Waterloo Bridge, 1940
This is my favorite Vivien Leigh film. Ever. I like it more than Gone With the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire. Put together. Which is saying a lot, being that those are two of my favorite films. But as much as I love those two films, I really honestly can say I like this one better. And I think she's superb in it.
She plays Myra, a ballerina who meets Roy, a soldier during an air raid (played by MGM's pretty boy in residence Robert Taylor) falls in love with him after a whirlwind courtship, and plans to marry him. Unfortunately, it's wartime, and he is called to the front in France. She misses a performance in order to see him off but misses him, only getting a glance of his train pulling out of the station. Subsequently, she is fired from the ballet company. One day, while reading the paper, she sees Roy's name among the casualties list. Out of work, hungry, and desperate, Myra turns to prostitution in order to survive. While strolling though the train station one night in an attempt to pick up a client, she sees Roy among the returning soldiers. Ecstatic at seeing her, Roy is ready to pick up the pieces and finish where they left off. But for Myra, it's not so easy.
I credit this as Vivien Leigh's greatest performance, as I have mentioned before. Of course, I am in no way disregarding her performances in Gone With the Wind or A Streetcar Named Desire. To do so would be completely asinine. However, her performance in Waterloo Bridge is a much more laid back, subtle performance. There are scenes where she doesn't say a word and just acts with her eyes. The scene where this is best illustrated is when she sees Roy amongst the returning soldiers at the train station. She squints ever so slightly, as if she's making sure she's seeing what she thinks she is. Slowly, her eyes widen in shock, disbelief, and horror
|image courtesy of www.vivandlarry.com|
I'm not sure how much control she had over her career in terms of choice of roles, but I think it was a really smart decision to do this film after Gone With the Wind. It's a completely different character than Scarlett O'Hara, and she proved with this film that she was no one-trick-pony, and that her Oscar was no fluke. It's such an amazing, beautiful performance, and I can't for the life of me figure out why she didn't receive an Oscar nomination for this film.
If you haven't seen this film, do yourself a huge favor and get yourself a copy. I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.