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The Country Girl

"The Country Girl” is a 1954 film based on the play by Clifford Odets. Strong performances are had by all three of the film’s premier players. Grace Kelly plays wife Georgie to costar Bing Crosby, who plays her husband, Frank Elgin, a has-been actor/singer battling alcholism due to tragedy in his life. The tryst in this drama is Bernie Dodd, played by William Holden, a long-time admirer of Frank, who casts Frank in a musical he is producing.

Bing Crosby does an outstanding job with the role of Frank Elgin, especially when he sings “The Pitchman” for his audition piece. The song is about selling dreams, one Frank sang in an older musical in which he starred. The way Bing Crosby purposely falters with his iconic voice and the layers the audience is about to explore as to why he has been brought down to this level despite his talent is extraordinary.

Producer Bernie Dodd is well played by William Holden as a man going against the bricks to make sure his leading man is sober and the musical does not fail, even when everyone seems against his decisions, particularly the one to keep an alcoholic cast as lead. The forbidden romantic friction he needs to create between his character and Grace’s is intense.

Grace can act; her performances in “Rear Window” and “High Society” are examples of that. But this film role does not fit her. Grace does an adequate job of portraying Georgie, who uniquely understands the facets of Frank as his wife who has seen their relationship through the toughest of times. However, it is a severe departure from previous roles where she typically dons beautiful clothes and speaks eloquently and only appears comfortable in the flashback scenes where she is more at ease attired in fashionable ensembles. Grace tries to prove her range in this role with contrivances – deepening her voice a little, avoiding the use of a straight posture, and indicating facial expressions to convey the emotion of her character. At the end of the film, her speech slips into a monotone drawl.

The film received seven Oscar nominations. It won two – one for Adapted Screenplay. Despite stronger performances by Crosby and Holden, it was Grace Kelly who won the other – for Best Supporting Actress in one of the closest votes in Academy history. Grace Kelly edged out Judy Garland, for her performance as Esther Blodgett in “A Star is Born,” by only six votes.

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