Once upon a time, there was a princess, an icon, an actress. The perfect embodiment of grace, by name and by nature. With only five years spent in the spotlight of Hollywood and eleven roles lingering in the history of the seventh art, Grace Kelly has carved out a place among the American Film Institute’s most famous film stars, thanks to her innately aristocratic style.
From Queen of the scenes to Princess of Monaco, her marriage in 1956 to Prince Rainier III, the marriage of the century par excellence, definitively marked her retirement from acting. Although the scripts continued to arrive, they were promptly returned due to rigid opposition from the consort. In the same cathedral in which she was married, the world said goodbye to Princess Grace at her funeral in 1982, when the fairy tale was ended by a tragic car accident with the princess driving and her daughter Stéphanie as a passenger, who miraculously survived.
Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, into a traditional Irish Catholic family, which proved to be an essential requisite for the wedding that saved the principality from annexation to France. Her father, John Kelly, a charismatic, handsome and self-made millionaire, was her constant point of reference and famously refused to pay a dowry, proclaiming “My daughter doesn’t have to pay anyone to get married”. Later on, he reconsidered this stance and did put his hand in his wallet. However, her source of support for her artistic ambitions was her paternal uncle George, a playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner.
Her first starring role was in the film “High Noon”, opposite Gary Cooper in the role of the sheriff, cutting an ethereal figure that was impossible not to notice. But she was more than just a debutante. She showed up to auditions in a tailored suit and white gloves, impressing Sir Alfredchcock, of whom she became the undisputed muse and who coined for her the oxymoron “hot ice”, in reference to the alchemy of cool detachment and sensual warmth. In fact, under his direction, Kelly plays the role of the sophisticated lady with a demeanour that is dignified, yet not lacking in expression and passionate charm.
Her films directed by the Master of Suspense, as well as her outfits, are unforgettable and ones which she herself counts among the most rewarding experiences of her life: from “Dial M for Murder” to the famous “Rear Window”, and of course “To Catch a Thief” that would take her, accompanied by the charming and wily Cary Grant, to the French Riviera that a year later would become her new home. The golden statuette also came calling, with an Oscar for her role alongside Bing Crosby in “The Country Girl”.
It was she, Princess Grace, who was the keystone that helped to transform Monaco into an elite location for celebrities, temporary retreats and vacations, fuelling, among other phenomena, the real estate boom. After all, she was born a princess, as Frank Sinatra was the first to exclaim.
by Claudia Chiari