Based off the Broadway play of the same name, George Seaton’s The Country Girl tells the story of three people. There is the young Broadway director, Bernie Dodd (William Holden), who is in desperate need of a leading man for his new play. He wants to hire Frank Elgin (Bing Crosby), who Bernie saw as a kid back when Frank was in his prime. But Frank is nervous about taking such an important role, doubts himself and turns to drinking. His wife, Georgie (Grace Kelly), who is also his manager tries to keep Frank in line, but Bernie thinks she is domineering and holding him under her thumb. Little does Bernie know what secret guilt is gnawing at Frank and what passion is hidden within Georgie.
The greatest drive of the story is the three-way tension going on between Bernie, Frank and Georgie. Frank reveals things to Georgie that he tries to calmly cover up around Bernie to remain the likable lead. To Bernie, this makes Georgie look like the bad guy causing all of Frank’s insecurities that interfere with his work. Thus, in an effort to save his play, Bernie is pitted against Georgie telling her to stop being a critic and just a supportive wife. But soon the whole truth comes out and a love triangle forms.
This is not our usual Bing Crosby character in The Country Girl, but a much darker and tormented person. There is still room for a few songs to show off that beautiful voice, but in between we see a man filled with despair, self loathing and doubt. He tries to hide all this from everyone but Georgie, the only one who understands his plight. To Bernie and everyone affiliated with the play, he just tries to be likable and easy-going, but inside he is being crushed with his own insecurities and turns to alcohol.
Grace Kelly won her only Oscar for her stunning performance as Georgie. It’s clear from her first scene that Georgie is a strong and opinionated woman, perhaps a ball-buster in the eyes of Bernie. This enables her to support Frank by trying to manage his career and alcoholism. As the film grows, we start to see a more fragile side of Georgie that Frank has not been nurturing well enough for a long while and that is what allows her to become closer to Bernie.
I especially love how this trailer narrated by Holden describes The Country Girl. It really is a stirring, smart and beautiful film about three people in one of the most complicated moments of their lives. If you want to see Kelly or Crosby in one of their most compelling roles, you have to see The Country Girl.
“No one has looked at me as a woman for years and years.”