A Touch of Grace

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What comes to mind when you hear the name Grace Kelly?  Princess? Movie Star? Perhaps, you associate the name with beauty, elegance, refinement or pearls.  Pearls are most certainly one of the many thoughts that come to my mind when I think of Grace.  She wore pearls like no one else and in fact, Grace was one the inspirations for this blog, hence the name, Pearls, Lace & Grace.

Grace Patricia Kelly was born on November 12, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, John “Jack” Kelly, was a champion sculler who won three Olympic gold medals as part of the American rowing team.  Her mother, Margaret Katherine Majer, was the first coach of women’s athletic teams at the University of Pennsylvania. Grace was the third of four children and was named after her father’s sister, who died at a very young age.

As a child, Grace expressed a deep love of performance. In addition to school plays and community theatre, Grace occasionally modeled with her mother and sister.  After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York at age 19, Grace sought a career on Broadway, but found it difficult and soon determined that film was more suitable to her talents.

Grace moved to Hollywood, where she would eventually star in 11 films, one of which would garner her the Academy Award for Best Actress (The Country Girl, 1954).  A few of my favourite films include:

  • Rear Window, 1954
  • To Catch a Thief, 1955
  • High Society, 1956

In 1955, Grace was asked to join the United States Delegation Committee at the Cannes Film Festival in France. During a photo shoot, she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco, who happened to be seeking a bride.  Following a whirlwind courtship, Grace wed Prince Rainer on April 19, 1956, in what would later be dubbed the “Wedding of the Century”.

The royal couple would go on to have three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert and Princess Stéphanie.  Despite several attempts to lure her back into the film industry, Grace resisted to focus on her role as a ceremonial leader of Monaco.  Over the years, Grace became heavily involved in cultural and charitable organizations (more on that later).

On September 14, 1982, Grace’s life was tragically cut short after suffering a stroke while driving along the steep cliffs of the Côte d’Azur region in Southern France.

I have always been a fan of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and while I cannot remember exactly when I first saw Grace, I was, as many are, immediately drawn to her.  Not only was she striking, but there was also something kind about her face, her voice and her manner.  Throughout the years, I have grown more fond of her films and more interested in understanding the person she was.  On what would be her 86th birthday, I cannot think of a better way to pay tribute than to share five reasons why I (and the world) love Grace Kelly:

Grace Was the Ultimate Hitchcock Blonde:  Following her performance opposite Clark Gable in Magambo, Grace was spotted by Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in the movie Dial M for Murder.  This film was a box office success and thrust Grace into the spotlight.  She would go on to star in two more of Hitchcock’s films: Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.  Hitchcock was an admirer of Grace’s beauty and poise, dubbing her ‘a snow-covered volcano’.  While I enjoy and appreciate other Hitchcock blondes like Eva Marie Saint (North By Northwest) and Tippi Hedren (The Birds), Grace is certainly my ultimate.  If you have not seen Grace in one of Hitchcock’s films, we cannot be friends I recommend you do!

Grace’s Co-Stars Adored Her:  Grace often bonded with co-stars on set, bonds that would become life-long friendships.  Cary Grant (To Catch a Thief) often named Grace as his favourite leading lady, saying: “with all due respect to dear Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace.  She had a serenity.”  Jimmy Stewart , Grace’s co-star in the movie Rear Window also noted: “[Grace] never distanced herself from others, and she was enormously friendly to everyone – no stuffy attitude, no star complex.”  Certainly a testament to Grace’s charm and character.

Grace Could Laugh at Herself:  Grace once said, “when Ava Gardner gets in a taxi, the driver knows at once she’s Ava Gardner.  It’s the same for Lana Turner or Elizabeth Taylor, but not for me.  I’m never Grace Kelly.  I’m always someone who looks like Grace Kelly.”  Despite her beauty and royal standing, Grace always remained grounded.  She knew that while celebrity and external beauty was fluid, love and kindness endured.  A great reminder that we should never take ourselves too seriously.

Grace Was and Is a Style Icon: In the dictionary, you will find Grace’s picture beside words like chic, elegant and lady-like (well, at least in my dictionary).  This woman could do no wrong.  Whether she was coming off a long flight, walking the red carpet, or playing with her children, Grace’s style was effortless and simple.  Immaculately cut capri pants, crisp cotton shirts, fit and flare dresses, cashmere and silk, culminated in a wardrobe that was and remains sophisticated and timeless.  Do you still need proof of Grace’s iconic designation?  Look no further than the highly-coveted Hérmes Kelly handbag.  During Grace’s first pregnancy, she was frequently photographed shielding her bump from the paparazzi with one of their angular bags – the French house was so thrilled that they renamed the bag in her honour.  How’s that for iconic?

Grace Gave to Others: Soon after her marriage, Grace quickly established herself as a gifted philanthropist and humanitarian.  In 1958, Grace was named President of the Monaco Red Cross and directed its various charitable activities. Each year on Monaco’s National Day and at Christmas, Grace personally distributed “care” packages through its social services branch and under her inspired leadership, the Monaco chapter became one of the most active of all the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.  Grace devoted her life to raising funds and awareness for charitable causes, such as refugees, hospitals, orphans, and children’s rights.  If that wasn’t enough, throughout her life, Grace also supported the arts, culture and struggling artists.

These are just a few of the many reasons why Grace Kelly was and is loved.  She was a real-life princess, a mother, a film star, a philanthropist and an inspiration to so many. For those of you who are interested in learning more about Grace, below are a few of my favourite publications:

Happy Birthday Princess Grace!

You are loved and missed.

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