Grace Kelly

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Grace Kelly Pencil Portrait
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Monaco, the micro-sized sovereign state, has been ruled by the Grimaldis for over 700 years. The Principality has its own democratic and freely legislative assembly and is a member of the international community. Whilst not a member of the European Union, it complies with both international and European laws and regulations. It is also represented in the United Nations and in the Council of Europe. The notion of Monaco as an offshore tax haven persists to this day yet all its residents pay VAT on goods and services and corporations face a 33% tax on profits unless they can demonstrate that three-quarters of their turnover is generated within the confines of the principality.

The Principality employs around 38,0000 mostly French nationals in its tourist and service industries and a further 3,000 in commerce and environmentally friendly manufacturing. In the 21st century it has been able to balance its books without placing heavy tax burdens on its inhabitants.

It is therefore difficult to recall that Monaco was both picturesque and near bankruptcy when Rainier, who had not yet turned 26, succeeded his grandfather, Louis II, in the spring of 1949. His position looked untenable but within a decade he had transformed the Principality’s finances through two alliances, one with a Greek Shipping magnate and the other via a dowry for marrying a beautiful Hollywood actress and the daughter of a wealthy American family. His investment ultimately helped renew what passed in Monaco for its only natural resource, the fabled gambling casino at Monte Carlo.

During his 56 year reign, he was able to expand the principality’s economy beyond its traditional gambling base. Gambling accounts for only approximately 3% of the nation’s annual revenue today yet when Rainier ascended the throne, this figure was more than 95%.

Rainier was schooled in England and Switzerland and finally at the University of Montpellier in France, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. He served in the Free French army during World War II as an intelligence officer. Rising to the rank of colonel, he received the Croix de Guerre and was made a chevalier in the Legion of Honor.

Before his marriage, Rainier lived with Gisèle Pascal, a French actress but the relationship ended after medical tests determined that she could not have children. He needed an heir for without one, Monaco would become a part of France.

The prince met Grace Kelly in Cannes in 1955 and they were immediately smitten with each other. They married on April 18, 1956, and until her death in a car crash in September 1982, she imparted to Monaco not only her own extraordinary glamour, but also that of her friends from Hollywood, such luminaries as David Niven, Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck and Cary Grant. She made Monaco the in-place to be and tourists began to flock there, even those who cared little for gaming.

Long before the highly publicised nuptials of Charles and Diana in 1981, there was the fairy tale wedding of Rainier and Grace. The legendary Hollywood screen siren always managed to maintain the image of cool elegance and perfect happiness. She was after all, the perfect embodiment of beauty, talent, style, elegance, royalty, and sexual charisma. Yet in private, she was deeply troubled and disappointed with her arrogant, petulant prince, her headstrong daughters, her decision to leave a successful screen career at the height of her popularity, and her infidelities with a succession of handsome men. It wasn’t until after her death though, that the world came to realise her own personal fairy tale had been just that – a fairy tale. Yet, unlike English royalty, the Rainiers knew what was expected of them, and that public knowledge of their marital problems could have seriously impacted upon the financial welfare of Monaco. In any event, there had always been an air of practicality to their romance for by the time they met, it probably required nothing less than a prince to equal Kelly’s celebrity. “I don’t want to be married to someone who feels belittled by my success,” she once said. “I couldn’t bear walking into a restaurant and hearing the maitre d’ refer to my husband as Mr. Kelly.” From his side of the Atlantic, Rainier saw in Kelly a woman who might bring not only heirs, but a touch of glamor to revive his entire domain.

The impression of Grace kelly that emerges, is one of childhood affluence and a career that could barely be described as “self made”. Even her break into the world of acting was secured for her through family connections. In 1947, she and her mother Margaret had taken a road trip through the New England states to enroll Grace in college but they had, by this stage, missed the relevant enrollment dates and so they re-routed to New York City and implored the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to consider her admission. With a little help from her name-dropping Uncle George, family friend and Columbia Records executive Manie Sachs and father Jack, she was admitted.

In death, as with so many celebrities, she is no longer around to defend her reputation and whilst many of the allegations surrounding her private life are true, there is considerable material out there in the public domain that amounts to little more than scurrilous reporting.

Nevertheless, the charmed immunity enjoyed by so many stars at the hands of the press fifty years ago, has now given way to the intrusive eyes of the present day papparazzi. In ‘True Grace: The Life And Times Of An American Princess’, Hollywood biographer Wendy Leigh claims the actress had a string of torrid flings, both before and after she wed. The following link summarises the rumours:

When asked just how many men Grace had seduced, the widow of top director Henry Hathaway was clear on the subject: “Everybody. Yes, she wore white gloves but she was no saint!” Perhaps therefore, so called ‘friends’, former colleagues and biographers can soil her memory all they want, but then many of us can ponder our own filth at leisure as we look deep into our eyes in the mirror.

Ultimately, is any aspect of her private life really that important? Unequivocally no, but substantiating aspects of these allegations, where possible, can at least restore some credibility to the tarnished reputation of the modern day press. With no thought of the actress in mind, I inadvertently taped a programme more than a decade ago entitled ‘Comet cover up’*, as I have always had an interest in the history of aviation. Amidst the technical analysis of metal fatigue that bedevilled Britain’s first commercial jet airliner, and its causal link directly attributable to the rivetting rather than reduxing of the window mounts, there was an interview with a former B.O.A.C. stewardess about some of her more illustrious passengers. Recalling Grace Kelly’s heated canoodling with Clark Gable on an overnight flight to Nairobi during the filming of ‘Mogambo’, and clearly devoid of any commercial axe to grind, she confirms the actress as undoubtedly one of the early entrants to the “mile high club”.

*Source : “Secret History” – UK Channel 4 series – ‘Comet Cover-Up’ first aired 13 June 2002’

In the high noon of her fame, Grace Kelly would never allow MGM’s publicity department to disclose her vital statistics. The contours beneath those heavenly sugared-almond suits remained as private as the ins and outs of the star’s life. A reporter complained that getting an anecdote out of her was ‘like trying to chip granite with a toothpick’. ‘Anecdote?’ mused a friend. ‘I don’t think Grace would let an anecdote happen to her.’ Like so many stars of the day, there was much to her life that went unreported, editorial staff of the major dailies fearing studio backlash and the curtailment of access to its roster of players for ‘exclusives’. There was of course, Hedda Hopper to contend with, yet Kelly maintained her ‘ice cool virginal aura’ despite any unwelcome scrutiny at the time from the noted hollywood gossip columnist.

If Grace’s behaviour suggested a curiously hollow moral core, then perhaps the seeds of such recklessness lay within her childhood and paternal relationship.

In his book ‘Into the heart of lightness – Grace’, Robert Lacey describes her Philadelphian upbringing; the third child of an Irish bricklayer who built himself into a millionaire and Olympic oarsman before taking on board a Teutonic swimming coach as a bride. It is easy to believe Lacey’s description of life chez Kelly as ‘a competition for love’, a claim he backs with a carefully accumulated mass of detail. We get Grace the pious convent girl hellbent on perfection, Grace the flighty creative spirit, and Grace the dutiful daughter who adored her womanising father even when he chased away a succession of ‘wop, dago and Jewish’ fiancés. The writer acknowledges the extraordinary lengths to which the family strove in order to manoeuvre around a problem whose existence it resolutely refused to acknowledge. The story of Kelly Senior ordering twenty seven make-up cases from Elizabeth Arden for his floosies is infinitely more assuming for the reader than it must have been for his wife. This scene setting leads Lacey into his grand theme, namely that Kelly’s heart always belonged to Daddy; a corny conceit perhaps, but not in a case of a father who was voted the ‘most perfectly formed American male’. Yet this very man was responsible, however well intentioned his actions, for an early emotional trauma in his daughter’s life. The first love of young Grace was her high school sweetheart, Harper Davis. They were an item in 1944 before he left for wartime service. Grace’s father forced her to break it off before he embarked. When Harper returned he developed multiple sclerosis, dying young in 1953. When asked by her fiancé Prince Rainier if she had ever been in love before she responded by telling him: ‘Yes. I was in love with Harper Davis. He died.’

A pictorial history of her life is available via the following link, the unmoderated comments of various readers hinting at the widely differing views which celebrities engender in the public’s minds.

The questionable aspect of her behaviour and a subject worthy of the deepest psychological analysis is why she should have married, for after all, she clearly had no fundamental respect in the sanctity of this legal union. With every opportunity to date single eligible men she instead chose to habitually wreck havoc amongst her co-stars’ marriages and whilst they could have restrained themselves, she also could have singularly avoided encouraging them.

So what was her attraction for married men? Did she perceive a man who is already taken as being more experienced? Were they seen in her eyes as men able to commit? Were they more desirable because another woman had already pre-screened them whilst single men of course, remain unknown commodities? For some, the food on someone else’s plate always looks tastier. In essence, if someone else wants him, he must be worth wanting.

There is no simple answer. Remember, too, that some traditional types may want ‘happily-ever-afters’ of emotional availability and financial security, while others may be after less than the full enchilada of marriage and children. Counterintuitive as it may seem, Grace may have wanted more than a one-night stand but less than a fully fledged full-time beau that was hers and hers alone.

We can safely eliminate honesty and trust from her list of needs. Equally moribund would be respect, availability, holiday and family time together, or being his first priority. So why did she consistently repeat this cycle of behaviour? The answer is I don’t know for sure but for some single women, a relationship with a man who is married gives her breathing room. Grace wasn’t accountable to her co-stars especially if she wanted to see a male friend or past lover. On a more predictable level, the clandestine aspect to sex may have been more appealing to her when compared to a dinner date with a single man who called on Wednesday night for Friday. For rule-breakers, it’s just simply more fun.

Equally, some women may have decided never to trust a man; hormonal logic implying that the male species with a wife at home cheating with her can’t be cheating on her.

There’s also the super-competitive woman who craves the competition, seeing mate poaching as the mother lode of wins to boost her self esteem. The hotter her rival, the hotter she is, the more she feels superior to the wife in terms of having the goods that men want. For these women, feeling superior has less to do with the man in question and how desirable he is, and more to do with being more powerful than and superior to the other woman.

As long as it’s illicit and forbidden, sparks fly. Once the man actually leaves his wife as Ray Milland did to live for a period of time with Grace, the now permanent relationship begins to nosedive. If Milland had cheated on his wife why wouldn’t he have cheated on Grace? As for the sex, might that not become pedestrian once the relationship became open?

As for Grace’s tactics? – the usual predictable range from dissing the current partner – “You deserve someone better . . . someone like me”, to showcasing desirable qualities that her co-star’s current mate seemingly lacked – “She’s cold and unfeeling; I, however, am warm, vivacious, and loving.” Perhaps it was the traditional “bait-and-switch” tactic, initially offering sex with no strings attached, only to ultimately expect her man to become so attached that he couldn’t bear to live without her.

Sometimes there’s genuine love amidst the less than ideal circumstances and sometimes the man is not a serial philanderer. Invariably though, there’s precious little honesty involved. Whatever, the circumstances and motivations, ninety five percent of married men in this situation unwittingly move onto the next chapter in their lives with all the attendant emotional and financial repercussions involved, whilst the remaining five per cent, if they’re truly fortunate, cling resolutely to the only sensory attribute left fully working, namely their intuition.

There are children in this world receiving psychiatric counselling as a result of their parents’ marital woes yet virtually every mistress will emphasise their resilience in dealing with this traumatic loss of emotional security. Essentially the ‘other woman’ doesn’t really care enough and she certainly won’t be pointing out the pros and cons of the aftermath unless she’s genuinely in love with the man. In essence Grace Kelly was a deeply troubled, emotionally unstable woman, and her married suitors were stupid men. It’s sobering to realise that such emotional trauma can be condensed into a single sentence.

The union between Grace and Ranier produced the necessary male heir and a couple of spares; Princess Caroline arriving just nine months and five days after the their wedding ceremony, therefore further supporting her virginal image. In view of her promiscuous background, Kelly had been justifiably worried , prior to her marriage, about the Royal Monegasque surgeon’s forthcoming examination, a procedure demanded by the Grimaldis to determine her child bearing capabilities. Anticipating Ranier’s requirement for her to be virgo intacta, (are we truly to believe such naivety from a man in his thirties over a twenty six year old Hollywood actress?), Kelly allegedly claimed her hymen had been broken whilst playing hockey at school. As it was, the matter was discreetly passed over. Albert and Stephanie duly followed and Grace brought an unaccustomed American informality to the royal family. “The nursery doors were open, and the children were very much a part of the fabric of the day,” says Rita Gam, the American film and television actress who was one of Grace’s closest friends and bridesmaid at her wedding. But the constraints of palace life were not always easy for her. In 1962 photographer Eve Arnold came to Monaco to work on a CBS documentary. “I got the distinct feeling that Grace Kelly felt trapped,” she says. “It wasn’t the fairy tale one had expected.”

In order to fill her time, Grace devoted herself to charities and cultural affairs, the allowable occupations of crowned heads, yet was reportedly keen to return to acting when Hitchcock offered her the lead in his 1964 film ‘Marnie’. The public furore in Monaco compelled Rainier to quash the mooted comeback and the part went to her successor, Tippi Hedren. According to her one time fiancé Oleg Cassini, she wanted respect as an actress yet it was not to be; her filmography remaining, for understandable reasons, sparse.

By the late 1970s, Grace was spending part of each year on her own in Paris. She began to enjoy the company of younger men like Robert Dornhelm, an Austrian film director. Even as her hell-raising daughters consumed more of her time, her marriage occupied less of it.

There were conspiracy theories surrounding the events of her death yet she was not a leading political figure and her daughter’s recollection of events in the following link seem entirely plausible.

Recommended viewing

High Noon (1952)

Kelly’s first screen role, an engaging combination of virginal purity and stoicism amply enhanced by an incisive screenplay. Exploring her screen character’s quaker roots, she explains to a friend that “My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side, but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started”.

Innovative cinematography and Gary Cooper’s heroic demeanour ensured its iconic status though the film had its detractors, most notably John Wayne, another showbiz right-winger and Western hero, who was so appalled at the notion that a Western marshal would beg for help in a showdown that he and director Howard Hawks “answered” High Noon with ‘Rio Bravo’(1959), a thoroughly enjoyable paean to law abiding comraderie, but a sentiment nevertheless, wildly at odds with anyone even remotely world weary.

Mogambo (1953)

Country Girl (1954)

A fine if somewhat uneven performance, undoubtedly her best on film, but a contentious Academy award winner nonetheless. Kelly had great career momentum in place by the time of the 1955 Oscar ceremonies; five movies released during the preceding twelve months including two Hitchcock classics, “Dial M for Murder” and “Rear Window.” On the initial script readthrough, she recognised a role that was completely different from anything she had played before, namely that of the wearied wife of an alcoholic.

Based on a play by Clifford Odets, ‘Country Girl’ is essentially a theatrical melodrama that offers scope for Kelly to convincingly embody her character’s deeply held bitterness, yet amidst the implausibility of her marital pairing with the much older Bing Crosby, her portrayal, whilst visually stripped of charm and appeal, resolutely remains one-note. We understand her frustrations but we don’t always suffer alongside her.

According to various biographers, Kelly took a scathing phone call from Judy Garland shouting, “This is Judy Garland, Judy Fucking Garland. You bitch! You took what was rightfully mine; Garland had also been nominated for “Best Actress” for her work in ‘A Star Is Born’, and was favoured to win but unfortunately, her singing could not secure those vital extra votes. “Tonight was my last chance for the Oscar. You’ll have many more chances in your future. This was it for me. I’ll never forgive you.”

It’s what makes Oscar night so compelling – the array of disappointed nominees offering their congratulatory smiles and felicitations to the winner through gritted teeth; the cringeworthy acceptance speeches in recent years adding another welcome dimension to the evening’s proceedings!


All the hallmarks of an authorised site without official sanctioning from the family. A superb pictorial gallery and some useful links to her favoured foundations.