Princess Grace of Monaco aka Grace Kelly
Created | Updated Mar 26, 2009
As an American, Princess Grace brought character and elegance to the performing arts and always found time to make important contributions to her craft.
- The White House
Grace Kelly was an American actress and icon of the 'silver screen' era of films. She was born Grace Patricia Kelly on 12 November, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Irish Catholics named John B Kelly and Margaret Kelly. John was an Olympic gold medal winner, politician and lucrative businessman and Margaret a former fashion model. Kelly also had two sisters Peggy and Lizanne and a brother called Jack.
Due to her father's wealth, Kelly was able to receive private tuition and attended a Convent school for a while. However, this was short-lived as she wanted to be an actress and went against her parents' wishes by enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. To support her studies she became a fashion model and sought help from her uncle George Kelly, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. She also appeared in several Broadway productions, making her stage debut in 1949 in The Father by August Strindberg, which led to her involvement in television programmes.
Hollywood amuses me. Holier-than-thou for the public and unholier-than-the-devil in reality.
A move to Hollywood enabled her to take part in advertisements for Old Gold cigarettes and she was even pictured on the front of the magazines Cosmopolitan and Redbook. Then, in 1951, Fourteen Hours was released debuting Kelly. The film made way for her star role in High Noon in 1952 alongside Gary Cooper. The film proved a box office hit, but it took Kelly over a year to find another role in a film to play. This film was entitled Mogambo and was about a love triangle that occurred in the Kenyan jungle. During the filming, Kelly was rumoured to have had an affair with Clark Gable. When she was questioned about this she replied: What else is there to do if you're alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable?. She received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and a seven-year contract with MGM through her work on Mogambo.
Kelly received another award, the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her role in the film The Country Girl in 1954 and her duet with Bing Crosby in High Society won them a gold disc.
From her Hermes bag (nicknamed the 'Kelly'), which she used to cover up the fact she was pregnant, to her love of hats with flowers on them, white gloves and huge spectacles, Kelly became an international fashion icon and inspired people worldwide to follow her. It was Alfred Hitchcock who first discovered her beauty and shaped her fashion sense. He took her to places such as Hermes and designer Edith Head helped find clothes for her. Head's work is evident in Hitchcock's film Rear Window where Kelly plays a fashion model 'who never wears the same dress twice'. During the film she is seen dressed in casual jeans, glamorous evening dresses, a tailored suit and a floral dress. Hitchcock and Head also found clothes for the actress to wear in 1954's To Catch a Thief, that shows Kelly playing an American heiress. Head even designed the ice blue dress satin dress and coat that can be seen on the cover of the magazine Life in 1955 which, incidentally, Kelly also wore to the Academy Awards ceremony that same year. She was a patron of Christian Dior, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Chanel, Madame Grès and Yves Saint Laurent and according to her friend Rita Gam she couldn't drop something just because it went out of fashion and was very sentimental about her clothes. In the 1960s, Kelly was no longer seen as a fashion icon as she became a wife and mother but as fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld believes, I am sure [if she were alive today], even at nearly 80, she would be stunning. An exhibition at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo, entitled 'The Grace Kelly Years', looks back on her love of fashion and marks the 25th anniversary of her death.
Becoming a Princess
Kelly starred in three Hitchcock classics Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch A Thief (1955). During the filming of To Catch A Thief, Kelly visited the palace in Monaco where she met and fell in love with Prince Rainier III (Rainer Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand de Grimaldi). They were engaged on New Year's Day in 1956 and on 19 April, 1956, the Prince and the former film star married.
Their wedding was considered the 'Wedding of the Century' due to the fact that she was an actress and he a Prince. The first part of their marriage, the civil ceremony, which was essential by Monegasque law took place on 18 April, 1956 in the Monaco palace throne room. Then the second part took place the next day in Monaco's St Nicholas Cathedral.
Due to Kelly's marriage to Prince Rainier, she ended her contract early with MGM. In the agreement that she would stop working for the company early, MGM asked for exclusive rights over the filming of her wedding and she accepted. MGM's clothes designer Helen Rose created Kelly's wedding dress and her wedding ring was a ten-carat diamond. After the wedding, the grounds of the palace became the venue for a garden party and the people of Monaco gave the new Prince and Princess Rainier gifts of a Rolls Royce, a diamond necklace and earrings. Then Prince Rainier's yacht set sail for their honeymoon in the Mediterranean.
After the honeymoon she soon fell pregnant with her first-born, Princess Caroline, who was born on 23 January, 1957. A year later, on 14 March, 1958, Prince Albert was born and seven years later, on 1 February, 1965, Princess Stephanie was born.
No Happy Ever After
According to two books that have since been published, the couple didn't have a fairytale happy ending after the wedding. The book Grace: A Disenchanted Princess by Joanne Spencer alleges that the Prince had affairs and delivers this statement from Baron Christian de Massy: My uncle often lost his patience with the princess in public, but she never contradicted him; nor did she answer back in the same manner. Whereas, the Mirror reviewed the book True Grace: The Life And Times Of An American Princess by Wendy Leigh and found the author alleging that the former actress had affairs.
Concerned With Charities
In 1958, Kelly became the president of the Monegasque Red Cross. She then founded The World Association of Friends of Children, (AMADE) and in 1964, set up The Princess Grace Foundation, which helps local artists in Monaco and craftsmen make a living. She was asked to narrate the story of the Children of Theater Street, which is about the Kirov Ballet School in Leningrad. She also repaired a theatre in Monte Carlo which became known as the Tháâtre Princesse Grace. She toured both America and Europe reciting poetry in theatres in order to raise money for Her Princess Grace Foundation, Monaco. Just before her death she was working on the creation of another film called Rearranged.
Death of a Princess
Princess Grace died on 14 September, 1982, from a sustained stroke and cerebral haemorrhage after driving their Rover 3500 P4 accidentally off the winding roads of France leading to Monaco. Princess Stephanie, who was in the car with her, survived the ordeal and was rescued from the scene by a Frenchman. When asked whether Prince Rainier was with his wife when she died a palace spokesman said he was at her bedside practically without interruption from the time she was admitted to hospital.
The Princess of Monaco received a royal funeral at the Cathedral of St Nicholas in Monte Carlo, before being laid to rest in the Grimaldi family vault. Four hundred people attended the service, including film stars and people from foreign governments. Her daughter Stephanie, who was first thought to have only minor bruises, was found to be suffering from a cervical fracture and was too ill to attend.
As a tribute to the Princess a Rose Garden was created on 18 June, 1984, near the Fontvieille Park in Monaco and in 1993 she featured on a stamp created by the United States Postal Service. The Princess Grace Foundation was taken over by her daughter Caroline, Princess of Hanover.