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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Washed up singer/actor Frank Elgin has a chance to make a come-back when director Bernie Dodd offers him the leading role in his new musical. Frank however is very insecure, turns to alcohol and shuns even the smallest of responsibilities, leaving everything up to his wife Georgie who finds it harder and harder to cope with her husband's lack of spirit. Bernie tries to help Frank regain his self-confidence, believing that it is Georgie who's the cause of his insecurity.Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
Clifford Odets' famous play is brought to the screen
Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and William Holden star in "The Country Girl," a 1954 film written and directed by George Seaton, based on the play by Clifford Odets. Crosby plays Frank Elgin, a former Broadway star who hit the skids after the death of his son ten years earlier. Kelly is his wife, Georgie, and Holden is Bernie Dodd, the director of a musical that he has determined will be Frank's comeback. I think it was asking a lot of any performer, no matter how great, to make this Oklahoma rip-off a hit, but Dodd thinks Frank is his man. Dodd takes an immediate dislike to Georgie, who reminds him of his ex-wife. He believes that Frank's dependence on her and helplessness was encouraged by her. Little does he know, Frank puts on a happy face, but in reality, he's lying to Dodd about his true relationship with Georgie and the reason for his fall from grace.
The very strong script is brilliantly acted by its three stars, and for each actor, it was probably their best role. Crosby is not only terrific, but he's a revelation as the alcoholic, weak Frank; Holden pulls out all the stops as the uptight Bernie Dodd; and Kelly is excellent as Georgie. There is still much controversy about whether or not she should have won the Oscar over Judy Garland in "A Star is Born," but anyone who has studied the Oscars knows one thing - whether Kelly deserved the award or not, every time a beautiful woman dresses down and makes herself look plain, she wins an Oscar - Elizabeth Taylor, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron - the list is endless. It's sure fire. Personally, I think Kelly is great in this, and they should have done without the glasses - the fact that she and Frank were too poor for her to afford nice clothes or hair dye would have been enough. Beauty is beauty, and you can't hide it behind a pair of glasses. And what was wrong with Frank being married to a beautiful woman? In one flashback, we're allowed to see her as she was. I'll go out on a limb and say that as much as I loved Judy in "A Star is Born," Georgie Elgin was a real stretch for Kelly.
Beautifully directed by Seaton, "The Country Girl" has a real feel of the theater, of internal fights between producer and director, of dressing rooms and hotels on the road.
An excellent movie all around.
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