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In pre-war London, an American musical production ends on New Year's Eve, and chorus girl Myra Deauville is gifted with a fox stole from her current boyfriend. After another musical closes, Myra is unable to find work and, after two years, is forced into prostitution in order to survive. At the height of World War I, Myra meets her clientele on Waterloo Bridge, entry point for soldiers on leave. One evening, during a zeppelin air raid, Myra encounters an old woman who has dropped her basket of potatoes while trying to find shelter. Despite the bomb blasts, Myra helps her find the potatoes, and they are assisted by Roy Cronin, a young American soldier who has joined the Royal Canadian forces and is on leave from the battlefields in France. The three take shelter together, and when the "all-clear" is sounded, the old woman continues on her way, while Roy takes Myra by taxi to her apartment. The two Americans take a liking to each other, and Myra invites Roy inside. They lapse into a friendly camaraderie, and Myra learns that Roy's stepfather is English and that he and his mother Mary and sister Janet live in the country nearby. Although she is not looking for sympathy, Myra relates her hard luck story, but reveals only that she is a chorus girl. Feeling he has an embarrassment of riches, Roy makes a sincere offer to pay her overdue rent to her landlady, Mrs. Hobley, and buy her a pink dress that she has been longing for. Myra at first accepts the gift, but she quickly becomes cynical and takes offense, accusing him of trying to reform her. Roy's feelings are hurt and he starts to leave, but Myra regrets her harsh words and calls him back. After Roy apologizes, they return to their conversation and Roy invites Myra to visit his family in the country the next day. Myra declines, and as it is late, Roy leaves, after which Myra dons makeup, perfume and hat, and goes to work. By morning, Myra still has not returned, but Mrs. Hobley lets Roy into her apartment, where he is surprised by a visit from Kitty, Myra's friend and neighbor. When Roy confides that he is concerned about Myra's welfare, Kitty slyly advises him that Myra needs someone who will protect and marry her. Kitty leaves when Myra returns, and Roy, who has fallen in love with her, has brought her flowers and the pink dress. Roy confesses his love to Myra, but she rejects him, claiming her poor upbringing with alcoholic parents in a slum in St. Louis prevents her from accepting his affections. Roy's love remains unchanged, however, and when she reveals that she, too, loves him, he swears to return after his visit with his family. Myra later reprimands Kitty for interfering, and is repelled by Kitty's insistence that even if she does not love Roy, marriage to him is an opportunity for a better life. Roy informs his family of his new love and receives their permission to bring Myra for a visit. When he returns to the city, he pretends he is only taking Myra for a ride, but, unknown to her, he takes her to his family property, where he proposes. As Myra is refusing, she is surprised by the appearance of Roy's family, who insist she stay with them. That afternoon, Mary speaks to Myra in private and asks her not to marry Roy because they have such different lives. In the evening, Myra is plagued by the guilt of her secret and confesses it to Mary. Mary is not shocked and kindly tells Myra that she still has a good opinion of her, although it is evident that she must not marry Roy. In the morning, Myra leaves without saying goodbye and takes a return train to London. Back on Waterloo Bridge, she is picked up by an English soldier, but rejects him at the last minute. Regretting this decision, she continues to work that night and is able to pay Mrs. Hobley one week's rent the next morning. She is surprised by a visit from Roy, who wants an explanation of her mysterious departure. Myra becomes hysterical because she is unable to reconcile her love for Roy and her defiled status as a woman. Exhausted, she finally gives in to Roy's proposal, and because he is leaving that day, he insists they marry immediately. He waits in the stairwell while she dresses, but when he reenters the apartment, he discovers she has left through the window. Mrs. Hobley comes in and, angry that Myra has skipped out on the rent, reveals Myra's true profession. Roy is shocked, but is equally repelled by Mrs. Hobley herself, and pays Myra's back rent and more, after which they find a note from Myra reading, "I can't do it. Goodbye." Distraught, Roy searches London for Myra, and eventually finds her huddled on a bench on Waterloo Bridge. He gives her money to keep her going, and insists that, having learned the whole truth from Mrs. Hobley, he still loves her and wants to marry her. When a truck of departing soldiers pulls up, a military policeman insists Roy join them or be considered a deserter. Roy refuses to leave until Myra promises to marry him and, after receiving her word, kisses her passionately before jumping onto the truck. Myra is left alone on the bridge as an air raid starts, and as she runs for shelter, she is killed by an exploding bomb. A crowd gathers round her body.