Grace Kelly was an actress whose cool, aloof exterior belied an alluring sexuality. Her Hollywood career was brief--just five years--but her impact was considerable, due to both the quality of her work and the manner in which she left the film industry, exchanging the make-believe royalty of Hollywood for a real-life prince--Rainier III of Monaco. Born in 1928, Kelly came from an accomplished family. Her father, Jack Kelly, was a rich businessman and a one-time world champion oarsman. Her mother had been a model and a cover girl. Her uncle, George Kelly, a playwright, won a Pulitzer Prize for penning Craig's Wife.
The young girl was first touched by the acting bug when she was 10 years old, appearing in a local (Philadelphia) play. After her education in elite private schools, Kelly set off for New York to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a model. At the same time, she also took acting classes. After appearing in cigarette commercials on TV, she had her first big break, appearing in a 1949 Broadway revival of August Strindberg's The Father.
Kelly's first film appearance was little more than a walk-on in Fourteen Hours (1951), but in spite of her inexperience as a film or theater actress, she was next thrust into the female lead as Gary Cooper's Quaker wife in High Noon (1952). The film was a major hit, saving Cooper's career and launching Kelly's. In her very next movie, Mogambo (1953), a remake of Red Dust (1932), she played the part of the prim wife, which had once been played by Mary Astor, and garnered a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Her career was in high gear and moving ever faster.
1954 was the best year of her career. She starred in four films, all successful at the box office, three critically acclaimed. Though Green Fire was forgettable, she triumphed in two Alfred Hitchcock hits, Dial M for Murder with Ray Milland and Robert Cummings, and Rear Window opposite James Stewart, plus the film for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress, The Country Girl, playing against type as the bitter wife of an alcoholic (Bing Crosby, in what was also one of his best performances).
Kelly starred in but four more films, The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955), To Catch a Thief (1955) with Cary Grant, The Swan (1956), and her only musical, High Society (1956), with Crosby again. During location shooting in the south of France for Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, Kelly met Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Her storybook wedding might have provided the perfect ending for a Hollywood movie, but Kelly's real end was tragic. In 1982, at the age of 54, Princess Grace died in an automobile accident along the treacherous roads of the French Riviera near her principality. A question remains concerning whether she or her daughter, Princess Stephanie, was actually at the wheel when the car went out of control and plunged off the road.
--SCOTT & BARBARA SIEGEL, from
The Encyclopedia of Hollywood.
A selection of Grace Kelly films.
Find Grace Kelly on eBay.com
A selection of Grace Kelly in books.
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