Old Gold

L to R: Model Grace Kelly snaps a photo.  Princess Grace & Prince Ranier wedding portrait.  Grace Kelly publicity still.

L to R: Model Grace Kelly snaps a photo.  Princess Grace & Prince Ranier wedding portrait.  Grace Kelly publicity still.

“Isn’t it a shame she’s too shy ever to amount to anything?” classmate John Cassavetes remembered wondering about Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly enjoyed what would today be termed “a privileged childhood.” On November 12, 1929 (the same year that Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Onassis were born) Grace Patricia Kelly was born at Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital. Baptized at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, Kelly attended Ravenhill Academy for girls (since purchased by Philadelphia College) and completed her high school education at Germantown’s more socially prominent Stevens School. Kelly debuted on stage at the Old Academy Theater in East Falls. By the time she was fourteen years of age, she had performed in six shows there including Craig’s Wife. (Craig’s Wife was written by Kelly’s uncle, playwright George Kelly, and garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1926. First made a movie starring Rosalind Russell, the play was adapted again, renamed, and remade as a Joan Crawford vehicle, Harriet Craig [1950] to become irresistible movie fare). After her high school graduation from the Stevens School, Kelly attended New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As classmate John Cassavetes remembered her there, Kelly was a serious student, a reader, who wore inconspicuous clothes, sensible shoes, and thick reading glasses.

The summer of 1949 after returning home from the American Academy, Grace appeared first in a local revival of her Uncle George’s comedy, The Torch Bearers, then in The Heiress at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. That fall she returned to New York to make her Broadway debut at the Court Theatre, playing the daughter of Strindberg’s The Father

Working in New York as an actress and model, during the following year, Kelly became the face of Old Gold cigarettes in a national campaign. In 1951 Grace Kelly landed her first movie with a small role in 20th Century Fox’s Fourteen Hours (1951). 

The following year she starred opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952); then opposite King of the Movies Clark Gable in John Ford’s Mogambo (1953), her first Oscar nomination. In 1954, the most monumental year of her astronomical career, she starred with Ray Milland in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, with Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, with Stewart Granger in Green Fire, with William Holden in Bridges at Toko-Ri, and with Bing Crosby in The Country Girl—for which she was awarded the Best Actress Oscar. Also in 1954 she met Prince Rainier in Monte Carlo during the location shooting of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955). 

Edith Head’s Costumes for Grace Kelly, To Catch A Thief

Edith Head’s Costumes for Grace Kelly, To Catch A Thief

Co-starring with Cary Grant thirty years her senior, ten separate costumes were designed for Kelly by Edith Head for this film. Set on the French Riviera and an obvious contender for the most stylish film ever produced, To Catch a Thief presents Kelly as having absolutely no competition to be Alfred Hitchcock’s “Volcano covered with snow” as well as the Motion Picture History’s classic Ice Goddess.  The following year Kelly played a Society bride with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in High Society (1956), the Cole Porter musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story (1940), a Princess opposite Alec Guinness in The Swan (1956), and then left Hollywood that same year to marry a prince. Busy Girl. 

At her 1956 wedding (Kelly chose to marry in the Cathedral of her adopted country), the Pastor of St Bridget’s witnessed the wedding in Monaco while the Kellys paid to have St Bridget’s church ceiling in East Falls painted to replicate Monaco’s St Nicholas Cathedral. Grace Kelly’s bridal gown, designed by MGM’s Helen Rose, has inspired six decades of wedding gowns including the wedding dress of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Kelly’s gown is now in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

The screen’s hottest picnic: Francie Stevens (Kelly) and John Robie, “The Cat” (Grant) in her Sunbeam-Talbot Alpine Sports Mk I roadster. To Catch A Thief (1955)  

The screen’s hottest picnic: Francie Stevens (Kelly) and John Robie, “The Cat” (Grant) in her Sunbeam-Talbot Alpine Sports Mk I roadster. To Catch A Thief (1955)
 

I am a dolt in mathematics, but I figure in adjusted 2016 box office tallies, Grace Kelly films of her six-year movie career grossed a total of more than $1.25 billion. Eighty-nine women have won the Best Actress Oscar to date. In US history, 32 American women have made royal marriages. But the list of women who generated more than a billion dollars in their careers, won the Oscar, became a Princess, and were the most beautiful woman on the screen—by the time they were 26 years old—totals one: Grace Kelly. 

“Speak for yourself, John.”