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I felt incredibly stupid popping in the first volume of Forbidden Hollywood and realizing its version of Waterloo Bridge was not what I anticipated.
I thought the only version of this depressing tale of prostitution and doomed love was the s feature starring Vivien Leigh. Unlike most pre-Codes where the reasons for its future bans are evident — partial nudity or women undressing, lascivious ladies of the night scheming for an easy payday, etc. This gritty drama eschews clear-cut villains and heroes for the moral ambiguity of a tortured past and an even murkier future.
Myra Deavuille Clarke is a prostitute struggling to make ends meet. Roy and Myra start a relationship, but she fears Roy will reject her once he finds out what she does for a living. None of the characters are caricatures with an obvious agenda towards splitting Myra and Roy. When Roy takes Myra to visit his family, including a young Bette Davis, Myra and the audience expect it to be the moment where their love is doomed by scheming family members who see Myra as low.
And even then, her reservations are just that;she never outright schemes against the couple or blackmails Myra into leaving like other melodramas would. It would have been ridiculously predictable for the typical class expectations to happen, but they never do which adds a layer of authenticity to the proceedings. This additional legitimacy also prevents Waterloo Bridge from ramping up the salaciousness typical of pre-Codes.
Myra is a prostitute, yet no one mentions that word by name. When Myra takes Roy back to her apartment, you gasp at the knowledge that, a few years later, the movie would be cited for something so trivial as a single woman taking a man back to her apartment.