Mountain View

Overview

Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929  September 14, 1982) was an American actress who became Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III, in April 1956.

After embarking on an acting career in 1950, at age 20, Kelly appeared in New York City theatrical productions and more than 40 episodes of live drama productions broadcast during the early 1950s Golden Age of Television. In October 1953, she gained stardom from her performance in the film Mogambo, which won her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination in 1954. Subsequently, she had leading roles in five films, including The Country Girl (1954), for which her deglamorized performance earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Other films include High Noon (1952) with Gary Cooper, Dial M for Murder (1954) with Ray Milland, Rear Window (1954) with James Stewart, To Catch a Thief (1955) with Cary Grant, and High Society (1956) with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

Kelly retired from acting at the age of 26 to marry Rainier and began her duties as Princess of Monaco. They had three children: Caroline, Albert II, and Stphanie. Kelly retained her American roots, maintaining dual U.S. and Mongasque citizenship. She died on September 14, 1982, a day after suffering a stroke while driving her car, which caused a crash.

Background and early life

Kelly was born on November 12, 1929, at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to an affluent and influential family. Her father, Irish-American John B. Kelly Sr. (18891960), had won three Olympic gold medals for sculling and owned a successful brickwork contracting company that was well-known on the East Coast. A registered Democrat, he was nominated to be mayor of Philadelphia for the 1935 election but 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. Two of his brothers were also notable: Walter C. Kelly (18731939) was a vaudeville star who also made films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures, and George Kelly (18871974) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist, screenwriter, and director.

Kelly’s mother was Philadelphia native Margaret Katherine Majer (18981990); the daughter of German immigrants. Margaret had taught physical education at the University of Pennsylvania and had been the first woman to coach women’s athletics at the institution. She was noted for her beauty and modeled for a time in her youth. After marrying John B. Kelly in 1924, Margaret focused on being a housewife until all her children were of school age, following which she began actively participating in various civic organizations.

Kelly had two older siblings, Margaret (19251991) and John Jr. (19271985), and a younger sister, Elizabeth (19332009). The children were raised in the Roman Catholic faith.

While attending Ravenhill Academy, a prestigious Catholic girls’ school, Kelly modeled fashions at local social 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 East Falls Old Academy Players. Before graduating in May 1947 from Stevens School, a socially prominent private institution on Walnut Lane in the Northwest Philadelphia neighborhood of Germantown, she acted and danced. Her graduation yearbook listed her favorite actress as Ingrid Bergman and her favorite actor as Joseph Cotten. Written in the “Stevens’ Prophecy” section was: “Miss Grace P. Kelly a famous star of stage and screen”.

Owing to her low mathematics scores, Kelly was rejected by Bennington College in July 1947.

Career

Princess consort

Relationship with Prince Rainier

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 at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier III, the sovereign of the principality. After a series of delays and complications, she met him in Monaco. At the time of her initial meeting with him, she was dating the French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont.

Upon returning to America, Kelly began work on The Swan, in which she coincidentally portrayed a princess, and she meanwhile began a private correspondence with Rainier.

In December 1955, Rainier went to America on a trip officially designated as a tour, although it was speculated that he was seeking a wife, as a treaty with France in 1918 (which resulted from the Monaco Succession Crisis of 1918), stated that if he did not produce an heir Monaco would revert to France. At a press conference in the U.S., when asked if he were pursuing a wife, he answered, “No.” Then a second question was posed: “If you were pursuing a wife, what kind would you like?” Rainier smiled and answered, “I don’t know the best.”

That same year MGM released Kelly’s last film, the musical comedy High Society, based on the studio’s comedy The Philadelphia Story (1940). Kelly wore her own engagement ring in the film and sang a duet with Bing Crosby, “True Love,” a song with words and music by Cole Porter.

Wedding and marriage

While in the U.S., Rainier met Kelly and her family, and after three days, he proposed. She accepted, and the families began preparations for what the press at that time dubbed “The Wedding of the Century”. Kelly and her family had to provide a dowry of $2 million in order for the marriage to go forward.

The religious wedding was set for April 19, 1956. News of the engagement was a sensation, even though it meant a probable end to Kelly’s film career. Alfred Hitchcock quipped that he was “very happy that Grace has found herself such a good part.”

The preparations were elaborate. The Palace of Monaco was painted and redecorated throughout. On April 4, 1956, Grace, with her family, bridesmaids, poodle, and over 80 pieces of luggage, boarded the ocean liner SS Constitution, bound for the French Riviera. Some 400 reporters applied to sail, although most were turned away. Thousands of fans sent the party off for the eight-day voyage. More than 20,000 people lined the streets of Monaco to greet the future princess consort.

The Napoleonic Code of Monaco and the laws of the Roman Catholic Church necessitated two ceremonies  both a civil ceremony 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 Monaco citizens. To cap the ceremony, the 142 official titles that she acquired in the union (counterparts of her husband’s) were formally recited. The following day the church ceremony took place at Monaco’s Saint Nicholas Cathedral, before Bishop Gilles Barthe. The wedding was estimated to have been watched by over 30 million viewers on live television and was described by biographer Robert Lacey as “the first modern event to generate media overkill.”Her wedding dress, designed by MGM‘s Academy Awardwinning Helen Rose, was worked on for six weeks by three dozen seamstresses. The bridesmaids’ gowns were designed by Joe Allen Hong at Neiman Marcus. The 700 guests included several famous people, including Aristotle Onassis, Cary Grant, David Niven and his wife Hjrdis, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner, the crowned head Aga Khan III, Gloria Guinness, Enid, Lady Kenmare, Daisy Fellowes, Etti Plesch, Lady Diana Cooper, Louise de Vilmorin, Loelia Lindsay, and Conrad Hilton.Frank Sinatra was invited but did not attend. Kelly and Rainier left that night for their seven-week Mediterranean honeymoon cruise on his yacht, Deo Juvante II.

Later years

The couple had three children:

Hitchcock offered Kelly 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 attempted to lure her into accepting a part in his 1977 film The Turning Point, but Rainier quashed 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 Theater Street. She also narrated ABC’s made-for-television film The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966). She and Rainier worked together in a 33-minute independent film called Rearranged in 1979, which received interest from ABC TV executives in 1982 after premiering in Monaco, on the condition that it be extended to an hour. Before more scenes could be shot, Kelly died and the film was never released or shown publicly again.

Death

On September 13, 1982, Kelly was driving back to Monaco from her country home in Roc Agel when she had a stroke. 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 daughter, Stphanie, who was in the passenger seat, tried, but failed, to regain control of the car. When paramedics arrived at the accident site (434335N 72410E / 43.72639N 7.40278E / 43.72639; 7.40278), Kelly was alive but unconscious and in critical condition. She and Stphanie were transported to the Monaco Hospital (later named the Princess Grace Hospital Centre). At the hospital, doctors attempted to resuscitate Grace but because of the extent of her brain injury and injuries to her thorax and a fractured femur, they were unable to save her life. Doctors believed that she had suffered a minor stroke that may have caused the car to veer off the road causing the accident. She died the following night at 10:55 p.m., age 52, after Rainier chose to take his wife off life support.

Stphanie’s original diagnosis was mild, with only minor bruising and a light concussion. However, after receiving X-ray results, she was found to have suffered a hairline fracture on the seventh cervical vertebra. She was unable to attend her mother’s funeral because of her injuries.

Funeral

Kelly’s funeral was held at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco 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, and Diana, Princess of Wales. At a later memorial service in Beverly Hills, James Stewart delivered the following eulogy:

You know, I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met. Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own. No question, I’ll miss her, we’ll all miss her, God bless you, Princess Grace.

Rainier, who did not remarry, was buried alongside her following his death in 2005.

Legacy

Philanthropy

During her marriage, Kelly was unable to continue her acting career. Instead, she performed her daily duties as princess and became involved in philanthropic work.

She founded AMADE Mondiale, a Monaco-based non-profit organization that was eventually recognized by the UN as a Non-Governmental organization. According to UNESCO‘s website, AMADE promotes and protects the “moral and physical integrity” and “spiritual well-being of children throughout the world, without distinction of race, nationality or religion and in a spirit of complete political independence.” Her daughter, Princess Caroline, carries the torch for AMADE today in her role as President.

Kelly was also active in improving the arts institutions of Monaco, forming the Princess Grace Foundation in 1964 to support local artisans. In 1983, following her death, Princess Caroline assumed the duties of President of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation; Prince Albert is Vice-President.

The Princess Grace Foundation-USA (PGF-USA) was established, following Kelly’s death, to continue the work she had done, anonymously, during her lifetime,:assisting emerging theater, dance and film artists in America. Incorporated in 1982, PGF-USA is headquartered in New York and is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit, publicly supported organization. The Princess Grace Awards, a program of the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, has awarded nearly 500 artists at more than 100 institutions in the U.S. with more than $7 million to date. The foundation also says it “holds the exclusive rights and facilitates the licensing of her name and likeness throughout the world.”

Kelly was one of the first celebrities to support and speak on behalf of La Leche League, an organization that advocates breastfeeding. She also planned a yearly Christmas party for local orphans and dedicated a Garden Club.

Fashion

While pregnant with her daughter Caroline in 1956, Kelly was frequently photographed clutching a distinctive leather hand-bag manufactured by Herms. The purse, or Sac dpches, was likely a shield to prevent her pregnant abdomen from being exposed to the prying eyes of the paparazzi. The photographs, however, popularized the purse and became so closely associated with the fashion icon that it would thereafter be known as the Kelly Bag.

Kelly was inaugurated into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1960.

Numerous exhibitions have been held of Kelly’s life and clothing. The Philadelphia Museum of Art presented her wedding dress in a 2006 exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of her marriage, and a retrospective of her wardrobe was held at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2010. The V&A exhibition continued in Australia at the Bendigo Art Gallery in 2012. This famous dress, seen around the world, took thirty five tailors six weeks to complete. An exhibition of her life as Princess of Monaco was held at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow in 2008 in conjunction with Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum. In 2009, a plaque was placed on the “Rodeo Drive Walk of Style” in recognition of her contributions to style and fashion.

After her death, Kelly’s legacy as a fashion icon lived on. Modern designers, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Zac Posen, have cited her as a fashion inspiration. During her lifetime, she was known for introducing the “fresh faced” look, one that involved bright skin and natural beauty with little makeup. Her fashion legacy was even commemorated at the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, where an exhibit titled, “Grace Kelly: Style Icon” paid tribute to her impact on the world of fashion. The exhibit included 50 of her legendary ensembles. She is remembered for her “college-girl” everyday fashion, defined by her pulled-together yet simple look.

Kelly’s likeness

In 1955, Kelly was photographed by Howell Conant in Jamaica. He photographed her without makeup in a naturalistic setting, a departure from the traditional portrayal of actresses. The resulting photographs were published in Collier’s magazine, with a celebrated photo of her rising from the water with wet hair making the cover. Following her marriage, Conant was the unofficial photographer to the House of Grimaldi and extensively photographed her, Rainier, and their three children. In 1992, Conant published Grace, a book of photographs that he took during her 26-year tenure as Princess of Monaco.

Kelly has been depicted by many pop artists including James Gill and Andy Warhol. Warhol made a portrait of her for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia as a limited edition silkscreen in 1984.

Elsewhere

Kees Verkade‘s statue of Kelly in Monaco’s Princess Grace Rose Garden

A rose garden in Monaco’s Fontvieille district is dedicated to the memory of Kelly. It was opened in 1984 by Rainier. She is commemorated in a statue by Kees Verkade in the garden, which features 4,000 roses.

In 2003, the Henley Royal Regatta renamed the Women’s Quadruple Sculls the “Princess Grace Challenge Cup.” Kelly was invited to present the prizes at the Henley Royal Regatta in 1981, as a peace offering by the Henley Stewards to put a conflict between her family and Stewards to rest. Prince Albert presented the prizes at the Henley Royal Regatta in 2004.

Kelly Family Home

In 2012, Kelly’s childhood home was made a Pennsylvania historic landmark, and an historical marker was placed on the site. The home, located at 3901 Henry Avenue in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, was built by her father, John B. Kelly Sr., in 1929. Grace lived in the home until 1950, and Prince Rainier III proposed to her there in 1955. The Kelly family sold the property in 1974, following the death of Grace’s mother, Margaret.

In October 2016, Prince Albert of Monaco, Grace’s son, purchased the property, speculating that the home would be used either as museum space or as offices for the Princess Grace Foundation.

References in popular culture

Advertising
Coins and stamps
Exhibitions
  • In Monaco, at the Grimaldi Forum, and in the United States, at Sotheby’s, a large Princess Grace exhibition, “Grace, Princess of Monaco: A Tribute to the Life and Legacy of Grace Kelly”, coordinated by the Princely Family, celebrated her life and her contribution to the arts through her Foundation.
Films
  • Nicole Kidman portrayed Kelly in Grace of Monaco (2014), directed by Olivier Dahan. Reaction to the film was largely negative; many people, including the princely family of Monaco, felt it was overly dramatic, had historical errors, and lacked depth.
Music
Television
  • Many references to Grace Kelly were made in the television teen drama Gossip Girl by character Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meester). In Season 2, Episode 10, Blair states: “I am Grace Kelly, Grace Kelly is me.” Later in the episode, she says: “Screw Grace Kelly. I need a scheme”. In Season 6 Episode 6, Blair says she would like to “be more like Grace Kelly, less like Grace Jones”.

Works

Select filmography

Honors