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The Country Girl Movie Review

Director: George Seaton

Starring: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, William Holden, Anthony Ross, Gene Reynolds, Jacqueline Fontaine, Eddie Ryder, Robert Kent, John W. Reynolds

Oscar Wins: Best Actress (Grace Kelly), Best Screenplay

Other Nominations: Best Actor (Bing Crosby), Best Art Direction (Black and White), Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Director, Best Picture

Here’s the basic jist of what I have to say about this film: don’t judge a movie by its cast.

With Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly at the helm of The Country Girl, I thought I was in for a little down home romance, maybe some rollin’ in the hay, maybe a few crooning songs about love and longing, maybe even a dance number or two…what I was not expecting was a story about a suicidal alcoholic who is not only suffering through a broken marriage, but is also failing in his career and mourning the tragic death of his only child.

Phew, this one was a bummer.

Crooner Bing Crosby and soon-to-be princess Grace Kelly took 180-degree turns from their usual on-screen personas for this Hollywood adaptation of Clifford Odet’s play, The Country Girl. The fun begins when theater director Bernie Dodd (William Holden) decides to cast washed-up Broadway star Frank Elgin (Crosby) as the lead in his new musical. A longtime fan of Elgin, Dodd tries to get this old-timer back on his feet, amidst loud animosity from his producers and Elgin’s wife, Georgie (Kelly), who’s fearful that the pressure of the performance may drive Frank to start drinking again.

And the fact of the matter is, Frank isn’t really so sure of himself, either. He’s been on a career decline since his young son was killed in a car accident several years ago, and he has trouble with everything from showing up on time to remembering his lines. While Frank puts on a front with Dodd, joking with the musicians and blaming his behavior on his overbearing wife, his façade crumbles when he’s home, revealing a broken, weak, insecure man who must partake of the liquid courage just to walk out the door.

While Dodd and Georgie constantly fight with each other regarding what’s best for Frank, it becomes clear that no one is actually listening to each other, or Frank for that matter. The only truth is their own version of events. Dodd, who only sees Frank at rehearsals, sees a tired and broken man itching to find his place in the spotlight again. Georgie, who sees Frank at home, knows he’s a man who hates himself and who will do or say anything to be liked by other people. Yet, both Dodd and Georgie stay by Frank’s side, standing up for him, fighting for him, making excuses for him. It begs the question, how far will Dodd go to give a man he admires a second chance? And how far will Georgie go to redeem the man she loves?

Despite its dour subject matter, The Country Girl showcases Crosby and Kelly at the height of their careers. Crosby’s portrayal of a neurotic drunk is just unbelievable – or should I say quite believable. Frank’s career was so eerily similar to that of Crosby himself that it somehow made his performance that much sadder.

Kelly shed her glitz and glamour to play a middle-aged housewife (despite her only being 25 in this movie), yet was still almost too pretty to pull this role off. She won her only Oscar for her role as Georgie, beating out the sentimental favorite, Judy Garland, for the not so dissimilar A Star is Born.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Crosby), and best Director, The Country Girl took home two – Best Actress (Kelly) and Best Screenplay.

We often try to see the best in the people we love…maybe to both their detriment and our own. We’re easy to forgive, quick to move on and more than willing to believe the lies we tell ourselves to make it all better. In The Country Girl, Dodd, Georgie and even Frank are victims to their own insecurities, unable to really stop and think about what would be best for themselves and each other. It’s not until they each face the threat of the thing they fear the most that they finally realize what they have to lose. Whether that helps them or hurts them is up to us to decide, but Frank seems to wrap it up perfectly. “Just about anybody can face a crisis,” he says. “It’s the everyday living that’s rough. I’m not sure I can lick it, but I think I got a chance.”


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