I watched the 1931 "pre-code" version of Waterloo Bridge on TCM the other night. (The movie was remade around 1940 with Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh; it was made again 1956 with Leslie Caron and John Kerr. I've never seen those versions.) I thought that because the movie was pre-code, it might be pretty racy. I was wrong. Sure Mae Clark plays a prostitute, and the movie is pretty frank, for the time, about her profession. But that's it. No nudity, no actual immoral acts, and *SPOILER ALERT* Mae certainly gets punished for her sins. In fact, to me, at least, the punishment came more or less abruptly out of left field, just as it would have in a movie after the Production Code was created *END SPOILER ALERT*.
Mae Clark's performance is wonderful. I've seen her in is the famous "grapefruit scene" with Cagney in The Public Enemy and in Frankenstein but she later was doing things like the great Republic serial King of the Rocketmen. She proves here that she could've been a contender. Hell, she was a contender. I guess she never got another role like this one.
Kent Douglass plays the naive young soldier who falls for Mae without ever figuring out her profession, and he's also good. He's believable in a role that's hard to believe in, in these more enlightened times. I enjoyed the performance of Frederick Kerr as Douglass' hearing-impaired stepfather, and seeing Bette Davis in a small role was a treat.
The movie was directed by James Whale, who's better known as the director of a couple of Universal horror classics. The B&W photography is beautiful. I don't usually watch movies like this one, but I'm glad I took the time for Waterloo Bridge.