First of all, I warned you. My favourite “war” films are designed around… drama, hardship, and romance. There is minimal gore and minimal war in both films. If you close out your computer window after this next line, I will not blame you. My favourite “war” films are Gone with the Wind (1939) and Waterloo Bridge (1940). “What?!” Yep. Okay, Gone with the Wind has obvious war themes — the Civil War! Hello? Waterloo Bridge is a lesser-known film by Mervyn LeRoy in 1940… but the outcome of Vivien Leigh’s character is fully reliant on the ongoing war (World War I). To justify my choices, I will focus primarily on the war-related scenes.
Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh)… everyone’s favourite heroine to hate. I’m one of those strange viewers (and readers! Read the book!) that loves Scarlett. She’s so independent and is not willing to allow others to make her into a doormat. The war greatly affects her life. Ashley (her stupid-mistake-of-a-crush played by Leslie Howard) is sent away to war and she struggles with his absence. Her first husband is killed at war — though, it’s obvious she never cared for him, anyway and he was killed by pneumonia. Scarlett’s home (Tara) is pillaged by a slew of Yankee soldiers, but she swears that she will never go hungry again! The best part is her ability to turn her entire situation around by beating the Yankees at their own game and becoming a successful business woman in the process. But… the BEST scene regarding war is the Yankee officer attempting to raid her home and take advantage of her. I tried to find a link to a video of the scene. Instead, I’ll just share the iconic war scene:
Fun fact: many of the bodies in this scene were dummies operated by extras… and there is no way that the Confederacy had that many wounded soldiers. Way to go, Hollywood, for exaggerating.
I think Gone with the Wind confronts a lot of issues about the Civil War within the narrative. It changed the face of American history.
My second choice Waterloo Bridge focuses on a couple, Myra Lester (Vivien Leigh) and Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor), who falls in love with one another in the midst of World War I. They fall for one another fast and desire to marry before Roy has to leave to return to battle. They are unable to marry due to unforeseen circumstances and Myra later finds out that Roy has supposedly been killed in action. This turn of events causes Myra to sell her virtue to men on Waterloo Bridge. I guess I love the theme of war in this film due to its uncertainty for all involved — including loved ones back at home. Also, the fact that a Hollywood film would portray something as taboo as prostitution as a means of income in 1940 just blows my mind! That element gives the film a realistic edge. I won’t spoil anything for you, but … as usual … Myra must pay for her actions. If you haven’t seen this film (and most people haven’t), I recommend it with all of my being. The films is beautifully shot, written, and produced… and Vivien Leigh’s acting is perfection! Very different from Scarlett.
Thank you to all of the men and women who fight for America’s freedom past, present, and future!