Hollywood’s Princess

29Oct09

Published in the Ireland’s Eye Magazine

Hollywood’s Princess

Hollywood's Princess

Princess Grace of Monaco

On January, 10 1956 she stunned her friends, colleagues and the world by announcing she was leaving Hollywood forever. During the Christmas of 1956, Grace Kelly phoned her mother and told her she planned to marry ‘Prince Rainier of Monaco’ She was at the pinnacle of her popularity in Hollywood at this time, she stood on her own in the film industry and had a reputation as being a refined, religious, accomplished actress. Grace was born on November 12, 1929 and was the third of five children born to Jack and Margaret Kelly. She grew up in Philadelphia, her father Jack was a successful businessman who placed a lot of emphasis on his family’s pristine image and their material achievements. Her mother Margaret was devoutly religious and determined to maintain their standing within the community.

When Grace was eighteen she moved to New-York to study at ‘The Academy of Dramatic Arts, her parents were unimpressed with her choice of career, but she was adamant that she wanted to become an actress. Initially when Grace graduated from the academy, finding acting work was much more difficult than she had anticipated. After a string of small stage and TV parts Grace secured a minor role in a film called ‘Fourteen Hours’. Although this role did not make her famous it did lead to her next more promising part.
This role was in a film with ‘Gary Cooper’, it was a western called ‘High Noon’. She was largely disappointed with her performance in this film and felt sure it would not further her career ambitions. However Grace’s Co-Star became very smitten with her. They fell in love and a romantic involvement followed.
It was only after Grace worked with Alfred Hitchcock, that her true potential began to shine. Although there was no romantic involvement between them, Hitchcock was quite taken by Graces apparent beauty, poise and her pristine image. He guided her and helped mould her into the powerful presence she became.

Grace made three movies with Alfred Hitchcock, all were successful the first film was the classic ‘Dial M for Murder. Grace was cast as an adulterous wife whose husband tries to kill her. During this film she embarked on another relationship with her Co-Star Ray Milland.

Under Alfred Hitchcocks guidance Grace became a Hollywood sensation and their other films together ‘Rear Window’ and ‘To Catch a Thief,’ were undeniable successes.

In 1955, Grace’s career reached new heights when she won an Oscar for her role as the harassed wife of an alcoholic in ‘The Country Girl’. Her Co-Star in the film was Bing Crosby. There was strong mutual attraction between them and a romantic liaison followed the making of the film. Following this affair and other publicised indiscretions, Grace became disturbed by the amount of bad media publicity she was receiving and this made her vow to be more discreet about who she dated.

Grace’s initial meeting with Prince Rainier of Monaco was intended as a publicity stunt. It was a Media suggestion to create a story that would heighten the Public’s interest in the world renowned ‘Cannes Film Festival’.
As Grace had just won an Oscar it was agreed her presence would be the highlight of the festival. Therefore it was decided a meeting between Grace Kelly and Europe’s most eligible bachelor could not fail to cause a media sensation.

When Prince Rainier and Grace did meet they did not fail to make quite an impression on each other. The Prince asked Grace if he could pay her a visit on his next trip to America. Grace was fascinated by the Prince and readily agreed.

Their courtship turned out to be an immensely short one and after visiting Grace and being introduced to her family all during the Christmas of 1956, a formal announcement was on the 10th of January 1957, that Grace Kelly and the Prince had decided to marry.

Although there was much made of ‘The Fairytale Wedding’, a lot went on behind the scenes before the wedding could go ahead. It was necessary for Grace to have a fertility test to prove her ability to give the Principality of Monaco, a suitable heir. Also there was the question of a dowry. Although Prince Rainier had a substantial amount of valuable property it was a little known fact that he was going through a cash flow crisis. Jack Kelly was obliged to pay Prince Rainier 2 million dollars for the marriage of his daughter. Had he been a less proud man, he might have refused, but for the working class Kelly’s, the prospect of their daughter marrying a Prince was the social advancement they had strived towards all their lives.

From the moment the wedding plans were announced the media followed Grace’s every move. Monaco became over run with enthusiastic journalists who wanted to miss nothing of ‘The Fairytale Romance’ story. The wedding itself was every bit as flamboyant and extravagant as any bride could wish for. Grace’s gown was designed by MGM’s personal Designer, and it was the most expensive gown MGM had ever paid for.

The dress was made from 125-year old rose point lace, twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, and one hundred yards of silk net. Thousands of tiny pearls had been painstakingly sewn into the veil. The gown emphasised Grace’s slim figure perfectly and she looked every inch a princess.

When the glitz and glamour of the Wedding had subsided and the honeymoon cruise had ended, reality began to sink in for the first time. Grace realised she was living in a strange country, with only minimal knowledge of the language. Prince Rainier’s family were of little help to Grace as it became apparent they did not approve of her. Grace’s husband had little understanding of her dilemma as he was caught up in the trials and tribulations of running Monaco. Grace became very lonely and yearned for her carefree Hollywood days.
The birth of Grace’s children brought some respite from her feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Her first child was Princess Caroline and was followed less than fourteen months later by the birth of Prince Albert. Grace took to motherhood passionately and strived to give her children as normal an upbringing as possible.

The financial outlook of Monaco became much more positive after Prince Rainier’s marriage to Grace. It created worldwide interest in the small country and tourists flocked there, in their thousands. It once again became the exclusive gambling capital of the world.

Grace undoubtedly missed her acting life and received a couple of offers to return to Hollywood. In 1960 MGM offered her a role in their Upcoming film ‘King of Kings’, in which she would play the Virgin Mary. Prince Rainier said it would not be an appropriate role for her. Grace was inconsolable and she spent a long time trying to recover from her obvious disappointment.
Another film offer came in 1962 when her old friend Alfred Hitchcock wanted her to star in a film called ‘Marnie’. Surprisingly for Grace, her husband agreed. Prince Rainier could see she needed something to lift her ever-declining mood. Monaco’s residents however, were appalled at the announcement. After a lot of controversy over the issue, Grace felt she was left with little option but to decline the offer.

She tried to hide her disappointment by immersing herself in her involvement with Monaco’s many charities and associations. In 1965 she gave birth to another daughter, her third child Princess Stephanie, so once again she took her role of motherhood very seriously.
The third film offer came in 1976 the film was called ‘The Turning Point.’ Once again Grace felt unable to accept. It was now more than twenty years since making her last film and she was left feeling very depressed. Her lack of self-fulfilment along with her deepening resentment for her husband’s lack of understanding, caused an undeniable rift in their marriage.

After this Grace began making collages out of the many beautiful flowers she picked during her many walks around Monaco. This led to her holding an exhibition in1977 and in 1980 her collection was published in a book called ‘My Book of Flowers’. In 1977 Grace did get her only other chance to stand behind a camera. She starred as a narrator in a documentary called ‘The Children of Theatre Street’.

She also got the opportunity to perform poetry readings and toured as a reader of American Poetry. Prince Rainier was not pleased at her spending so much time away from Monaco and it caused further turmoil in their marriage.
Grace died in September 1982. She was fifty-two years old. Her family were devastated at her untimely death. Even today nobody has equalled her unique appeal. It is ironic that her greatest acting role turned out to be her life as Princess Grace of Monaco.

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