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Friday, June 26, 2009

WATERLOO BRIDGE (1931)

This forgotten early Talkie/Pre-Code adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood’s play easily bests the ultra-plush 1940 M-G-M version with Vivien Leigh (in her favorite role) & Robert Taylor. The story is largely the same: American soldier in London falls for a fallen woman never knowing he’s been picked up, and she plays along until things start to get serious. He brings her home to mee his British relatives and asks for her hand. What’s a street walker with scruples to do? Helmer James Whale is best known for his Universal horror classics, but WWI drama was his calling card (specifically JOURNEY’S END) and he brings unsentimental sensitivity (and an awfully abrupt ending) to this unusually handsome production. (The trick art direction of Charles D Hall is easily spotted, but still a marvel under lenser Arthur Edeson.) The two leads, Mae Clarke (famous for ‘catching’ that grapefruit from James Cagney in PUBLIC ENEMY/’31) and Kent Douglass (aka Douglass Montgomery) are very raw, endearingly so in his case. Clarke, though fine in her big confession scene, is simply not up to the part. She all but disappears when Bette Davis. in only her third pic, shows up for a couple of scenes.

CONTEST: Name other lesser known versions of famous pics you think are, on the whole, better than the version we all know and love. Here's three possible examples that feature Ingrid Bergman: her version of GASLIGHT/'44 vs the British version also known as ANGEL STREET/'40 or perhaps her version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE/''41 vs the one made in 1932 or even her Hollywood debut in INTERMEZZO/'39 as set against the Swedish version of 1936 which starred . . . Ingrid Bergman. The best response wins a MAKSQUIBS write-up on any NetFlix pic of your choice.

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