Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982) was an American actress who, after starring in several significant films in the early to mid-1950s, became Princess of Monaco by marrying Prince Rainier III in April 1956.
Kelly was born into a well-known Catholic family of Irish and German origin in the U.S city of Philadelphia. After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1949, Kelly began appearing in New York City theatrical productions and over 40 live drama productions broadcast in early 1950s Golden Age of Television. She gained stardom from her performance in John Ford's adventure-romance Mogambo (1953), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the drama The Country Girl (1954). Other notable works include the western High Noon (1952), the romantic comedy High Society (1956), and three consecutive Alfred Hitchcock suspense thrillers: Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch a Thief (1955). Kelly worked with some of the most prominent leading men of the era, including Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ray Milland, James Stewart, Bing Crosby, William Holden, Cary Grant, Alec Guinness, and Frank Sinatra.
Kelly retired from acting at age 26 to marry Rainier, and began her duties as Princess of Monaco. Her final film contribution was in 1977 to the documentary The Children of Theatre Street directed by Robert Dornhelm, where she served as the narrator. The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Princess Grace retained her link to America by her dual U.S. and Monégasque citizenship.
Hitchcock hoped that she would appear in more of his films which required an "icy blonde" lead actress, but he was unable to coax her out of retirement. The Prince and Princess had three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie.
Her charity work focused on young children and the arts, establishing the Princess Grace Foundation to support local artisans in 1964. Her organization for children's rights, AMADE Mondiale, gained consultive status within UNICEF and UNESCO.
Kelly died at the age of 52 at Monaco Hospital on September 14, 1982, from injuries sustained in a car crash the previous day. She is listed 13th among the American Film Institute's 25 Greatest Female Stars of Classical Hollywood Cinema. Her son, Prince Albert, helped establish the Princess Grace Awards in 1984 to recognize emerging performers in film, theatre, and dance.
Grace Kelly was born on November 12, 1929, at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an affluent and influential family. Her father, John B. Kelly Sr. was born to Irish immigrants and won three Olympic gold medals for sculling. He also owned a successful brickwork contracting company that was well known on the East Coast. As Democratic nominee in the 1935 election for Mayor of Philadelphia, he lost by the closest margin in the city's history. In later years he served on the Fairmount Park Commission and, during World War II, was appointed by President Roosevelt as National Director of Physical Fitness. His brother Walter C. Kelly was a vaudeville star, who also made films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures, and his another brother named George was a Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist, screenwriter, and director.
Kelly's mother, Margaret Majer, had German parents. Margaret had taught physical education at the University of Pennsylvania and had been the first woman to coach women's athletics at Penn. She also modeled for a time in her youth. After marrying John B. Kelly in 1924, Margaret focused on being a homemaker until all her children were of school age, following which she began actively participating in various civic organizations.
Kelly had two older siblings, Margaret and John Jr., and a younger sister, Elizabeth. The children were raised in the Catholic faith.
Kelly grew up in a small, close-knit Catholic community. She was baptized and received her elementary education in the parish of Saint Bridget's in East Falls. While attending Ravenhill Academy, a reputable Catholic girls' school, Kelly modeled fashions at local charity events with her mother and sisters.
In 1942, at the age of 12, she played the lead in Don't Feed the Animals, a play produced by the Old Academy Players also in East Falls. In May 1947, she graduated from Stevens School, a socially prominent private institution in nearby Chestnut Hill, where she participated in drama and dance programs. Her graduation yearbook listed her favorite actress as Ingrid Bergman and her favorite actor as Joseph Cotten.
Despite her parents' initial disapproval, Kelly decided to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress.
To start her career, she auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, using a scene from her uncle George Kelly's The Torch-Bearers (1923). Although the school had already met its semester quota, she obtained an interview with the admissions department, and was admitted through George's influence. Kelly worked diligently, and practiced her speech by using a tape recorder. Her early acting pursuits led her to the stage, and she made her Broadway debut in Strindberg's The Father, alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story. Her uncle would continue to advise and mentor Kelly throughout her acting career.
At her father's insistence, she lived at the Barbizon Hotel for Women in Manhattan. She was hired as a model by the John Robert Powers agency, where some of her first modeling jobs were doing commercials for bug spray and cigarettes. Kelly was reportedly "fond of dancing to Hawaiian music down the hallways of the Barbizon, and given to shocking her fellow residents by performing topless." She later wrote that she had "wonderful memories of the three years I spent at the Barbizon."
Television producer Delbert Mann cast Grace Kelly as the lead in an adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel "Bethel Merriday"; this was her first of nearly sixty live television programs. As a theater personality, she was mentioned in Theatre World magazine as: "[a] most promising personality of the Broadway stage of 1950." Some of her well-known works as a theater actress were: The Father, The Rockingham Tea Set, The Apple Tree, The Mirror of Delusion, Episode (for Somerset Maugham's tele-serial), among others.
Impressed by her work in The Father, Henry Hathaway, director of the Twentieth Century-Fox film Fourteen Hours (1951), offered her a small role in the film. Kelly had a minor role as a young woman contemplating divorce. Following the release of this film, the "Grace Kelly Fan Club" was established, gaining popularity across the country with local chapters springing up and attracting many members. Kelly referred to her fan club as "terrifically amusing".
Kelly's performance in Fourteen Hours went largely unnoticed by critics, and did not contribute to her film career's momentum. She continued her work in the theater and on television.
Grace Kelly was performing at Colorado's Elitch Theatre, when producer Stanley Kramer offered her a role co-starring opposite Gary Cooper in Fred Zinnemann's High Noon (1952), a Western filmed in Columbia, California. She accepted the role, and the film was shot in the late summer and early fall of 1951 over a 28-day shooting schedule in hot weather conditions. She was cast as a "young Quaker bride to Gary Cooper's stoic Marshall", and wore a "suitably demure vaguely Victorian dress", alongside Cooper, who was 28 years her senior. The movie was released in the summer of 1952. High Noon garnered four Academy Awards, and has since been ranked by some reviewers among the best films of all time.
After filming High Noon, Kelly returned to New York City and took private acting lessons, keen to be taken seriously as an actress. She performed in a few dramas in the theater, and in TV serials. She appeared in several television plays, and screen-tested for the film Taxi in the spring of 1952. Director John Ford noticed Kelly in the screen test, and his studio flew her out to Los Angeles to audition in September 1952. Ford said that Kelly showed "breeding, quality, and class". She was given the role, along with a seven-year contract at the relatively low salary of $850 a week. Kelly signed the deal under two conditions: first, that one out of every two years, she had time off to work in the theatre; and second, that she be able to live in New York City at her residence in Manhattan House, at 200 E. 66th Street.(now a landmark).
In November 1952, Kelly and the cast arrived in Nairobi to begin the production of the film Mogambo, replacing Gene Tierney, who dropped out at the last minute due to personal issues.
Kelly later told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, "Mogambo had three things that interested me: John Ford, Clark Gable, and a trip to Africa, with expenses paid. If Mogambo had been made in Arizona, I wouldn't have done it." Kelly played Linda Nordley, a contemplative English wife with a romantic interest in Clark Gable's character. Filming took place over the course of three months. The costumes were designed by Helen Rose. The film was released in 1953, and had a successful run at the box office. Kelly won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, and received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
After the success of Mogambo, Kelly starred in the television play The Way of an Eagle with Jean-Pierre Aumont, before being cast in the film adaptation of Frederick Knott's Broadway hit Dial M for Murder, opposite Ray Milland and Robert Cummings. Kelly played the role of the wealthy wife of a retired professional tennis player.
Director Alfred Hitchcock, who had also seen her during her Taxi screen test, would become one of Kelly's mentors during the last years of her career. She was subsequently loaned by MGM to work in several Hitchcock films, which would become some of her most critically acclaimed and recognized work.
Kelly began filming scenes for her next film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, in early 1954, with William Holden, for Paramount Pictures. The story, based on the novel by James Michener, is about American Navy jet fighters stationed to fight in Asia. Kelly plays the role of Holden's wife. Famed dress designer Edith Head did her costumes, with whom she had established a friendly relationship.
Kelly unhesitatingly turned down the opportunity to star alongside Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954). Eva Marie Saint, who replaced her, went on to win an Academy Award for the role. Instead, she committed to the role of Lisa Fremont in Rear Window.
The role of Lisa Fremont, a wealthy Manhattan socialite and fashion model who "never wore the same dress twice", was unlike any of the previous women she had played. This marked her first performance as an independent career woman. In line with their previous collaborations, Alfred Hitchcock brought her elegance to the foreground by changing her dresses many times, including: "glamorous evening short dresses, a sheer negligee over a sleek nightgown, a full-skirted floral dress, and a casual pair of jeans". Upon the film's opening in October 1954, Kelly was again praised.
Grace Kelly played the role of Bing Crosby's long-suffering wife, Georgie Elgin, in The Country Girl (1954), after a pregnant Jennifer Jones bowed out. Already familiar with the play, Kelly was highly interested in the part. MGM once again would have to lend Kelly to Paramount Pictures. Kelly also negotiated a more lucrative contract in light of her recent success. In the film, Kelly played the wife of a washed-up, alcoholic singer, played by Bing Crosby. Her character becomes torn emotionally between her two lovers, played by Crosby and William Holden. She was again dressed by Edith Head to suit her role in the film, initially appearing in fashionable dresses, shifting to ordinary-looking cardigans toward the end of the film.
As a result of her performance in The Country Girl, Kelly won the Academy Award for Best Actress. After receiving the Oscar nomination, Kelly won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for best actress for her performances in her three big movie roles of 1954: Rear Window, Dial M For Murder, and The Country Girl. At the Golden Globe Awards in 1955, Kelly won the Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.
In April 1954, Kelly flew to Colombia for a 10-day shoot on her next project, Green Fire, with Stewart Granger. She played Catherine Knowland, a coffee plantation owner. Then she flew to the French Riviera to work on her third, and last, film for Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief. Lent to Paramount for the fifth time, Kelly played the role of a temptress who wears "luxurious and alluring clothes", while Cary Grant played the role of a former cat burglar, then looking to catch a thief who is imitating him.
Kelly and Grant developed a mutual bond and admiration for one another. Years later, when asked to name his all-time favorite actress, Cary Grant replied: "Well, with all due respect to dear Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace. She had serenity."
In 1956, Kelly resided in a home rented from Bill Lear in the Pacific Palisades, California for the duration of the filming of her next film The Swan, directed by Charles Vidor. She portrayed Princess Alexandra, opposite Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdan.
Grace Kelly's final role was in Charles Walters's musical film High Society, a re-make of MGM's The Philadelphia Story (1940). She portrayed Tracy Lord, opposite Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. When it was released in July 1956.
Kelly headed the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival in April 1955. While there, she was invited to participate in a photo session with Prince Rainier III, the sovereign of the Principality of Monaco, at the Prince's Palace of Monaco about 55 km away from Cannes. After a series of delays and complications, she met him at the palace on May 6, 1955.
After a year-long courtship, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in April 1956.
The Napoleonic Code of Monaco and the laws of the Catholic Church necessitated two ceremonies – both a civil and a religious wedding. The 16-minute civil ceremony took place in the Palace Throne Room of Monaco on April 18, 1956, and a reception later in the day was attended by 3,000 Monégasque citizens.
To cap the ceremony, the 142 official titles that she acquired in the union (counterparts of her husband's) were formally recited. The church ceremony took place the following day at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral, presided over by Bishop Gilles Barthe. The wedding was estimated to have been watched by over 30 million viewers on TV.
Her wedding dress, designed by MGM's Academy Award-winning Helen Rose, was worked on for 6 weeks by three dozen dress makers.The Prince and Princess left that night for their seven-week Mediterranean honeymoon cruise on his yacht, Deo Juvante II.
Princess Grace gave birth to the couple's first child, Princess Caroline, on January 23, 1957. Their next child and the heir to the throne, Prince Albert, was born on March 14, 1958. Their youngest, Princess Stéphanie, was born on February 1, 1965.
During her marriage, Grace demurred from continuing her acting career. Instead, she performed her daily duties as princess and became involved in philanthropic work. As princess consort, she became the patron of the Red Cross of Monaco and Rainbow Coalition Children, an orphanage which was run by former dancer Josephine Baker. The Princess also served as president of the Garden Club of Monaco, and president of the organizing committee of the International Arts Foundation.
Grace founded AMADE Mondiale, a Monaco-based, non-profit organization which is recognized by the UN, after she witnessed the plight of Vietnamese children in 1963.
Princess Grace was active in improving the arts institutions of Monaco, forming the Princess Grace Foundation in 1964 to support local artisans.
In 1975, Grace helped found the Princess Grace Academy, the resident school of the Monte Carlo Ballet. She later advocated to preserve the Belle Époque-era architecture of the principality.
Alfred Hitchcock offered Princess Grace the lead in his film Marnie in 1962. She was eager, but public outcry in Monaco against her involvement in a film where she would play a kleptomaniac made her reconsider and ultimately reject the project. Director Herbert Ross also tried to interest her in a part in his film The Turning Point (1977), but Rainier dismissed the idea. Later that year, she returned to the arts in a series of poetry readings on stage and narration of the documentary The Children of Theatre Street. She also narrated ABC's made-for-television film The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966).
Grace joined the board of the 20th C.-Fox Film Corporation in 1976, becoming one of its first female members. In 1980, she published "My Book of Flowers" with Gwen Robyns, detailing her sense of floral aesthetics, symbolism, and flower pressing. Grace and Rainier worked together on a 33-minute independent film titled Rearranged in 1979, which received interest from ABC TV executives in 1982 after its premiere in Monaco, on the condition that it be extended to an hour. Before more scenes could be shot, Grace died and the film was never released, nor was it publicly shown again.
In the early 1980s, Grace collaborated with Springmaid Company, the now-defunct bed linen brand, after a newly hired Springmaid stylist Neil Mandell, found the designs Grace made in a People magazine article on the exhibition in a Paris Gallery.
The collaboration was titled GPK after the initials of her maiden name and features bed linens, tablecloths, napkins, placemats, and others. Princess Grace received more than $1 million in royalties, which she donated to her favorite charities.
On September 13, 1982, Grace Kelly suffered a small stroke while driving back to Monaco from her country home in Roc Agel. As a result, she lost control of her 1971 Rover P6 3500 and drove off the steep, winding road and down the 120-foot (37 m) mountainside. Her teenage daughter Stéphanie, who was in the passenger seat, tried but failed to regain control of the car. The Princess was taken to the Monaco Hospital (later named the Princess Grace Hospital Centre) with injuries to the brain and thorax and a fractured femur. She died the following night at 10:55 p.m. after Rainier decided to turn off her life support.
Princess Grace's funeral was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate in Monaco-Ville, on September 18, 1982. After a Requiem Mass, she was buried in the Grimaldi family vault. Over 400 people attended, including Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan, Danielle Mitterrand, Empress Farah of Iran, and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Prince Rainier, who did not remarry, was buried alongside her after his death in 2005.