Country Girl [1954]

In retrospect, George Seaton's adaptation of The Country Girl seems like the movie that was made to prove that both Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly could act. The tale of an alcoholic actor and singer (Crosby) and his long-suffering wife (Kelly) whose marriage is put to the test when he gets a second chance at stardom, Clifford Odets' drama is chock full of twists and turns designed to give actors a grueling workout, with its hidden secrets, tortured love story, and frank depiction of the horrors of alcohol abuse. Crosby and Kelly sank their teeth into the meaty roles with gusto (it helped that a rock-solid William Holden was there for each to spark off of), and both were showered with accolades that remained high points of their careers. Crosby was lauded with kudos for turning his charming persona inside-out, but it was Kelly who stole the show, possibly because at the time she was one of the hardest working women in show business. In 1954, the actress appeared in four films, including the Alfred Hitchcock classics Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, and finally ascended to leading-lady status after her stellar supporting turns in High Noon and Mogambo. In typical Hollywood fashion, though, it was only when Kelly shrouded her breathtaking beauty in plain clothes and a dowdy hairdo that she was taken seriously and awarded a Best Actress Oscar--one of the most highly contested ever, as she beat out comeback star Judy Garland's ferocious performance in A Star Is Born. --Mark Englehart

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