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Grace Kelly (1929-1982)

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly


Grace Kelly was an American actress and fashion icon renowned for her flawless beauty and stylish elegance. She married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco in 1956, and became the glamorous Princess Grace of Monaco.

Her work in Hollywood has been somewhat overshadowed by her astonishing life afterwards but she was an accomplished actress and won an Academy Award for Best Actress, for 'The Country Girl' in 1954. The American Film Institute ranked her number 13 in their list of Greatest Female Stars of All Time.

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Biography

Grace Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, the third of four children. Her father, the son of Irish immigrants, had built up a successful brick business, and was well known as a former Olympic triple gold medallist for sculling as well as being a prominent Democrat in local politics. Grace's elder brother John, followed the family's athletic tradition and became an Olympic rowing bronze medallist in 1956.

Grace was educated at Ravenhill Academy and Stevens School, in Germantown, Philadelphia, where she first became interested in acting and dancing. She started fashion modelling with her mother and sisters at local events but the idea of becoming an actress had taken hold and, after graduating from High School in 1947, she moved to New York City to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Whilst there she continued to work as a fashion model and appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan and other magazines.

Before her Hollywood career began, Grace learned her trade as a stage and television actress and her Broadway debut was in Strindberg's 'The Father', starring Raymond Massey. She was seen by television producer Delbert Mann, who cast her in a live TV production adapted from a Sinclair Lewis novel. The beautiful young girl was a great success and went on to appear in almost 60 live TV programmes.

Grace's television success soon brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers and in 1951 she was given her first role in the movie 'Fourteen Hours'. The following year, aged 22, she appeared in her first major movie, the classic Western, 'High Noon' with Gary Cooper. The movie was a box-office hit and Grace signed a seven year contract with MGM.

Her next movie, in 1953, was the romantic drama 'Mogambo' co-starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and also a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Grace's cool blonde looks appealed to the director, Alfred Hitchcock and in 1954 she appeared in two of his movies. Firstly, 'Dial M for Murder', with Ray Milland, and then 'Rear Window' in the same year, in which she starred with James Stewart playing a wheelchair-bound photographer who is witness to a murder.

Also in 1954, Grace appeared in 'The Bridges at Toko-Ri', with William Holden, a role which confirmed the good impression she had already made for her acting skills and in 1955 her hard work was rewarded when she received the Academy Award for Best Actress for 'The Country Girl' as the put-upon wife of Bing Crosby.

In 1955 Grace appeared in her third film for Hitchcock in the romantic thriller, 'To Catch a Thief', this time co-starring Cary Grant. They formed a perfect romantic couple in the movie and Grant later named Grace as his favorite co-star.

The following year Grace appeared in what was to be her final movie, the successful and perennially popular musical comedy 'High Society' which was a musical remake of 'The Philadelphia Story'. Her co-stars were the formidable pairing of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and Grace more than held her own. She earned a gold record for her duet with Crosby singing 'True Love' and in the same year she was voted the Golden Globe's Favorite World Film Actress. It seemed that Grace had reached the pinnacle of fame but she had further yet to travel. In 1955 she had met Prince Rainier of Monaco and the unreal world of the Hollywood actress was about to join with the equally unreal world of European Royalty.

Grace had originally met Prince Rainier in 1955 at the Cannes film festival. When she returned to America they began corresponding and in December 1955 Rainier travelled to America and proposed to her. It is conjectured that he was anxious to marry a famous Hollywood star in order to boost Monaco's dwindling tourist revenues. Certainly part of the wedding agreement was a $2 million dowry paid by Grace's family to Rainier, the world's richest bachelor.

After their marriage, no longer keen on the publicity his new wife attracted, Prince Rainier determined that her films should not be shown in Monaco. Grace reluctantly had to accept that her movie career was over. She appeared on stage to give poetry readings and she narrated the voice over for a TV anti-drugs film in 1966 'The Poppy Is Also a Flower'.

She and Rainier had three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie.

Grace was romantically linked to all her leading men except the happily married James Stewart. She reportedly was involved with, among others, Gary Cooper, John Kennedy, Bing Crosby (whose proposal she turned down), Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, Prince Aly Khan, The Shah of Iran, Ray Milland, fashion designer Oleg Cassini, to whom she was engaged when she met Rainier, and William Holden.

Grace's death occurred as a result of a crash when she had a stroke whilst driving on a mountain road in Monaco with her daughter Stéphanie. She lay in a coma for a day but died on 14 September 1982, without gaining consciousness. Almost 100 million people throughout the world watched her funeral on television. Prince Rainier did not remarry after her death, and, following his own death in 2005 was buried alongside her in the Royal family vault.

Grace's movie career comprised just 11 films over 5 years. She was a joyous, dazzling shooting star in the Hollywood firmament.

Grace Kelly Filmography

1950
1951
Fourteen Hours
1953
Mogambo
1954
Dial M for Murder
Rear Window
The Country Girl
Green Fire
The Bridges at Toko-Ri
1955
To Catch a Thief
1956
The Swan
High Society
1957
1958
1959