Gaby (1956): MGM’s Third (Color) Version of Waterloo Bridge, Starring Leslie Caron and John Kerr

Produced by Edwin H. Knopf, and directed by Curtis Bernhardt, Gaby is the third and weakest version of the play Waterloo Bridge, which had previously been made into films in 1931 and 1940.

Unlike the 1931 and 1940 versions, this film, which was shot in color, is the least satisfying, both thematically and artistically.

Designed as a star vehicle for rising star Leslie Caron, the movie changed the names of the main characters and major plot point, including a senseless happy ending.

Caron assumes the role that Vivien Leigh had in the 1940, and John Kerr plays the Robert Taylor part in that version, but there is not much chemistry between them.

John Kerr, who had become a star on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy, had just made Minnelli’s melodrama, The Cobweb.  Kerr turned down Wyler’s prestige production of “Friendly Persuasion,” in which he was offered a supporting part (eventualy played by Anthony Curtis) in order to essay the lead role in Gaby.

The mishmash of a screenplay is a result of too many cooks working on it, including Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich and Charles Lederer, relying on the script of “Waterloo Bridge,” by S. N. Behrman, Paul H. Rameau and George Froeschel.

Though maintain the setting and contents, London circa 1944, during WWII, the scripters (perhaps under pressure from the studio) imposed an incoherent happy ending.

The whole last reel is senseless. Gaby keeps telling Greg that she can’t marry him, but he can’t guess the reason. When she finally confides that she’s a prostitute, he is shocked speechless. Gaby runs away into a bombing raid, and Greg follows her in his father’s car, then on foot. He yells at her to “have a heart, I am crippled.”  Greg saves her life from an imminent explosion, claiming, “If you had died just now, I would never have been able to love anyone else.” Gaby is still doubtful, but Greg reassures her: “Let’s forget the terrible things this war made us do.”

Dismissed by most critics, Gaby was a commercial flop, and did not do much for either Kerr’s or Caron’s career.  The French-born dancer would become a major star two years later, after playing the lead in Minnelli’s musical Gigi, which swept all the 1958 Oscar Awards.


Release date: May 9, 1956
Running time:  96 minutes