Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Country Girl (4 stars)

Crooner Bing Crosby had a birthday yesterday (May 2nd).  At least he did according to some sources; other sources list his birthday as May 3, 1903.  Either way, though, Bing's 108th birthday is this week, which makes him the man of the hour so to speak.  To celebrate him, I thought I would do a review of The Country Girl, a 1954 drama starring Bing, Grace Kelly, and William Holden, which I recently enjoyed as part of a Bill Holden Movie Marathon.

Bing is Frank Elgin, an insecure, irresponsible, weak-willed actor with a penchant for drink.  Because of Frank's inability to function, his wife, Georgie (Grace Kelly), has been the strong one, and she has carried him for years.

Director Bernie Dodd (William Holden), is looking for an established actor/singer for the lead in his current play, and since he has long been an admirer of Elgin, Frank is his first choice for the role.  However, because of Frank's reputation as a drinker, Bernie has a hard time selling that casting to the producer.  Against his will, the producer agrees, and Frank is given the lead role---a fact which further shatters his already-low confidence.

As production of the play begins, Bernie is furious at the control Georgie Elgin seems to have over her husband.   Assuming that Georgie's strength is the reason for Frank's weakness, Bernie despises her and insists that she back off and that she not accompany them on tour.  But there are things that Bernie doesn't know.  There are reasons, of which Bernie is unaware, for the way Frank acts...reasons that could cause Frank to fall apart if Georgie is not with him.  As the movie plays out, Bernie (and the viewer) will discover why Frank cannot stand on his own two feet.

Bing received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his work in The Country Girl.  Although he didn't win (Marlon Brando did), I think his performance was far superior here to the performance he gave in Going My Way, for which he did win the Best Actor Oscar.  Grace Kelly, however, did win an Oscar for her role in The Country Girl...she won the Best Actress category, pulling an upset over Judy Garland in A Star Is Born.  For the bulk of the movie, Grace is a somewhat dowdy-looking housewife rather than her usual, glamourous self.  Perhaps that deviation from her norm is what swayed the Academy to give her the award in 1954.  I thought her work was wonderful, definitely Oscar-worthy, but I will admit that I haven't seen the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born.  (I love the Fredric March/Janet Gaynor version, so I have been loathe to see the remake.)

Anyhow, The Country Girl is a very solid 4 star movie, with great performances by all three leads.  It's out on DVD and should be quite easy to track down.

Happy viewing!!