Actress, Style Icon and Princess
Hi, I'm Kat!
What I am most passionate about is to inspire you to see that your life is your own and biggest masterpiece.
Cary Grant said about Grace Kelly when asked to name his all-time favorite co-star: „Well, with all due respect to dear Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace. She had serenity.“
Grace Kelly is one of the most known and beloved actresses of Old Hollywood and will live forever on as one of Hitchcock’s Blondes, as Princess Grace of Monaco, the name patron of one of the most expensive bags in history as well as a style icon.
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Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Her family is actually very interesting as I didn’t have any notion about them before.
First, there is her father – John B. Kelly Sr. who was of Irish origin with both his parents being Irish immigrants. He was a distinguished rower and won three Olympic gold medals. But he was not only very sporty, but also business-savvy. He owned a brickwork contracting company that was very successful on the East Coast of the US. Moreover, he was politically very active – first, in Philadelphia running for mayor and later being apppointed the National Director of Physical Fitness by President Roosevelt during World War II.
Her mother Margaret Majer, on the other hand was the daughter of German immigrants. And the funny or interesting thing about that is that her great-great-great-grandfather actually grew up in a town quite near me, he studied in schools that I frequented during my childhood years and he went to university in Tübingen which is very close and where basically my whole family has studied. So, it was fun to read that Grace Kelly actually comes from around my hood. Never would have guessed that. And, to top if off, Prof. Johann Christian Maier was a five-time rector of the university and connected to the noble families of von Plieningen, von Münchingen, von Bettendorf, von Nippenburg and von Roth. So, Swabian nobility it is. Her mother was a former cover-girl model and competitive swimmer – and the first woman to teach physical education at the University of Pennsylvania.
Other notable family members included her uncles on her father’s side – one was a vaudeville star and worked for MGM and Paramount, the other one was a dramatist, director and screenwriter that actually won the Pulitzer Prize. I mean – HELLO! What an accomplished family.
Grace Kelly was not an only child but had three siblings – two sister and one brother, the latter would go on to also become a price-winning rower and sportsman just like his father.
Grace was the one who did not fit in with her father’s aspiration for his children – she was not sporty, she was soft, she was not as academically ambitious, she was shy and liked to dream.
So, this is the family, Grace Kelly was born into.
She went to private schools and enjoyed participating in theatre groups, drama and dance programs. She also started modeling for charity events together with her mother and sister as a young girl.
Unfortunately, her grade’s weren’t that good, so Grace Kelly got rejected by Bennington University. Very much to the chagrin of her father, who disapproved of her choice to turn to acting instead. At the age of 18 Grace Kelly signed with a model agency and started to appear on magazine covers, in advertisements for bug sprays and cigarettes.
The movie business is and always has been a bit easier to get in when you knew someone. Same with Grace Kelly. Her uncle George Kelly, the one who won the Pulitzer Prize, helped her secure an audition of the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York, a spot in the program and probably also one of the first stage roles. He mentored her throughout her career. One of her co-students was director and actor John Cassavetes who said about her: “Isn’t it a shame she’s too shy ever to amount to anything?”
But, once you get in you gotta know what you’re doing to stay in!
Grace Kelly knew what she was doing and performed great during her studies and on stage in several plays, including the role of Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story – a play that she would later star in when it got adapted for the screen. After graduating she continued to work on the stage in several plays and was mentioned in the magazine „Theatre World“ as !a most promising personality of the Broadway stage of 1950“. But she also appeared on TV and got her first minor movie role in theTwentieh Century-Fox film „Fourteen Hour“. Apparently, she enchanted the crew with two things: First, she simply could not be filmed to look bad, she was always beautiful, and, secondly, she was always friendly and nice and never had a bad mood.
Cecil Beaton tried to explain why she had to become a star in the motives: “She has, most important of all, a nice nose for photography: flat, it hardly exists at all in profile.” This meant it wouldn’t cast shadows that could trouble the cameraman. Furthermore, Beaton writes, “all photogenic people have square faces.…[Grace’s] mouth, the tip of her nose, her nostrils—all are extremely sensitive. Their beauty is effective against the rugged background of the square face.“ One of her later lovers, Don Richardson, also said that her future was clearly in the movies not in the theatre – „Great looks and style, yes, but no vocal horsepower“. She had a high voice and actually worked hard at bringing her voice down quite a bit.
Although this minor film role got unnoticed by critics and did not much to advance her career, she got noticed in this movie by Gary Cooper. So, shortly, in 1952, after she was offered a role opposite Gary Cooper in the now legendary movie „High Noon“. The movie – great. Her acting – well, she wasn’t happy with it, and many of the critics neither. So, she went back to New York to take acting lessons and become a really great actress, whilst still working on the stage and on TV. Then, in spring of the same year that she filmed High Noon, Grace Kelly was flown to LA to test for John Ford’s Mogambo. John Ford saw her test and said: “This dame has breeding, quality and class.”
So, she got the job and signed a seven-year contract with a weekly salary of $850 – that is roughly $9500 today. That ain’t bad, right? She made two requests for the contract: To get time off every two years to still act on stage – and to be able to live in New York at her residence in Manhattan House. She was very much unlike other young actresses at that time. She was financially prudent and had financed her education in New York by modeling. She did not have to take any job or any director. Or as Edith Head would put it lateR: “She selects clothes and stories and directors with the same sureness. She’s always right.”
Mogambo was a hit and Grace Kelly received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That’s when Grace Kelly’s career really took up speed.
After Mogambo. Grace Kelly starred in only one for TV movie before being cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s „Dial M for Murder“ – one of the movies she got internationally recognized for. The next movie was The Bridges of Toko-Ri and then she already starred opposite James Stewart in „Rear Window“ – another Hitchcock movie and one of the most iconic Grace Kelly movies with a great focus on the elegance and beauty of Grace Kelly. Edith Head, who had already dressed Grace Kelly in the Bridges of Toko-Ri and who became a friend of Grace Kelly, was costume designer on this film as well.
Grace Kelly next demanded to be in the movie „The Country Girl“ opposite Bing Crosby, which meant that MGM had to lend her once again to Paramount Pictures – but Kelly threatened to leave the contract altogether if she was not allowed to star in this movie. And she got the role – as well as an Academy Award to top it off as Best Access – against nominee Judy Garland for „A Star is Born“. Moreover, she won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for her three movie roles in 1954: Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and The Country Girl. And also won the Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in a. Motion Picture – Drama. Next was „Green Fire“ opposite Stewart Granger and then her third and final film for Hitchcock – To Catch a Thief, filmed on the French Riviera opposite Cary Grant. Again Edith Head was the head designer and came up with some of the most iconic Grace Kelly looks.
Her last two movies were „The Swan“ opposite Alec Guiness and Louis Jourdan, and „The Philadelphia Story“ reprising her role as Tracy Lord opposite Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
All in all, she only starred in eleven motion pictures.
Hitchcock actually wanted Grace Kelly to star in Marnie, but Grace Kelly declined due to public pressure as she had already moved on to become a princess. And a traumatized cleptomaniac was not was her people wanted to see her in.
Love Life & Monaco
According to her biographies, Grace Kelly was not as prim and proper as the public wanted to believe. She was raised Catholic, but had an independent, well-educated spirit and was what Hitchcock called „a snow-covered volcano“ that loved sex and men. She did not have affairs with every man she met, but she was a hot-blooded woman, romantic and when she fell in love, she fell in love – whether that involved bed or not. Herr biographer and friend Gwen Robyns recounts one afternoon when they were talking about sex that Grace commented on it „It’s heaven“.
Grace dated fashion designer Oleg Cassini, when she was 25 years old right after he had divorced from actress Gene Tierney. They actually even got engaged.
But, then, Grace Kelly was part of the American delegation at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955 – only three short years after her supporting role in Mogambo, engaged to Oleg Cassini – and met Prince Rainier of Monaco. Apparently, the chemistry was sizzling and Grace Kelly ticked all the boxed to become the lawfully wedded wife of the 32 year old sovereign of the Principality of Monaco. Indeed, this weeding was very much needed for the principality. After World War II, the rich and famous had stayed clear of Monaco and the Casino was not pulling in money. The situation was so dire actually, that Artistoteles Onassis who had invested large sums of money in the little country, had asked his American connections to get a movie star over to marry Rainier to have a dream wedding, publicity and a good image. They proposed Marilyn Monroe – who was quite eager. But Rainier refused to get to know Marilyn personally – because of her not being Catholic, her former marriages as well as her sexed-up reputation. Grace Kelly on the other hand was glamour personified, catholic and had a virtuous image.
So, they fell in love and did have their dream wedding in 1956, when Grace Kelly was only 27 years old. It was probably one of the first mega-events on TV, followed by 30 million viewers worldwide. Her iconic wedding dress was designed by MGM designer Helen Rose and 36 couturiers and seamstresses worked on it for six weeks straight.
Life of a Princess & Philantropy
After a seven week honeymoon and a couple of months, Princess Caroline was born in 1957 and prince Albert a short year later. Daughter Stephanie was born seven years later in 1965.
As a princess, Grace stopped acting altogether but embraced the role of princess with all the this entailed, including primarily philanthropic work.
First and foremost, she became the president of the Red Cross of Monaco, as well as the Garden Club of Monaco and the Patron of the Rainbow Coalition Children – an orphanage by dancer Josephine Baker. She also founded AMADE Mondiale, an NGO that tries to help kids everywhere.
As a former actress, Princess Grace helped improve the art institutions of Monaco and supported local artisans with the Princess Glance Foundation that she founded in 1964.
She also became a member of La Leche League, the international support group that focuses on mothering through breastfeeding.
She also founded the Princess Grace Academy, the national Ballet School.
Fun thing – she hosted an annual American Week, where the guests played baseball, and the palace celebrated Thanksgiving every year without fail.
On September 13, 1982, when Princess Grace drove home to Monaco with her teenage daughter Stephanie, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage , lost control of her car and drove off the road down a mountainside. She got taken to the hospital but died the same day. Princess Stephanie had minor injuries but was unable to attend her mother’s funeral. Princess Grace died at age 52.
Grace Kelly is known for being one of the most glamorous and elegant actresses and women ever and has basically been on every best-dressed list ever since her movie days.
Her style was prim and proper with white gloves, natural make-up and an overall elegant freshness. In 1955, Kelly got photographed by Howell Conant in Jamaica without makeup and in nature. No stylized studio portrait, but real beauty.
Many artists like Andy Warhol or James Gill based her on Canvas and paper and fashion trends got inspired by her and Edith Head’s fashion impact.
The iconic Hermes Bag that carries her name is one of the most coveted fashion items in the world with a long waiting list. The story behind it: Princess Grace was pregnant with her first child and wanted to shield her growing bump from the paparazzi – so she carried this rather large leather bag with her everywhere she went and held it in front of her belly. Later on it got the official name. And – apparently – she just walked by the shopping windows of Hermes and was just taken by the beauty of the bag and exclaimed I need that bag. Well, that’s how it goes.
Prince’s Grace’s style was so eternal that she also collaborated with a bed-linen brand with a line that was titled GPK. All in all Grace earned more than $1 million in royalties that she would donate to charities.
Many designers and dresses are inspired by Grace Kelly’s style on and off-screen. From Tommy Hilfiger and Alessandra Michele, Oscar de la Renta and Mad Men – they all got inspired by her unique and glamorous style.
But her style was all the more desiring because she was pretty reserved about her private life, she was always seemingly above others, but at the same time well-mannered, kind and warm. This together with her sexual elegance as Hitchcock put it and her impeccable style of dressing made her the eternal epitome of style.
Her face, described by Beaton, to be perfect for the camera as well as her ballerina-trained walk gave her the allure of being more than a mortal. She was a true princess.
With all my love!