THE COUNTRY GIRL (George Seaton, 1954)

From Clifford Odets’s play, adapted and directed by George Seaton, The Country Girl investigates an instance where the power structure of a marriage is very different from what it appears to be—one of the themes that Akira Kurosawa would mine far more brilliantly in his Macbeth film, Cobweb Castle or Throne of Blood (1957). Indeed, this interesting, important theme gets pretty much lost amidst all the phony theatrics and contrived animosities that disfigure Seaton’s pat, glossy entertainment about Frank Elgin, a manipulative alcoholic, and Georgie, his long-suffering wife. What cannot be lost, because it does not exist, is any sign or sense of the filmmaker’s personality. Seaton, who has made at least one film that I very much like (1962’s The Counterfeit Traitor, highlighted by an unforgettable performance by Klaus Kinski), is “invisible” here. As a film The Country Girl can hardly be said to exist at all.
     Moreover, it is acted horribly, even by the usually redoubtable William Holden. Grace Kelly, who won an Oscar for her role here, Bing Crosby and Holden all give blunt, unfeeling performances. Ridiculously, once the truth is revealed about her, Georgie ceases to be frumpy, which she has been throughout, and is suddenly Grace Kelly-lovely, elegant.
     One wonders what Uta Hagen, the original Georgie, made of all this.

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