Douglass Montgomery

Paid (1930)

When Mary Turner (Joan Crawford) is unjustly accused of stealing from her workplace, she’s sentenced to three years in jail.  But she isn’t about to go down without a fight and vows to make her boss Edward Gilder (Purnell Pratt) pay for what he’s done to her.  Mary spends her time in jail brushing up on the law and realizes that there is a way for her to get money out of men legally.  All she has to do is get a man to agree to marry her, but when they back out, sue them for breach of contract.

When she gets out of jail, she joins up with more seasoned criminals Agnes (Marie Prevost), Red, and Joe Garson (Robert Armstrong) to put this plan into full force.  This scam proves to be quite lucrative with Mary calling the shots and dismissing anyone questioning the legality of their racket.  But Mary hasn’t forgotten her promise to make Edward Gilder pay for sending her to jail.  To get back at him, she sets her sights on his son Bob Gilder (Douglass Montgomery).  She starts seeing him, but he genuinely falls in love with her and they soon get married.  When Bob brings Mary to meet his father, Edward is furious and wants the thing annulled, but Bob and Mary won’t let that happen.  Even though Mary insists that she’s only in it for revenge, she really has fallen in love with Bob, too.

Edward isn’t willing to give up so easily on putting an end to Bob’s marriage.  With the recent theft of the Mona Lisa, he gets Eddie Griggs to give Joe a false tip that the real Mona Lisa is hanging in Edward Gilder’s house.  He knows that Mary is tied up with them and thinks that when Joe comes to steal the painting, Mary will be right there with him and that will be the end of that.  But when Mary finds out about this plan, she wants nothing to do with it.  She thinks they should stay within the law, but Joe and his gang insists on going through with it.  In the middle of the heist, Mary shows up to put an end to it, and Joe and Eddie get into a fight that ends with Eddie being shot and killed.  Mary tries to tell the police that it was self defense, but the police aren’t going to buy the word of someone who has done time in jail before.  But Mary sees to it that justice is served.

Not only is Paid a very strong movie with a good supporting cast, but it was a very important movie in Joan Crawford’s career. Before this, she hadn’t done any serious dramatic roles and the part of Mary Turner was originally intended for Norma Shearer.  But then Norma got pregnant and went on leave, which left the door open for Joan to step in.  As much as I love Norma, I think Joan was perfect for this movie.  She brought a lot of that steel will and determination that would go on to become her trademark.  It’s a must see for Joan Crawford fans, but even if you’re not watching it just for Joan, there’s a lot to like about it.

Waterloo Bridge (1931)

Waterloo Bridge 1931

When chorus girl Myra Deauville (Mae Clarke) finds herself out of work, she assumes she’ll be able to find herself a new show soon enough.  Two years later and still no work, she has no choice but to become a hooker to support herself.  She and her friend Kitty (Doris Lloyd) walk the streets together, but one night during an air raid, she stops to help an older woman trying to carry a lot of potatoes.  Roy (Douglass Montgomery), a soldier on leave, stops to help them and when he realizes Myra is an American, the two of them hit it off right away.  Once potato lady was taken care of, he goes back to Myra’s apartment with her to wait out the air raid.  Roy falls madly in love with Myra, and even though Myra feels the same way, she doesn’t want to get too close to him.  She only tells him that she’s an unemployed chorus girl, she doesn’t want him to know she’s a prostitute.

Soon enough, Roy wants to bring Myra out to the country to meet his family.  Of course, she initially refuses, but Roy ends up tricking her into meeting them.  His sister Janet is played by a very young Bette Davis.  His family seems to like her and Roy proposes, but Myra can’t stand having this secret on her conscience so she tells his mother the truth.  Although his mother is very understanding, she asks her not to marry Roy.  The next day, she sneaks back to London without saying goodbye to Roy.  Roy comes back to London to find out what happened and begs her to marry him.  He has to go back to the war very soon, so he’s trying to make it happen fast.  She agrees, but while he’s out of the room, she sneaks out the window.  After she leaves, Roy runs into Myra’s landlord looking to collect the rent.  Myra’s landlord lets the cat out of the bag about what Myra’s real job is, but Roy still loves her.  He heads out to Waterloo Bridge to look for her and finds her mere minutes before he has to leave for the war again.  He begs her to agree to marry him when he comes back or he’ll refuse to leave.  Myra agrees, but alas, their marriage was never meant to be.

Waterloo Bridge is best remembered for the production code era version starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor.  But the 1940 version of Waterloo Bridge only vaguely resembles its pre-code counterpart.  The Vivien Leigh version starts out like the Mae Clarke version, meeting Roy by Waterloo Bridge during an air raid, but then it goes on quite a detour before it resembles the 1931 version again.  First of all, the fact that Myra was a prostitute had to be really downplayed in the Vivien Leigh version.  The whole part about Roy being mistakenly reported as dead never happened in the Mae Clarke version.  Mae Clarke’s Myra is never thrown out of a show because of Roy like Vivien Leigh’s Myra was.  In the Vivien Leigh version, Myra is much more willing to marry Roy while Mae Clarke always tried to avoid it as much as possible.

When I watch Waterloo Bridge, all I can think is how underrated an actress Mae Clarke is.  She’s best remembered for having a grapefruit shoved in her face by James Cagney in The Public Enemy, but you can see in Waterloo Bridge that there was a lot more to her than that.  She had a solid career in the 1930s, but it slowed down by the 40s, and by the 50s and 60s, she was doing a lot of TV stuff and uncredited parts in major movies like Singin’ in the Rain, Pat and Mike, The Catered Affair, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Going by her performance here, I really think she really should have been a much bigger star and it’s beyond me why she wasn’t.  It’s her performance that puts this movie on equal footing with Vivien Leigh’s Waterloo Bridge.