The year 1955 proved a memorable one for Grace Kelly in a number of respects, two of which involved winning an Oscar and meeting a prince who would ask her to marry him and share a kingdom with him. It sounds like the grist for a romance novel, but it all actually happened in the kingdom of Hollywood cinema.
It was the glamorous Grace Kelly that Prince Rainier of Monaco would meet on the French Riviera when she was playing a rich heiress in Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief". The irony is that in her other film that was released that same year, "The Country Girl", she won a Best Actress Academy Award by playing the only role of her short but illustrious career that was decidedly against type.
Whereas Kelly, the Philadelphia girl who became a glamorous fashion model in New York, played her natural image in every respect in two Hitchcock classics, "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief", she was challenged in the film in between by director George Seaton, who adapted the play of hard-boiled Depression playwright Clifford Odets to the screen in "The Country Girl".
Kelly's character is the opposite of what she appears to be in the early stages of the film. She plays the wife of hard luck Broadway actor-singer Bing Crosby, who has never been able to assuage the guilt he felt over not being able to save their son and only child from death in a New York traffic accident.
Crosby takes to alcohol and becomes extremely depressed, using Kelly as a crutch. He implores her to make decisions, including some unpopular ones that make people angry with her, all the while seeking to portray himself as an all-purpose nice guy who is relaxed and at peace with himself.
When Broadway stage director William Holden seeks to case Crosby as his lead in an upcoming production he is fought tenaciously by the show's producer and prevails only after insisting he will walk out if not given an opportunity to at least see how well the veteran performer plays in a Boston run prior to coming to New York. If he does not pan out then Crosby will be replaced.
Holden, who is on the rebound from a tragic divorce, is immediately skeptical of Kelly. He believes her to be the problem behind her husband's lack of confidence and tough times after earlier Broadway successes. As he learns more and more he not only changes his mind about Kelly and apologizes; he falls in love with her.
This is a film about the trials and tribulations of Broadway theatrical people and their determination to rise above all obstacles. The trio of Kelly, Crosby and Holden walk on eggshells concerning the show and added complications resulting from the director's increasing admiration for the star's wife.
Kelly plays her role with great sensitivity. To present her in a more dour light famous costume designer Edith Head was instructed to create an appropriate wardrobe for her to tone down the glamour that made her world famous. Her hairstyles were also reflective of a sober woman unconcerned about glamour. Such a role understandably was a challenge for one of the most glamorous women ever to set foot on a Hollywood sound stage or grace the covers of fashion magazines.