Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Grace Kelly

Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she grew up in the East Falls section, the third of four children to John Brendan Kelly, Sr., also known as Jack Kelly, and Margaret Katherine Majer Kelly. Grace's siblings, in order of age, were Peggy, John Jr., and Lizzane. Her father was one of ten children of John Henry Kelly (1847-1897) and Mary Costello in an Irish American Catholic family (originally from Kidney Lake, Newport, County Mayo, Ireland). Already a local hero as a triple Olympic-gold-medal-winning sculler at a time when the sport of rowing was most popular, John Kelly's brick business grew to become the largest on the East Coast. The self-made millionaire and his family were introduced to Philadelphia society. Mr. Kelly's large family included two uncles prominent in the arts: Walter Kelly, a vaudevillian, and George Kelly, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, who outside of Grace was assiduously looked down upon by the family stemming from his homosexuality.[1]

In 1935, John Kelly ran for mayor of Philadelphia, losing by the closest margin for any Democrat in Philadelphia. He later served on the Fairmount Park Commission. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him National Director of Physical Fitness, a post that allowed Kelly to use his fame to promote the virtues of physical fitness.

Grace's mother, born to Lutheran German parents (Carl Majer and Margaretha Berg), converted to Catholicism upon marrying Mr. Kelly. Like her husband, Margaret Kelly was a proponent of health and fitness, studying Physical Education at Temple University, and later becoming the first woman to head the Physical Education Department at the University of Pennsylvania.

John B. Kelly, Jr., Grace’s brother, followed in the family's athletic tradition: his rowing exploits were well chronicled. He won the James E. Sullivan Award in 1947 as the top amateur athlete in the country. As a wedding gift, John, Jr., gave his sister his bronze medal from the 1956 Summer Olympics. Kelly Drive in Philadelphia is named for John, Jr., who was a city councilman there.

Grace Kelly’s choice of career was reflected in her childhood experiences. While attending the prestigious Ravenhill Academy, Grace modeled fashions at local social events with her mother and sisters. She gained her first acting experience at the age of 12, when she played a lead role in Don't Feed the Animals, a play produced by the Old Academy Players in East Falls.[2] During high school, she acted and danced, graduating from Stevens School, a small private school in a mansion on Walnut Lane in Germantown, Philadelphia, in May 1947. Her graduation yearbook listed her favorite actress as Ingrid Bergman; her favorite actor, Joseph Cotten; her favorite summer resort, Ocean City; her favorite drink, a black and white chocolate milkshake; her favorite piece of classical music, Debussy's "Clair de Lune"; her favorite orchestra, Benny Goodman; and her favorite female singer, Jo Stafford. Written in the "Stevens' Prophecy" section was, “Miss Grace P. Kelly - a famous star of stage and screen.”

Upon her rejection to Bennington College in July 1947 on account of her low mathematic scores (to the dismay of her mother), Grace decided to pursue her dreams of a career in the theater, using a scene from her uncle's play, Torchbearers, for an audition into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Although the school had already selected its quota for the semester, Grace wangled an interview with Emile Diestel, the school's admission officer. Notable talents including Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney, and Spencer Tracy had all studied there. Living in Manhattan's Barbizon Hotel for Women, a prestigious establishment which barred men from entering after 10 p.m., and working as a model to support her studies, Grace began her first term the following October. A diligent student, she would use a recorder to practice and perfect her speech. Her early acting pursuits led her to the stage, most notably a Broadway debut in Strindberg’s The Father alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was in The Philadelphia Story, a role with which she would also end her film career.

Kelly caught the eye of television producer Delbert Mann, who cast her as Bethel Maraday in her first of nearly 60 live television programs. Success on television eventually brought her a role in a major motion picture. At age 22, Kelly made her film debut in a small role in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours. The small role led to many offers, all of which she turned down for independence and another chance at the theater. She was performing in Colorado’s notable Elitch Gardens when she received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her the starring role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon. According to biographer Wendy Leigh, Kelly had an off-set romance with both Cooper and director Fred Zinnemann. High Noon would go to be a popular film of the 1950s.

In September 1952, Grace was flown to Los Angeles by MGM to audition for the role of Linda Nordley in the studio's production of Mogambo. Gene Tierney was initially cast in the role, but dropped out at the last minute due to her emotional problems. Kelly won the role along with a 7 year contract, although she was hired at a relatively low salary of $850 a week. Kelly signed the deal under two conditions: First, one out of every two years, she have time off to work in the theater and second, that she be able to live in New York City. Just two months later, in November, the cast arrived in Nairobi to begin production. She later told famed Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, "Mogambo had three things that interested me. John Ford, Clark Gable, and a trip to Africa with expenses paid. If Mogambo had been made in Arizona, I wouldn't have done it."[3] Critics praised Grace's patrician beauty, despite receiving third billing. The role garnered her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

After the heightened success of Mogambo, Grace starred in a TV play The Way of an Eagle, with Jean-Pierre Aumont before being cast in the film adaptation of Frederick Knott's Broadway hit Dial M for Murder. Alfred Hitchcock was slated to direct the film and would become one of Kelly's last mentors. Hitchcock also took full advantage of Kelly's virginal beauty on-camera. In a scene in which her character Margot Wendice is nearly murdered, a struggle that breaks out between her and her would-be-killer Tony Dawson clearly accentuates her curves and statuesque figure,[citation needed] which is closely hugged by a flimsy nightgown as she kicks her legs and flails her arms attempting to fight off her killer. Dial M for Murder opened in theaters in May 1954 to both positive reviews and box-office triumph. The role of Margot Wendice was a beginning for Grace as a poised and confident role-playing actress.

Grace began filming scenes for her next film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, in January 1954 with William Holden. The role of Nancy, the cordially wretched wife of naval officer Harry (played by Holden), proves to be a minor but pivotal part of the story. Released in January 1955, The New Yorker wrote of Kelly and Holden's unbridled onscreen chemistry, taking note of Grace's performance on part "with quiet confidence."

In October 1954 Grace received a telegram that Alfred Hitchcock had scheduled her a wardrobe fitting with Edith Head, arguably Hollywood's most premier and elite costume designer, for the director's next film, Rear Window. In going forth with the role of Lisa Freemont, Grace unhesitatingly turned down the opportunity to star alongside Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, which won her replacement, Eva Marie Saint, an Academy Award. "All through the making of Dial M for Murder, he [Hitchcock] sat and talked to me about Rear Window all the time, even before we had discussed my being in it."[4] Much like the shooting of Dial M for Murder, Grace and Hitchcock shared a close bond of humor and admiration. Sometimes, however, minor strifes would emerge on set concerning the wardrobe.

"At the rehearsal for the scene in Rear Window when I wore a sheer nightgown, Hitchcock called for Edith Head. He came over here and said, 'Look, the bosom is not right, we're going to have to put something in there.' He was very sweet about it; he didn't want to upset me, so he spoke quietly to Edith. When we went into my dressing room and Edith said, 'Mr. Hitchcock is worried because there's a false pleat here. He wants me to put in falsies.' "Well, I said, 'You can't put falsies in this, it's going to show and I'm not going to wear them. And she said, 'What are we going to do?' So we quickly took it up here, made some adjustments there, and I just did what I could and stood as straight as possible - without falsies. When I walked out onto the set Hitchcock looked at me and at Edith and said, 'See what a difference they make?'"

Grace's new co-star, James Stewart, was highly enthused about working with Grace.[5] The role of Lisa Freemont, a wealthy Manhattan socialite and model, was unlike any of the previous women which she had played. For the very first time, she was an independent career woman. Stewart played a speculative photographer with a broken leg, bound to a wheelchair, who is curiously reduced to observing the happenings of tenants outside his window. Grace is not seen until twenty-two minutes into the movie. Just as he had done earlier, Hitchcock graciously provides the camera with a slow-sequenced silhouette of Grace, along with a close-up of the two stars kissing and finally lingering closely on her profile. With the film's opening in October 1954, Grace was yet again praised. Variety's film critic embracingly tells of the idealistic casting, commenting about the "earthy quality to the relationship between Stewart and Miss Kelly. Both do a fine job of the picture's acting demands."

She was awarded the role of Bing Crosby's long-suffering wife in The Country Girl, after a pregnant Jennifer Jones bowed out. Already familiar with the play, Grace was desperate for the part. This meant to MGM's dismay, that she would have to be loaned out to Paramount. Grace threatened the studio that she would pack her bags and leave for New York for good. The vanquished studio caved in, and the part was hers. Much to the audience's surprise, The Country Girl was shot in black and white, having become accustomed to seeing the alluring blonde in technicolor.

The film also paired Grace again with William Holden. The wife of a washed-up alcoholic singer, played by Crosby, Grace is emotionally torn between two lovers. Holden willfully begs Grace to leave her husband and be with him. A piece of frail tenderness manages to cloak itself inside of her, even after having been demonized by Crosby, describing "a pathetic hint of frailty in a wonderful glowing man. That appeals a lot to us. It did to me. I was so young. His weaknesses seemed touching and sweet, they made me love him more." The following March, Grace would be honored with the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her character's modest appearance and the film's demanding scenes were a departure from her on-screen persona of the graceful heiress, which she perfected and embodied through her last role in High Society, and the musical remake of The Philadelphia Story.

In April 1954, Grace flew to Colombia for a brief 10 day shoot to film her next project, Green Fire, with Stewart Granger. Grace plays Kathy Noland, an extremely small role as a coffee plantation owner. In Granger's autobiography he writes of his distaste for the film's script, while Grace later confided to Hedda Hopper, "It wasn't pleasant. We worked at a pathetic village - miserable huts and dirty. Part of the crew got shipwrecked ... It was awful."[6] Green Fire was a critical and box-office failure. It is undoubtedly looked down upon as Grace's least appealing film.

After the back-to-back shooting of Rear Window, Toko-Ri, Country Girl, and Green Fire, Kelly was exhausted, and flew to France along with department store heir Bernard "Barney" Strauss, to begin work on her third and final film for Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief. Grace formed a mutual admiration with her new co-star, Cary Grant. The two cherished the time together for the rest of their lives. Years later, when asked to name his all-time favorite actress, Cary replied without hesitation: "Well, with all due respect to dear Ingrid [Bergman], I much preferred Grace. She had serenity."[7] The character she plays, Frances Stevens, an American oil heiress, mirrors Grace's own persona, equally sharing sex appeal, sensuality, and dignified elegance. The celebrated fireworks scene is among favorites for any romantic. Hitchcock subliminally peppers an undertone of sexual innuendo during the sequence. In the now famous speedy picnic drive, dressed in a peach and white dress, with her trademark white gloves, Grace's real life fear of driving and her inability to properly function an automobile, are eerily captured on film. The same long, and spiraling strip of road would one day hurtle her to her death.

Though her film career lasted just five years and eleven films, Kelly's beauty and charm left an impression on the hearts of Americans and all moviegoers that persists to this day.


In April 1955, Grace Kelly was asked to head the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival. While there, she was invited to participate in a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier III, the ruling sovereign of the principality. After a series of delays and complications, Kelly was finally able to make it to Monaco, where she met the prince.

Upon returning to America, Grace began work on her next feature film, The Swan, in which she coincidentally portrayed a princess. Meanwhile, she was privately beginning a correspondence with Rainier. In December, Rainier came to America on a trip officially designated as a tour, although it was speculated that Rainier was actively seeking a wife. A 1918 treaty with France stated that if Rainier did not produce an heir, Monaco would revert to France. At a press conference in the United States, Rainier was asked if he was pursuing a wife, to which he answered "No". A second question was asked, "If you were pursuing a wife, what kind would you like?" Rainier smiled and answered, "I don't know—the best." Rainier met with Grace and her family, and after three days, the prince proposed. Grace accepted and the families began preparing for what the press called "The Wedding of the Century". The wedding was set for April 19, 1956.

News of the engagement was a sensation even though it meant the possible end to Grace's film career. Industry professionals realized that it would have been an impracticality for her to continue acting and wished her well. Alfred Hitchcock had quipped that he was, "very happy that Grace has found herself such a good part."

Preparations for the wedding were elaborate. The Palace of Monaco was painted and redecorated throughout. The voyage of the American contingent to Monaco was an ordeal. On April 4, 1956, leaving from Pier 84 in New York Harbor, Grace, with her family, bridesmaids, poodle, and over eighty pieces of luggage boarded the ocean liner SS Constitution for the French Riviera. Some 400 reporters applied to sail, though most were turned away. Thousands of fans sent the party off for the 8 day voyage. In Monaco, more than twenty-thousand people lined the streets to greet the future princess.

Princess of Monaco

The wedding consisted of two ceremonies. On April 18, a 40-minute civil ceremony took place in the Palace Throne Room, and was broadcast across Europe. To cap the ceremony, the 142 official titles (counterparts of Rainier's) that Kelly acquired in the union were formally recited. The following day, the event concluded with the church ceremony at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Grace's wedding dress, designed by MGM's Academy Award-winning Helen Rose, had been worked on by three dozen seamstresses for six weeks. The 600 guests included Hollywood stars David Niven and his wife Hjordis, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner, the crowned head Aga Khan, and Conrad Hilton. Frank Sinatra initially accepted the invitation to attend, but at the last minute decided otherwise, afraid of upstaging the bride on her wedding day. Queen Elizabeth flatly refused to attend on the grounds of there being "too many movie stars."[citation needed] The ceremony was watched by an estimated 30 million people on television. The prince and princess left that night for their 7-week Mediterranean cruise honeymoon on Rainier's yacht, Deo Juvante II.

Children and family

Nine months and four days after the wedding, Princess Grace gave birth to the royal couple's first child, Princess Caroline. 21 guns announced the event, a national holiday was called, gambling ceased, and free champagne flowed throughout the principality. A little over a year later, 101 guns announced the birth of their second child, Prince Albert.

Later Years

Shortly after their marriage, Prince Rainier banned the screening of her films in Monaco.[8] Princess Grace never returned to acting, choosing rather to fulfill her responsibilities as the consort of Monaco's Prince. In 1962, when Hitchcock offered Grace the lead in his film, Marnie, she was eager to take the opportunity to return to the screen. Rainier consented, but public outcry against her involvement made her reconsider and ultimately reject the project. Director Herbert Ross attempted to lure Princess Grace out of retirement for his 1977 The Turning Point, but Prince Rainier quashed the idea. Later that year, Grace returned to the arts in a series of poetry readings on stage and the narration of the documentary The Children of Theater Street. As princess, she was active in improving the arts institutions of Monaco, and eventually the Princess Grace Foundation was formed to support local artisans. She was one of the first celebrities to support and speak on behalf of La Leche League, an organization that advocates breastfeeding; she planned a yearly Christmas party for local orphans, and dedicated a Garden Club that reflected her love of flowers.

In 1981, the Prince and Princess celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

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