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aka Grace Kelly
Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 12, 1929, the third child of Margaret Katherine (Majer), a phys ed instructor, and John Brendan Kelly, Sr., a three-time Olympic Gold winner for rowing and successful construction company owner; the family included an older sister, older brother, and a younger sister. After completing her primary education at Ravenhill Academy, she attended Stevens School in Germantown, Philadelphia, from which she graduated in 1947. Her classmates at Stevens predicted, in her senior yearbook, that she was certain "to become a stage and screen star."
Having already decided on an acting career long before her high school years, Kelly moved to New York City, New York, after graduation to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, from which she graduated in 1949. She appeared in two plays at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, in her first Broadway play, The Father, and in dozens of live television dramas before making the transition to motion pictures.
Sol C. Siegel, a producer at Twentieth Century Fox, had seen Grace Kelly in The Father and was impressed enough with her performance to bring her to Hollywood, California, for a small part in the motion picture Fourteen Hours (1951). The shooting for Kelly's part, a cool wife seeking a divorce, only took two days, after which she returned to New York, and to live television and the stage. In 1951, Kelly received a call from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer to play the part of Amy Kane in the Western film High Noon (1952). Kelly jumped at the chance to work with Cary Grant, and it was this role which began her rise in Hollywood.
In the autumn of 1952, Kelly tested for the role of Linda Nordley in Mogambo (1953), enticed by it being filmed in Africa and starring Clark Gable. After the test, Kelly was offered the part and a seven-year contract at MGM. The film was nominated for two Oscars -- Best Actress for Ava Gardner and Best Supporting Actress for Grace Kelly. Neither actress won, but Kelly did win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
In June 1953, Kelly got a call to meet Alfred Hitchcock. After their meeting, she was cast as the female lead, Margot Wendice, in Dial M for Murder (1954). Although the movie was completely ignored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was a major hit with the public and made Kelly a star.
When filming for Dial M for Murder finished, Kelly returned to New York. Soon she was offered two screenplays and had to make up her mind which movie to star in. On the Waterfront (1954) was to be filmed in New York, where Kelly could continue dating her boyfriend, fashion designer Oleg Cassini. The other was another Hitchcock picture, Rear Window (1954), to be filmed in Hollywood. Feeling that she better understood the fashion model character (Lisa Carol Fremont) in Rear Window, Kelly opted to go back to Hollywood and work with Hitchcock.
Also in 1954, Kelly was handed the script for The Country Girl, a role that was completely different from anything she had played before, that of the wearied wife of an alcoholic. She wanted the part badly, but MGM wanted her to star in Green Fire, a film she felt was full of clichés. The studio and Kelly compromised, and she starred in both movies. Green Fire (1954), in which she played Catherine Knowland, was a box-office failure. The Country Girl (1954) was a box-office success, however, and Kelly's portrayal of Georgie Elgin earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
After turning down a number of motion picture offers, Kelly agreed to play Frances Stevens in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955), which was filmed on the French Riviera with Cary Grant. The film was well received, but by the time of its release Kelly was contemplating marriage and retirement. To finish her contract, Kelly starred in two final movies --as Princess Alexandra in The Swan (1956) and as Tracy Lord in High Society (1956). She then left stardom behind to become a real life princess.
In spring 1955, while at the Cannes Film Festival, Grace Kelly was asked to appear in a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier III. She obliged and met the prince. They chatted lightly while photos were taken. The photos sold magazines worldwide. The Prince, who was actively seeking a wife at the time, found that he and Kelly had a lot in common. After corresponding with her via letters, Prince Rainier traveled to the United States to ask for her hand in marriage. The official proclamation of the couple's engagement, which was made in January 1956, was front-page new around the world.
The royal wedding of 26-year-old Miss Grace Patricia Kelly to 32-year-old His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III of Monaco was held at Monaco's Cathedral of Saint Nicholas on April 19, 1956. Kelly's wedding gown was the most expensive garment that MGM designer Helen Rose had ever made. It used twenty-five yards of silk taffeta and one hundred yards of silk net. Its 125-year-old rose point lace was purchased from a museum, and thousands of tiny pearls were sewn on the veil.
Although Prince Rainier undoubtedly married Grace Kelly for love, he also needed a wife in order to produce an heir to the throne. That "requirement" was met when Princess Caroline was born in 1957. The couple went on to have two more children -- Prince Albert in 1958, and Princess Stephanie in 1965.
In addition to motherhood, Princess Grace supervised the renovation of a crumbling medical facility into a first-rate hospital and founded the Princess Grace Foundation in 1964 to help those with special needs. She also made Monaco a center for opera, ballet, concerts, plays, flower festivals, and cultural conferences, and opened the palace for guided tours during the summer when she and the prince were away at their summer home, Roc-Agel in France.
Princess Grace began suffering from severe headaches and abnormally high blood pressure in 1982. On September 13th of that year, Grace and 17-year-old Princess Stephanie were returning to Monaco from their country home when Princess Grace, who was driving, blacked out for a second. When she came to, she accidentally pressed her foot on the accelerator instead of the brake, driving the car over an embankment. As the women were pulled from the wreckage, it was discovered that Stephanie had sustained minor injuries (a hairline cervical fracture), but Princess Grace was unresponsive. She was placed on mechanical life support at the hospital in Monaco. Doctors concluded that she had suffered a massive stroke, which had caused irreversible brain damage. The day following the accident, Princess Grace's family made the decision to remove her from the artificial devices that were keeping her heart and lungs going. Grace Kelly died on September 14, 1982, at the age of 52. She was interred at the Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
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This page was last updated on 05/06/2017.