COUNTRY GIRL, THE(director/writer: George Seaton; screenwriter: based on the play by Clifford Odets; cinematographer: John F. Warren; editor: Ellsworth Hoagland; music: Victor Young; cast: Bing Crosby (Frank Elgin), Grace Kelly (Georgie Elgin), William Holden (Bernie Dodd), Anthony Ross (Phil Cook), Gene Reynolds (Larry), Jacqueline Fontaine (Singer-Actress), Eddie Ryder (Ed); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William Perlberg/George Seaton; Paramount Pictures; 1954)
“The backstage drama, when judged by today’s standards, seems stagy, creaky and outdated.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
George Seaton (“Teacher’s Pet”/”Airport”/”Miracle on 34th Street”) directs and writes this glum and unconvincing theatrical melodrama that’s based on a play by Clifford Odets. It’s about the once famous Broadway star Frank Elgin (Bing Crosby) who because of several incidents in his recent past lost his confidence and is now a self-pitying broken-down untruthful alcoholic actor who is given another chance to make a Broadway comeback; Georgie Elgin (Grace Kelly) is his loyal country girl wife, who is not part of the theater but is supportive of her defeatist hubby; and Frank’s most ardent supporter is the cocky Bernie Dodd (William Holden), the misunderstood woman hating hotshot stage director, who hires the down-and-out actor to be the headliner of a new Broadway musical just weeks before its Boston tryout, despite his heartless Broadway producer Phil Cook’s (Anthony Ross) disapproval of trusting the lead to a drunk. Just when you think it’s a pic about the bottle ruining a career and a marriage, Grace has a dalliance with Holden and it turns into a last act about resolving the love triangle.
Its misanthropic attitude is overlooked by the public in favor of hero worshiping the illustrious stars playing roles that they usually don’t, whose star power connected with the public to get a box office hit and receive critical acclaim. The de-glamorized Grace Kelly, dressed matronly in frumpy garb, won Best Acress for playing the long-suffering wife, in a performance that I believe she was not suited for and left me scratching my head to wonder what the Academy saw that I didn’t (she never got inside the intense angst of her character). Bing Crosby, without his usual toupee, trying hard to prove he can act and is just not a crooner, received a nomination for Best Actor, in what turned out to be a satisfying edgy performance that got into his character’s deceit.
The backstage drama, when judged by today’s standards, seems stagy, creaky and outdated. Bing croons several songs composed by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin such as “The Pitchman” and “The Search Is Through.”
REVIEWED ON 1/21/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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