Elaborating on the basic premise of Robert Sherwood’s play, and doing a slick job of cleansing to conform to present regulations of the Hays code, this is a persuasive and compelling romantic tragedy.
Story steers a leisurely path in delineating the romantic tragedy of a love affair which is launched on Waterloo Bridge during World War I. Vivien Leigh, a sweet, vivacious and unsophisticated ballet dancer, meets and falls in love with British officer Robert Taylor on eve of his departure for the front. There’s a whirlwind romance with immediate marriage delayed until his first furlough. Fate intervenes, and erroneous report of his death eventually sends her onto the streets, but Taylor returns, meets her at the station where she is soliciting, and the romance flares again for an instant.
Leigh demonstrates outstanding ability as an actress. Her transition from the virginal ingenue of the early passages to the hardened prostie later is a standout performance. Taylor, in a straight romantic role, provides an arresting characterization.
There’s plenty of strength in the supporting cast. Viriginia Field is excellent as Leigh’s chum, who takes the first step along the easiest way to provide food for the pair. Lucile Watson is a perfect grand dame as the aristocratic mother of Taylor; Maria Ouspenskaya is a stern ballet mistress; and C. Aubrey Smith is an army colonel.
1940: Nominations: Best B&W Cinematography, Original Score