's head. He decides to go upstairs and wait for her to come back. He bumbles amiably around the flat for a bit, when suddenly, in comes Kitty through the window! They giggle about 'toddling' and Kitty makes some more remarks that would lead any vaguely intelligent man to figure out that THEY'RE PROSTITUTES. Fortunately for Myra, Roy, bless him, is thick as a brick and remains completely oblivious. Myra slouches back in. She's clearly had a rough night. Kitty heads back out the window to leave the two young loves (if that's what you call this weird-ass relationship based on NOTHING) alone. When she sees the flowers and the pink dress, Myra gets all defensive again. These two basically have the same argument over and over. She makes up some BS about her family sending her money to get Roy to leave her alone. He (for once) is savvy and points out that she's obviously lying. Myra then makes a very good point--that this is really none of Roy's business. Why does he care what happens to her, anyway? Who gave him the right to poke his nose into her business? He shoots back that he gave himself the right. "By loving you, that's how." Umm... Okay, then. Myra rebuffs him. No matter what she says, he keeps insisting that whatever issues there are are totally irrelevant. Basically, this is, as I said before, a weird-ass relationship based on NOTHING. And so it remains.

Eventually, she tearfully embraces him. Roy gazes dramatically into the camera and goes into a monologue that contains far too many "or something"s and "I guess"s to be as deeply moving as I'm sure it's meant to be. Roy is such a weirdo. Anyway, he heads off to catch his train and insists that he's coming back for Myra. He kisses her hand, almost desperately. After he's gone, Myra clasps her hands to her bosom and looks skyward. You know, the first time I watched this--without making notes and pausing it every five seconds--I didn't realize how BIZARRE all this is. In the Vivien Leigh version, at least the two star-cross'd lovers have a coherent relationship arc. Here they just have redundant discussions and Roy does creepy/stupid shit. Anyroad, Myra suddenly growls (?!) and whirls around to climb out the window and toddle across the roof to chat with Kitty. They talk about Roy and how she should marry him, even if she's only going to divorce him to collect the alimony or wait until he gets killed in the war and collect the insurance. Myra returns to her default indignant state and leaves. Cut to Roy's TOTALLY AWESOME FAMILY's country house. They're having dinner. Basically, his stepfather, Major Fred Wetherby (Frederick Kerr, Frankenstein) is a crazy selectively deaf man, his mom, Mary (Enid Bennett, Intermezzo: A Love Story, sister of Edwin's mom from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), is just really nice and his sister is Bette Goddamn Davis. Bette is cheerful and looks quite fetching in her frock. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't give her a helluva lot else to do.

Vaguely insane table conversation ensues. Basically, these scenes with Roy's family are what make the film worthwhile for me. If I want to see a depiction of the love story, I'll watch the 1940 remake. If I want to see some crazy-awesome relatives, this is the one. Even if Bette DIDN'T play little sister Janet, I'd love these guys. And wonder how on earth this numbskull Roy fits in. Speaking of Roy, he decides to broach the subject of Myra with these kooky characters. The Major claims to have no idea what Roy is blathering about and drops out of the conversation. He also keeps asking Janet to pass the port, which she did a few minutes ago. None of this sounds as fabulous and lovable as it is. Trust me, these guys are rad. My only real problem is that about 75% of Janet's lines are delivered either while she's off camera or when the camera's behind her. There really is precious little Davis in this film. Anyway, Roy's telling his mom everything he knows about Myra, which he finally begins to realize is not a dickens of a lot. You can tell Mary thinks this is all a bit sketchy, but she remains sympathetic and says it's just fine and dandy if Myra comes down to visit. She asks the Major if that's cool with him. He pleads deafness and Janet goes and yells adorably in his ear. This is really, really cute. Seriously. Fade to Myra having coffee and teaching herself to knit. How domestic. Roy comes barging in and asks her to go on a ride in the country with him. Note he cleverly avoids mentioning his family. The sly fox! She gets changed and off they go, past Buckingham Palace and all manner of barnyard animals. Roy tells the driver to stop (this is going to be a doozy of a fare) and he and Myra get out and gambol about. They sit down by a pond and he asks her to marry him. Awkward. She says, essentially, "No thanks." But she's crying! She's unhappy! Poor, dim Roy will make her happy! Just when he asks her to change her mind, we hear the dulcet tones of Janet from across the pond. It's Roy's family! Myra is horrified and tries to escape. Luckily for her, she is detained long enough to experience the awesome. She is immediately embraced into the wacky fold. (Note: Janet is wearing ridiculous jodhpurs. Not in any way relevant, just saying. They're ridiculous. Her whole outfit is kind of ridiculous. This whole family is ridiculous. But I love them so.) If Myra doesn't fall hopelessly in love with these people, there's something seriously wrong with her.

So while Janet and Roy engage in a ripping game of tennis, Mary and Myra sit and chat. Apparently, Roy has brought up his desire to marry Myra to Mary, and Mary advised him not to. Marry Myra, that is. She wants to be up front with Myra about this, because that's the sort of person she is; she thinks that neither of them really know what they'd be getting into, which seems quite reasonable to me. Later that night, Myra goes into Mary's room. She wants her to know that she could marry Roy, if she wanted to. Mary replies that she knows, that she thinks Myra is a fine girl. I sense an emotional confession in the immediate future. Myra says that she isn't a fine girl at all; Mary responds firmly that she doesn't make mistakes about this sort of thing. Okay, now this is one of the problems I have with the movie: Roy's family is too nice. You never get the feeling that Myra being a prostitute would make the slightest difference to them. Everyone really likes Myra, but they're not sure that her marrying Roy would be the best plan. They're totally rational and sincerely welcoming. The only reason there's any conflict at all is because Myra and Roy are so weird. Anyway, Myra finally spills the beans. Mary doesn't judge or fly into a fit of rage/disgust/horror. She just says that this proves her point: Myra is a fine girl. I love this family. Myra leaves the room in tears. Mary's crying, too. Awwww. The next morning, Myra is brought her tea by a woman who I'm assuming is Augusta (Ruth Handforth, Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages). Myra asks for a HOT bath, which seems to be the most scandalous thing Augusta has ever heard in her entire life. Cut down to breakfast with the family. You know what else is awesome about these people? Unlike 95% of stuffy, elderly, kooky British military gents in movies, the Major actually sees the enemy as human beings. Like, they all think it's sad that German casualties are so high. I absolutely adore these people. Anyway, Myra obviously thinks the revelation of her true profession to Mary last night is going to make a HUGE difference to these people, so she's trying to escape. Everyone insists she come motoring in Camden with them, but...

Even after Mary assures her that her lips are sealed regarding the whole ostitute-pray deal, she skedaddles back to London. By the way, Bette's last appearance in the film was a couple of seconds ago, going up the stairs. I told you she does virtually nothing in this movie. Incidentally, while Myra is buying her train tickets, there's a really weird zoom to the monogram on her purse. Is this just reiterating that Myra is running away? What is the point? Back in London, Myra's cleaning her flat when she comes across her knitting project. Ah, memories. Mournfully, she unravels the half-started sock. Trying to pick up men at Fake Trafalgar Square, she comes across a prospective client. Then, in a fit of self-loathing and guilt, she suddenly tells him to buzz off. The gent's confusion is totally understandable, since this has all the appearances of yet another bizarre Myra mood swing. In about five seconds, she'll be saying she didn't mean it and asking him to come back. ... And I totally called it. When she returns home, nearly as glum as Laura Madison, Mrs. Hobley reports that Roy has been to call again. Myra asks that she just keep fobbing him off until he gives up. Dejectedly, Myra goes to bed. Roy, however, in a flash of unprecedented cleverness, toddles over from Kitty's flat and climbs in through the window. Creepy, but effective. A question: Why is Roy ALWAYS carrying his gun? Does he just have nowhere to leave it while he's in London? At any rate, Roy needs to see Myra urgently. He's leaving from Waterloo Station for the front tonight! Sacre bleu! She desperately tries to get him to leave her alone, but he insists that she is the only woman he will ever love, etc. etc. This would be a lot more heartrending if Roy were a lot less bland. Myra starts yelling about how much she hates everybody, even Roy's amazing family, and she seems to be having a complete meltdown. She starts laughing almost psychotically and making strange hysterical noises. Roy reacts remarkably calmly. After Myra has somewhat regain coherence, Roy says that he's going to ask her to do something for him, and that if she says no, it's just going to break his heart. Loaded question, much? She says that whatever it is, she'll do it. Oh boy. He says he wants her to marry him. Now. Today. OH COME ON, MYRA! HOW DID YOU NOT SEE THIS COMING? She looks vaguely horrified, but agrees. Tearful embrace. He leaves the room so she can get dressed and salutes a picture of Queen Victoria as he goes downstairs. Roy's just being a spaz now, basically. He goes back upstairs and discovers that Myra has done a runner! Mrs. Hobley thinks she's trying to avoid paying rent, and bitches to Roy about how annoying it is renting to prostitutes.

Upon learning the truth, Roy immediately pays all of Myra's back-rent and then another two weeks' worth. Mrs. Hobley thanks him, then continues complaining about prostitutes. Roy yells at her to "shut [her] dirty face," which comes off as forced and weird rather than pained and emotional. He then goes off on a desperate search through London for Myra, passing someone who appears to be Eliza Doolittle along the way. There are also some people cavorting on a bench, and a passing policeman says something that, to me, sounds just like, "What do you think this is, a condom heap?" Ummmm..... 'kay. Roy goes to Trafalgar Square and Cleopatra's Needle, but no Myra. Bombs abruptly start going off, although there hasn't been any sort of air raid warning. Most people are pretty nonplussed by all of this. Roy dashes desperately to Waterloo Bridge--and there's Myra, asleep on a bench! She went to Waterloo Bridge so she could see him pass by on his way to the train station. Awwww. He gives her the receipt for her rent and some more money to tide her over until he can make other arrangements. He tells her that he knows what she is, but it doesn't matter. They're getting married anyway! I feel I should point out that there are BOMBS GOING OFF in the background, but no one seems to care at all. A truck full of soldiers stops nearby to collect Roy. The men are all jeering his prostitute girlfriend, which isn't particularly nice. Roy is finally coerced into leaving, and we go to a nifty overhead shot of Myra walking toward the north side of the river, when--she's struck by a bomb! She is apparently completely incinerated except for her fur and her purse. And there's no damage to the bridge at all. But it's awfully sad anyway.

So that's Waterloo Bridge! Oh, and the end credits are kind of cute--"A Good Cast Is Worth Repeating." Sweet. Anyway, I hope this format was at least vaguely entertaining, because I don't see too many other options when it comes to films I can only find on YouTube.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Bettina Dawesmothergoddamn on February 19th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)

And yet, may not watch this film...thank you for saving me time!
royaltyisshe64: Bette Cigaretteroyaltyisshe64 on February 19th, 2010 12:52 am (UTC)
I would not blame you. Like, at all. If you were to watch something, I'd recommend part 6, or wherever it is that the family shows up. Their cuteness is worth seeing at least once.

Mille grazie!
nimibaht on April 9th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
Thanks for your share! very impressive!

tuxamash on April 14th, 2011 08:46 am (UTC)
hello, I sent an email to you about this post, its not coming thru for me. Can you connect with me when you get a chance.