Frank Elgin (Crosby) was once a famous singer and entertainer, but has long since fallen on hard times, and is now an alcoholic has-been. Theater director Bernie Dodd (Holden) auditions Frank for a part in his new Broadway musical, The Land Around Us, and decides that this is an appropriate comeback vehicle for Frank. Bernie soon discovers just how far Frank has fallen when he tracks the singer down to the shabby one-room apartment where he lives in melancholy desperation with his wife, Georgie (Kelly).
Georgie and Frank's marriage has suffered greatly since their son was killed in a traffic accident. Georgie is determined to stand by Frank, but she is completely honest about his alcoholism and generally fragile state, and believes that she must stay by him during the production to get him on the straight and narrow. Bernie, for his part, believes that Georgie's hovering is having the opposite effect, undercutting Frank's confidence and making it harder for him to stay on the wagon and focused on his role. The situation is further complicated when Bernie and Georgie start falling in love.
The Country Girl was a case of Playing Against Type for both Crosby, who usually starred in musicals and light comedies, and Kelly, who usually played glamour queens. Kelly won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her performance, while Seaton took home an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation.
- The Alcoholic: Frank has been one for years. It's a constant struggle to keep him sober. He has a habit of hiding liquor in his dressing room.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: In the latter portion of the film, the umpteenth nasty argument between Bernie and Georgie about how to handle Frank ends with them kissing.
- The Chanteuse: A drunk Frank isn't too drunk to perform a charming duet with the chanteuse at the bar.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Frank stared drinking heavily after his son's death. He's more or less sober in the present, but an argument between him and Georgie winds up with Frank heading off to the bar.
- Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: When visiting Frank and Georgie's shabby little apartment, Bernie listens to a commercial jingle that Frank recently recorded, to the tune of one of his old hits.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Frank is willing to step aside at the end, observing that he and Georgie haven't been happy for some time.
- Love Triangle: Between Bernie, Frank, and Georgie, resolved eventually when Georgie goes back to her husband.
- The Musical Musical: Borderline example, as Frank sings three songs as part of the production of The Land Around Us.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Dissertation on the State of Bliss", the song that Frank and the nightclub singer perform together. Ira Gershwin picked this title because "Love and Learn" had been used too many times.
- Off the Wagon: Frank's sobriety was shaky to begin with but Georgie's departure sends him on a bender that gets him arrested.
- Rage Against the Reflection: A very intoxicated Frank looks up from his drink at the bar and sees his own very sad-looking face in the bar mirror. Frank then chucks his shot glass, destroying the mirror.
- Sexless Marriage: Implied with Frank and Georgie. "No one has looked at me as a woman for years and years."
- Show Within a Show: The Land Around Us, the play that Bernie casts Frank in, some sort of pioneer musical.
- Sleeping Single: As usual with films of this era, although in this instance it seems appropriate as the Elgin marriage isn't doing well.
- Stepford Smiler: Frank habitually conceals his raging insecurities and fears behind a false front of cheerful affability and confidence. He'll go so far as to deny that he wants the understudy to leave backstage, right after telling Georgie that the presence of the understudy backstage is making him nervous.
- Title Drop: "I'm just a girl from the country," says Georgie to Bernie, even though she really doesn't seem like one at all.
- Trauma Button: The song "The Search Is Through" is this for Frank, because he recorded it on the day his son died in a traffic accident (which was partially Frank's fault).
- Troubled Backstory Flashback: A particular song on the radio causes Frank to flash back to the death of his son. It's one of his songs, namely, the one he was recording right before the boy was killed.
- There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Bernie makes a statement like that when he first meets Georgie: "You try to look like an old lady. You shouldn't do your hair like that. Some women pay too much attention to themselves and some don't pay enough." Georgie is unimpressed:That's quite a pearl of wisdom. May I qoute you?