Date of Birth: November 12, 1929
Date of Death: September 14, 1982
Grace Kelly was one of the most famous American film actresses of her time. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Olympic gold medalist John Brendan “Jack” Kelly and Margaret Katherine Majer, a coach of women’s athletic teams at the University of Pennsylvania, Grace Kelly was the third of four children.
A born performer from a young age, Grace participated in school plays and community productions every chance she could get. Occasionally, she modeled with her sister and mother. Although her parents were against her acting professionally, it was her uncle George Kelly, a Pulitzer prize-winning playwright, who encouraged young Grace to pursue her passion. After high school, Grace moved to New York City against her parents’ wishes and enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. While in school, Grace modeled part time and appeared in ads for Old Gold cigarettes. She also appeared on the covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Redbook.
At age 19, Grace graduated and wanted to audition for Broadway. Finding it hard to succeed on stage, Grace soon realized that film was more suited for her. After World War II, Grace moved to Hollywood and landed her first film, Fourteen Hours, at age 22. On the set, she was discovered by Gary Cooper. A year later, she landed a role playing his young wife in High Noon, which put her on the path to stardom.
In 1953, a year after the release of High Noon, Grace appeared in the film, Mogambo with Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, during which she had an affair with Gable. Because of her work on this film, Grace was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Grace was then offered a seven-year contract with MGM, which she accepted under one condition: she must be able to go back to New York every year to pursue theater.
Grace turned down a role in the film On the Waterfront, in order to work with Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she made three films with over the next several years—Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and To Catch a Thief. In 1954, Grace finally got her Oscar win for Best Actress in the film The Country Girl. starring Bing Crosby and William Holden.
In April of 1955, Grace headed the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival, where she was invited to participate in a photo session with Prince Rainier III of Monaco, who was looking for a bride. At this point, Grace was romantically linked to French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont. When Grace returned to America, she began working on the film The Swan, but privately began corresponding with Rainier. In December, Rainier came to America on a “tour” but it was speculated that he was in search of a wife because if he did not produce an heir, Monaco would become a part of France. While in California, Rainier met with Grace and her family. Three days after the initial meeting, Rainier proposed and Grace happily accepted. According to the media, this would be the “wedding of the century.” Preparations that occurred before the wedding included painting and redecorating the palace in Monaco. Also, Grace’s family had to provide a dowry of $2 million for the marriage to go ahead.
On April 19, 1956, the wedding took place and Grace became the Princess Consort of Monaco. That same year, her final film was released. Prince Rainier made Grace give up her American citizenship and banned her films in Monaco. On January 23, 1957, Grace gave birth to her first daughter, Caroline. A little more than a year after the birth of Caroline, on March 14, 1958, Grace’s son Albert was born. Grace gave birth to her third child, Stephanie, seven years later on February 1, 1965.
Many filmmakers wanted Grace to return to acting but she resisted, as she wanted to take on the duties involved with being Princess. Prince Rainier was also against her resuming acting. To fill her spare time, Grace became involved in many cultural and charitable organizations. By the late 1970s, Grace had become less involved with her marriage and spent part of each year on her own in Paris. She also started to enjoy the company of younger men such as Austrian film director, Robert Dornhelm.
On September 14, 1982, Grace’s life came to a tragic end. While driving along the cliffs of Cote D’Azur in southern France with her daughter, Grace suffered a stroke that caused her to lose control of the vehicle. The car spun off the edge of the cliff and plunged 45 feet down. Both Grace and her daughter were rushed to the hospital where Grace spent the next 24 hours in a coma before she died at the age of 52. Her daughter survived with minor injuries.
Filmography:High Society (1956)