I'm just a girl from the country, the theater and
the people in it have always been a complete mystery to me.
They still are.
Frank Elgin, a stage-giant turned down-and-out-alcoholic played by Bing Crosby, is offered a comeback in a play called "The Land Around Us", when the director Bernie Dodd (William Holden), believing that Frank can make good in the role, offers him the lead. Friction back stage is provided by the fact that, to protect himself from the guilt of something he accidentally did, Frank drinks; then blames his wife (Georgie played by Grace Kelly) and her possessiveness for his problems. Bernie believes that Georgie really is the problem until Georgie unveils the truth about Frank, and, together, Georgie and Bernie help Frank onto his feet again.
In one line, I think William Holden's character sums up a lot of what I feel about Bing Crosby's performance. He says: "I know a lot of guys who can act better than Elgin [Crosby], and I know a lot of guys who can sing better, but I can't think of anybody who can do both as well." Think of Bing Crosby and one of the greatest crooners of the 20th Century comes to mind. The leading role in a timeless Christmas movie and the classic lyric "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...". Think of a happy-go-lucky priest in "Going my Way" and "The Bells of St. Mary's". A great comedian he was and a great crooner, but I was honestly shocked when he turned out to be so utterly magnificent in this! Bing Crosby, an alcoholic? Yes, guilt-ridden over something that wasn't really his fault, manipulative, cunning, and afraid of responsibility - Bing truly does a fine job in this out-of-type performance, as worthy of the Oscar nomination it got as anything ever was.
I don't particularly like William Holden, to be honest. Something about his characters always seems slimy and underhanded and it makes my skin crawl. I'm sure there are exceptions because I remember liking him in something, but I don't remember what it was. Nevertheless, I can't say he wasn't great, because he was. Cynical Bernie Dodd, cynical Bernie Dodd who fell in love with someone else's wife, cynical Bernie Dodd who had enough faith in a has-been to throw him back into the spot light and onto his feet again. Unlike his two costars, Bill was not nominated for an Oscar for The Country Girl, but that's certainly not because he wasn't any good in the role!
Speaking of Oscars for The Country Girl, Grace Kelly won hers! That's a fact that Judy Garland fanatics around the world still aren't happy about. Not being a Garland fan myself and, on top of that, never having seen "A Star is Born", I couldn't be happier that Grace won her Oscar, and I don't think she could have deserved it more. Like Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly was far from her normal type-casting. Grace Kelly brings to mind high society and vacations on the Riviera and all the glamorous frocks Edith Head could produce. But far from that icy-princess-type Grace Kelly, is this plain, poor, steadfast Grace Kelly of The Country Girl. Of course, even in her plain sweaters and skirts and (Lord, save us) flats, Grace Kelly is stunningly beautiful; and to be honest I prefer a beautiful, quick-witted country girl to a beautiful blue-blood any day. I think the fact that Grace could reach so far out of her, let's say, "comfort zone" as far as characters are concerned and be magnificent is what won her her Oscar. The amount of honest emotion, even to someone who thinks she's a decent actress in general, is stunning. It's a fascinating character to boot, and like I said I think she deserved the Oscar.
I want to mention that the cinematography in this movie is beautiful (Oscar Nommed), I also want to point out that it took me three viewings to realize this. One of my favorite things about B&W movies are the people who take advantage of the contrast. The darkest scenes have one light element - in one case it's William Holden's white shirt against the dark theater - and the lightest scenes there is one dark element - see Grace Kelly's black dress against a light den. Other Oscar nominations were for: Best Art Direction, Best Director, and Best Film (Best Film eventually went to On the Waterfront). The screenplay written by George Seaton, won The Country Girl it's second Oscar.
I plan on making a list of favorite movies at some point, and this will most definitely be on it. I honestly adore this movie, it's just fantastic. As a matter of fact, I was re-watching this today and realizing once again how absolutely captivating this movie is: how stunning Grace is, how charismatic Der Bingo is, how brilliant this film is in general. I suggest it, if you're one to take suggestions from a teenager who prefers Her Cardboard Lover to Citizen Kane.
Until Later On~