Movie Mirrors Index

The Country Girl

(1954 b 104')

En: 6 Ed: 6

Based on the play by Clifford Odets, a director tries to help an alcoholic singer make a come-back, and he thinks his domineering wife is holding him back.

         Director Bernie Dodd (William Holden) argues with producer Philip Cook (Anthony Ross) that they should audition Frank Elgin for the lead in their play. Cook is afraid he is an alcoholic, but Bernie says he can act and sing. For the audition Frank Elgin (Bing Crosby) sings “Pitchman / It’s Mine, It’s Yours.” Bernie tells Frank that it is the lead that carries the whole show. Cook still says it is too risky, but Bernie says he will get it out of him. Cook agrees with a two-week clause. They learn that Frank left, and Bernie goes looking for him.

         At his apartment Bernie meets Frank’s wife Georgie Elgin (Grace Kelly), who says she is not an actress but is a country girl. Frank comes in and says the producer didn’t like him. Bernie asks Frank if he can stay sober and learn lines. Georgie says Frank is afraid of the responsibility. Bernie says he will work with him. Frank is not sure he can carry a show. Bernie tells him to think it over and leaves him $20. Frank and Georgie argue about it. Frank says he can leave with two weeks notice.

         Bernie rehearses Frank and the other actors, saying it is nothing. Frank apologizes for not remembering all the words. Bernie asks if he is having trouble at home. Bernie says Frank’s wife is domineering. Frank defends her and says their son died; she got drunk and cut her wrists. Frank let her make decisions for him to get her involved. Then Frank began drinking, and she stopped drinking. Frank says he let her talk him into taking the part. Georgie comes in and asks if she is in the way. She agrees that she makes the decisions because Frank brought out the mother in her.

         At a restaurant while Frank steps out, Bernie asks Georgie not to add to Frank’s worries. Bernie tells how his wife tried to guide him.

         At home Frank hears himself singing on the radio and remembers the past, singing “The Search Is Through” in a studio for Georgie and their son. Frank takes his son out. While Frank is posing for a photo, his son is hit by a car.

         Georgie finds bottles and tells Frank not to drink anymore. He says he needed sleep. Frank says he has the whole show on his shoulders. They are packed for Boston, and Georgie says they are going.

         Frank and the cast sing “The Land Around Us” in a dress rehearsal. Georgie helps Frank make a fast change. Cook says he has notes, but Bernie dismisses the cast until the next day. Cook tells Bernie that Frank was not good. Bernie says that Georgie being backstage was a problem. When she comes in and says Frank needs a dresser, Bernie gets Cook to hire one. She tells Bernie that Frank does not like seeing his understudy backstage. Bernie says Frank is a good performer, and he asks her not to make problems. She says Frank needs her strength, but Bernie says it could be weakening him. Frank denies that seeing the understudy bothers him.

         During intermission the audience comments on the play. At home Frank reads the first review and is glum. Bernie calls and says only New York reviews matter; they have five weeks to improve it. Cook quotes the review that Frank “lacks authority.” Bernie says it is his wife’s fault.

         In rehearsal Bernie tells the cast to look at Frank. A photographer asks Frank to pose, and he remembers his son’s death. Frank drinks some cough syrup, and Georgie tells him to leave the bottle there. Frank says he needs it. Bernie says her words make Frank uneasy, and she warns Bernie he is going on a bender. Bernie asks her to get out of town so that he can get a performance out of him. Bernie says he will fight her for him. She slaps Bernie, who says she goes to New York, or both go. He gives her one day. Frank comes in, and Bernie asks  him to rehearse. Bernie asks her to leave them alone. Bernie finds the cough syrup and pours it down the drain. Bernie leaves, and Georgie asks Frank where the other bottle is. Frank asks her who is her man in New York.

         Frank drinks at a bar. The lounge singer (Jacqueline Fontaine) sings “Love and Learn Blues,” and Frank sings with her. Frank spills a drink and drinks a double, saying it was an accident. Frank throws his glass at the mirror.

         Georgie calls Bernie to come to get Frank at the police station. Bernie asks Frank what happened. Franks says he and Georgie argued and that she is weak. Bernie tells Frank to move in with him. Bernie is worried that she will fake a suicide attempt, but she says that is Frank, not her. Bernie looks at Frank’s wrists and realizes that he lied to him about her. Bernie arranges with Larry (Gene Reynolds) for the understudy to play the matinee, and Frank goes with Larry. Georgie says that after his son’s death, Frank feels like a murderer. Bernie tries to apologize, and she says Frank is helpless. She says Bernie can take care of him now. Bernie kisses her and asks her if Frank can make it. Bernie asks her to stay, and she agrees and tells him not to get ideas from the kiss.

         Bernie tells Frank he has to play the matinee because the understudy is no good. Bernie says Frank will only leave the show if he fires him for being drunk. Bernie says the accident is Frank’s excuse. Franks says he is afraid he is a failure. Frank admits he lied and used the accident. Bernie puts a blanket over Frank, who hears Cook tell Bernie he is getting a replacement. Bernie says he would quit.

         The show opens in New York. Bernie and Georgie admit they sent wires using other names. Bernie says his job is finished. He says he loves her, embraces her, and asks if she will leave Frank. He shows her Frank singing successfully. She says, “Not now.” Frank comes into his dressing-room. Cook apologizes to Frank and invites him and Georgie to his party.

         At the party Frank finds Georgie with Bernie and thanks them both. Frank asks Georgie about them. She says she married him for happiness and may leave him for the same reason. She admits her portion of the blame in trying to dominate him. Frank tells her to talk it over with Bernie, who reminds her that Frank has been leaning on her. She looks at Frank, and Bernie tells her that he likes her being loyal and steadfast. She kisses Bernie and goes looking for Frank. Bernie sees her catching up to Frank on the street.

         This drama explores the behavior of a performer who feels guilty and frightened because of his son’s death and tries to escape by drinking. The director projects his own marital experience on to the actor’s wife and thus misunderstands the situation. Yet this helps the wife come to realize how she weakened her husband by making decisions for him. Underlying it all is the heavy responsibility a theatrical star has for the success of a show.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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