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What does "good country" mean when related to person? I've been watching this documentary and I've met the expression in this chunk

Discussing that scene by the river with Jimmy Stewart one time, he said to me that just before they made the shot, Ford had taken Stewart aside and said: "Watch out for Widmark. He's a good country actor".

And, Jimmy said that that kind of put him on his guard for the whole scene.

Does this simply means a "good actor from province" or is there more meaning to it than that?

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    I understand this as a good (country actor) rather than a (good country) actor, i.e. Widmark is a good actor for movies of the country genre. Compare: a good country singer (a good singer in the country music genre). I don't know what a “country movie” would mean however, so I could be wrong. – Gilles Sep 3 '13 at 12:49
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PARTIAL ANSWER:
I'm not knowledgeable about Hollywood use, and I find no other instance in a quick Google search.

But in the 19th century, when theatre was the principal dramatic medium, there was a distinction in the UK and US between actors who worked in the theatrical centers, London and New York, and actors who spent their careers in local or touring stock companies without ever being seen by metropolitan audiences. A 'country' actor was one of the latter; and you'll find occasional references in old theatrical memoirs to so-and-so being a 'good country actor'—that is, an actor who was respected in The Profession despite never having made a mark on the West End or Broadway.

This isn't directly applicable to the use here; Widmark had paid his dues in radio in the 40s, but by the time Two Rode Together was shot he was, if not quite in Jimmy Stewart's league, an established Hollywood star. I suspect Ford was playing director games with Stewart, warning him that Widmark was a master of his craft and Stewart had better be on his toes or Widmark would steal the scene.

  • Thanks for such a comprehensive answer. I would like to try to rephrase it somehow, to make it simpler but understandable. How do you think, would saying "He's a great out-of-the-way actor", convey the meaning? – snendit Sep 3 '13 at 12:47
  • @snendit "Out-of-the-way" wouldn't apply to Widmark, who was an established presence in 1961. I think Ford is using "country actor" figuratively: "He's a first-tier professional, even if he only gets second billing". – StoneyB Sep 3 '13 at 13:39
  • I like how you put it but it's just too long. "He's not the latter actor in genre", "He's not the last in his craft"? – snendit Sep 3 '13 at 14:43
  • @snendit "He knows his stuff" or "He's a pro" – StoneyB Sep 3 '13 at 14:49

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