Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
November 12, 1977
Currently Known For:
Princess of Monaco and actress
“Mr. Hitchcock taught me everything about cinema. It was thanks to him that I understood that murder scenes should be shot like love scenes and love scenes should be shot like murder scenes.” The daughter of an affluent and influential family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 to a former Olympic gold medalist named John B. Kelly, Sr. and his wife, Margaret, a women’s athletics coach at the University of Pennsylvania. From an early age, there was something special about Kelly as she stood out from her peers at the prestigious Ravenhill Academy, an all-girls Catholic school. During this time, she joined her mother and sisters as a fashion model and, at 12 years old, landed her first starring role as the lead in the East Falls Old Academy Players production of Don’t Feed the Animals.
In 1947, Kelly graduated from the Stevens School and, after years of dancing and acting, was determined to make a career on the stage with even a section in the school’s history books—what would be a modern-day yearbook—titled the “Stevens’ Prophecy” projecting Kelly’s future as “Miss Grace P. Kelly—a famous star of stage and screen.” Rejected by Bennington College thanks to poor math scores, Kelly convinced her parents to let her pursue acting full-time and, despite her father’s disapproval, she auditioned for a spot with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Although the college had already filled the spots, Kelly made such an impact during her audition and interview that they created a spot for her as she moved into the Barbizon Hotel for Women and worked as a model by day to pay her tuition.
Kelly made her Broadway debut in The Father and starred as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story before she found success on television and appeared in over 60 live television programs during what’s now known as the Golden Age of Television. She eventually made her way to the silver screen after snagging a role in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours but didn’t truly make a name for herself until 1953 when she gave a stellar performance opposite Clark Gable and Ava Gardner in Mogambo. Earning a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for her performance, she signed a seven-year contract with MGM earning $850 per week and went on to star in films like The Country Girl opposite Bing Crosby, Dial M for Murder opposite Ray Milland, Rear Window opposite James Stewart, To Catch a Thief opposite Cary Grant, and High Society opposite Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Amid her growing success on the silver screen, Kelly’s acting career took a new turn in 1955 when she attended the Cannes Film Festival where she was invited to a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier III. Although she was dating French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont at the time, her chemistry with Prince Rainier III was undeniable and, upon her return to America, she maintained a private correspondence with the Prince as she worked on The Swan, a film where, believe it or not, she played a princess. Before long, the correspondence simply wasn’t enough and, by December 1955, Rainier landed in New York City to start a two-month tour of America, which many critics argued was his cover to look for a wife and produce an heir to the throne to maintain Monaco’s independence. Luckily, Rainier already had the perfect wife in mind.
Upon his arrival, Rainier held a press conference but denied the accusations that he was looking for a wife. When the question was reworded as, “If you were pursuing a wife, what kind would you like,” Rainier replied, “I don’t know—the best.” Coincidentally, Kelly had just finished promoting her last film, High Society, where she wore her own engagement ring and even sang a duet with Big Crosby called “True Love.” Behind the scenes, Kelly’s whirlwind romance with Rainier unfolded overnight as he stepped foot on American soil and, just three days after meeting her family, officially proposed. Once she accepted, their families started preparations for what the media soon referred to as “the wedding of the century!”
Preparations for the wedding were elaborate as the Palace of Monaco itself received an entire renovation in preparation for the future princess. The wedding itself was held on April 18, 1956 with over 600 guests in attendance including Cary Grant, Aristotle Onassis, Ava Gardner, Conrad Hilton, and Gloria Swanson. “It was such an incredible affair and it left such a mark on people,” Prince Albert II, the couple’s son and only heir, told People magazine during a 2017 interview. “What it has meant for people has been incredible. For us, it was—and you’ll have to ask my sisters—Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie—for us it was our parents getting married. But what it meant for Monaco, for people around the world, and how their story continues to fascinate people, that’s something unimaginable.”
The ceremony was a complete fairytale and began with a civil ceremony on April 18 that lasted 15 minutes and was followed by a 25-minute recitation of the 140 titles that Kelly acquired through marriage. At the ceremony, Kelly wore a two-piece light pink taffeta dress overlaid with champagne lace designed by Hollywood wardrobe designer Helen Rose as a gift from MGM. On April 19, the couple held a religious ceremony that began as Kelly made her way to Monaco’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Decorated with thousands of white lilacs and lilies of the value, the ceremony was absolutely stunning as Kelly wore one of the most famous wedding gowns of all time. “Fit for a princess, it was a creation of 300 yards of antique Belgian lace and 150 yards of silk, taffeta, and tulle created by 30 studio seamstresses,” People reported.
Following the ceremony, the couple honeymooned on a seven-week Mediterranean cruise and later returned to the Palace of Monaco where they quickly started a family with the birth of Princess Caroline in January 1957, Prince Albert in March 1958, and Princess Stéphanie in February 1965. Although Alfred Hitchcock tried to lure Kelly back into the film world with a leading role in Marnie, she ultimately declined the offer and, instead, focused on smaller projects including documentary narrations and poetry readings. She even worked with Rainier on a half-hour independent film called Rearranged, which was so well-received that ABC executives invited the duo to extend the film to an hour. However, the project was never finished.
At only 52 years old on September 13, 1982, Kelly was driving back to her country home in Monaco with her daughter Stephanie in the car when she suffered a stroke and lost control of the vehicle. Although Stephanie tried to gain control of the car, it was far too late as the 1971 Rover P6 3500 veered off a cliff and fell 120-feet below. Both mother and daughter were rushed to the local Monaco Hospital—now named Princess Grace Hospital Centre—where doctors confirmed Kelly suffered severe injuries to her brain and thorax in addition to fracturing her femur. Within 24 hours, there was little left to do as Kelly took her final breath leaving behind Rainier and their three children. Because Stephanie suffered a hairline fracture in her cervical vertebra as well as a mild concussion, she was unable to attend her mother’s funeral on September 18, 1982.
At her funeral, actor James Stewart delivered the eulogy that truly embodied Kelly’s legacy and beauty. “I just love Grace Kelly,” he said. “Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met. Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own. No question, I’ll miss her, we’ll all miss her. God bless you, Princess Grace.”
Rainier never remarried and, upon his death in 2005, was buried next to his wife. Today, both Kelly’s and Rainier’s legacy live on in their three children with Albert II, Prince of Monaco, now the reigning patriarch of the country the family has lovingly called home for centuries.