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USA 1954
Directed by
George Seaton
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Country Girl

The Country Girl has a rather musty feel given its production date but it is an interesting-enough failure. Firstly, and positively, because the play by Clifford Odets on which it is based has some dramatic potential, and secondly, and more negatively, because it is such an unusual genre-melding work, part weepie, part romance, part back-stage musical (with songs by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin).

Bing Crosby plays a once-headlining Broadway star, Frank Elgin, who has taken to drink because of personal tragedy. He’s given a chance at a come-back by stage director, Bernie Dodd (William Holden), who believes that Frank’s wife, Georgie (Grace Kelly), rather than the bottle, is holding him down. Crosby has a shot at high-end acting (he received an Oscar nomination for his effort) but is much more in form when he’s singing. Kelly won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the long-suffering wife (and the title's girl from the country), although this is largely because she goes through most of the film trying to look dowdy (although she does get to glam up in the final section of the film) rather than for any notable dramatic performance . Only William Holden sticks to his familiar tough-guy persona, providing a typically solid base for his oddly-cast or perhaps simply mis-cast co-leads.

Seaton doesn’t do anything of interest with the material which tends to be slow and slightly re-iterative in revealing the relationship between Frank and Georgie before suddenly veering into romantic territory as Bernie is apparently turned on by his battles with Georgie. That this development seems so out-of-the-blue is indicative enough of the problems that the film has in establishing both the right narrative tone or emotional dynamics between the main characters.




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