Friday, April 29, 2011

Classic Movie Marathon Day 11: The Country Girl (1954)

Welcome to day eleven of the Classic Movie Marathon. Eleven movies down, only one to go! The final movie is His Girl Friday (1940).

I didn't plan this, but the slight hitch in the schedule earlier this week actually made sense. As you should know, the royal wedding is veeeeeery soon (by the time you read this, if you do, the wedding would be well over, and I'm staying up until the wee hours of the morning to watch the whole thing) (EDIT: it's just started as I go to post this). The Country Girl, on the surface, shouldn't have much to do with that. But of course, the film stars Grace Kelly in her Oscar winning performance. The Grace Kelly who two years after this film was made became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco. Sure, there is 'Commoner Kate', but what is more exciting than a film star, already looking like a princess, marrying a prince and literally living a fairytale until her untimely death at the age of 52. Not many of you know exactly how much I know and love Grace (yeah, I've read around four biographies on her, I've seen most of her films...), and my love for her knows no bounds when I see her in The Country Girl. She was still perfect without her make-up on.

Broadway director Bernie Dodd (William Holden) is in desperate need of a male lead for his new play and pushes to hire Frank Elgin (Bing Crosby), an aging one time star with just the experience and skills required. The downside is that he has a reputation for being an unreliable drunk. Elgin has the talent for the job, but seems to be entirely dependent on his wife Georgie (Grace Kelly) to make all of his decisions for him. He tells Dodd that she has to come with them when they go to Boston to fine tune the show. He describes his wife as the drinker and suicidal at times and simply can't be left alone. Dodd takes up his cause, blaming Georgie for Frank's lack of self-confidence and a clash of wills ensues. He soon realizes he may have incorrectly assumed who was supporting who in their relationship.

In the film, Georgie says something about how interesting an empty theatre looks. There is just something so interesting to me about the theatre and what goes on inside it, even more so when we take a look into the lives of actors. Especially when they were made back in the old days of Hollywood. It's just something about the way they do it. This may sound overly pretentious, but stories like this are better suited to times like those, because show-business was so much more interesting back then. It must be all in the glamour of those stars. While The Country Girl is restricted to the theatre, therefore not being as glossy as a film-based story, the film covers a well known story of the alcoholic star who is trying to make a comeback. But even though the film treads familiar ground, it is authentic in the way it presents a controlling marriage driven by guilt, the changes in a woman after the the death of a child, a director trying to weave his way between a marriage in order to get both professional and personal gains, and then it is a film about an alcoholic trying to make his comeback. The problem I have with that last strand of story is the fact that we never find out whether he did succeed in his comeback. Stupid ambiguous endings, sometimes they piss me off (unless there are spinning tops involved).

However, whilst watching the film, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with the performances, and how remarkably similar the movie was to a stage play. That's fair enough, too - the movie is based on a play by Clifford Odets. Director George Seaton makes no secret of that, with his direction being very theatrical and his screenplay cracking with references to plays and other stage-lingo. This, to me, pushes better performances out of the actors. Yeah, William Holden is, as always, nice to look at, but he doesn't have a lot to work with here. He has to step aside because of the force of Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby. Despite their rather large age gap, the two pull off a believable, if a little anger fuelled marriage which completely makes the movie. Crosby, in one facet of his character, sheds his nice guy persona in order to become a conniving alkie, but in the other facet of his character, he puts on an act to become 'the nicest guy ever known'. I love how he does this, causing trouble for his marriage, and as a result giving Grace Kelly a lot more to work with. In one facet, she is a controlling, vindictive wife, but in another facet, she's really just a grieving woman in search of happiness. Grace's performance as this character is simply magnificent, and I doubt that had anything to do with her dowdy exterior. She was completely deserving of her Oscar, and I simply can't love her any more after seeing this.

What I got:


  1. I enjoy most Grace Kelly films, so this is one I will need to see. I am curious, are these just random classic films you love, or a countdown to your favorite?

  2. Another film I've never seen, in fact I don't think I've ever see any of Grace Kelly's films...

    Very good review!

  3. Matt - It's a mix between random classics I love, random classics I've never seen before, and random classics I saw ages ago but don't really remember them. There's no particular order, haha.

    Jack - Wait, you haven't seen Rear Window???

  4. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't :(
    I've got it in my collection though so it's only a matter of time before I watch it!

  5. Have you seen any Hitchcock movies? They're the best!

  6. Yeah, a few of the famous ones, like Psycho, Vertigo, North By Northwest but not many really...

  7. Jack - Hitchcock is one of the best directors ever! From what I have seen at least. Do chech his stuff out

  8. I agree with Matt here. His work is flawless!

  9. (A year later)

    This IS the film that has one of the most beautiful women in cinema playing anything but a mere beauty, and after spending decades with her films, I've always thought this is the singular powerhouse performance.

  10. Great review!

    We're linking to your article for Bing Crosby Tuesday at

    Keep up the good work!


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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