Kelly, Grace (1928–1982)

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Kelly, Grace (1928–1982)

American stage and film actress who won an Academy Award, then walked away from Hollywood to marry the prince of Monaco. Name variations: Princess Grace of Monaco; Grace Grimaldi. Born on November 12, 1928, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died in an automobile crash, age 52, on September 14, 1982; third of four children of Jack Kelly (a self-made millionaire) and Margaret (Majer) Kelly; married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, on April 18, 1956; children: Princess Caroline Grimaldi (b. 1957); Prince Albert Grimaldi (b. 1958); Princess Stephanie Grimaldi (b. 1965).

Attended private schools before moving to New York and studying acting; won her first Broadway role (1949), attracting the attention of Hollywood with her sophisticated manner and classic beauty; was cast in her first major film role, opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952); won an Oscar as Best Actress for her work in The Country Girl (1954); starred in three of Alfred Hitchcock's most successful films; announced her retirement from show business on her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1956), becoming known to the world from then on as Her Serene Highness Grace, princess of Monaco, a glamorous addition to the world's royal families; never returned to the screen, although there were persistent rumors that she might until her death in an automobile crash at age 52.


Fourteen Hours (1951); High Noon (1952); Mogambo (1953); Dial M for Murder (1954); Rear Window (1954); The Country Girl (1954); Green Fire (1954); The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955); To Catch a Thief (1955); The Swan (1956); High Society (1956).

The studio was small and dingy, clods of dust floating down from the lighting grid and grimy dirt coating the concrete walls. It was noisy, too, that August day in 1951 as the set crew banged and rattled, lighting grips shouted out to one another from overhead and prop carts wheeled to and fro with the paraphernalia needed to create an Old West interior. Director Fred Zinnemann thought the blonde, blue-eyed, elegantly dressed young woman who walked uncertainly into the chaos had taken a wrong turn on her way to somewhere more suited to her white gloves, tailored suit, and high-heeled shoes. The woman was, in fact, his leading lady in the Western to begin shooting in a few days. "She was beautiful in a prim sort of way," Zinnemann later described his first sight of Grace Kelly. It was exactly the impression that he wanted for the character of Amy Kane in High Noon, and it was exactly what Grace would need for the real-life role she would play in the future as Her Serene Highness Grace, princess of Monaco.

"I was terribly shy when I was young," Princess Grace once said. "I was so bland, they kept having to introduce me again and again before people noticed me." The competition, it must be said, had been tough in the rambunctious Kelly household. Grace was the third of Jack and Margaret Kelly 's four children, all born in the grand brick house on a hill overlooking Philadelphia's East Falls section. Jack, an Irish Catholic and one of ten children, had been a mere bricklayer before borrowing money to start his own construction business, turning it into one of the biggest contracting firms on the East Coast, and marrying Margaret Majer in 1924. He was the horror of Philadelphia's stodgy Main Line, a self-made millionaire. Margaret was from a comfortably genteel background. She was also beautiful, with lustrous blonde hair and the kind of square, regular features that were the blue-blooded emblems of good breeding and taste in those days. Grace was born on November 12, 1928, three years after her older sister Peggy Kelly , always her father's favorite, and her handsome brother Jack, Jr. A younger sister, Lizette Kelly , arrived two years after Grace.

Throughout childhood, Grace was known as the quietest of the four Kelly children, even after she began attending the Catholic girls' school Margaret had chosen for her three daughters, Ravenhill. It was someone outside the immediate Kelly household who would draw Grace out of her shell. Uncle George Kelly, one of Jack's numerous siblings, had built his living out of words rather than bricks. He was an actor turned playwright who had enjoyed several successes on Broadway stages of the early 20th century. One of his plays, Craig's Wife, had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1926, and several had been made into films in the early 1930s with stars like Spencer Tracy and Joan Crawford . Grace's visits to his home around the corner from Jack's brick mansion were filled with stories of her uncle's adventures in the theater, the dapper George acting out all the parts of his tales. By the time George began spending considerable amounts of time in Hollywood, where he had been hired by MGM as a script doctor, his magic had done its work. Shy Grace Patricia began appearing in school plays, and could send her schoolmates into fits of giggles with her parodies of her sisters. At 12, she had made her stage debut with the Old Academy Players, a local amateur group that included one of her mother's brothers. She told her father that she intended to be an actress, a statement that Jack shrugged off as adolescent fantasy.

Grace Kelly, 1956">

When do I get to be just a person?

—Grace Kelly, 1956

At 14, Grace was sent off to the Stevens School, a finishing school for young ladies of quality. Grace learned deportment, household management, proper teatime etiquette and all the other skills required of a genteel young woman, all the while continuing to appear in amateur theatrical productions. With her parents' approval, she began dating toward the end of her time at Stevens and was a popular companion, putting everyone at their ease with a certain bonhomie that boys found attractive. "She was attentive to her dates," one of them remembered years later. "She made each escort think he was King Bee." She did not resist displays of physical attraction, either, remembering in particular the blue roadster of one of her most ardent suitors. "I hope it's safely in the scrapyard," Her Serene Highness impishly told an interviewer nearly 20 years later. "Just think of the tales that back seat could tell."

Graduating from Stevens in 1947, Kelly won admission to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. The enrollment list that year was full, but her Uncle George's name still carried enough weight in New York theatrical circles for room to be made for her. Her parents made sure she was securely installed at the venerable, women-only Barbizon Hotel on Lexington Avenue, where the vulnerable tenants were guarded by a platoon of lobby security guards. Grace supplemented her Academy education with voice lessons; she supplemented her income with modeling jobs after a friend showed a snapshot of her to an advertising agency. Shorn of her glasses and ten pounds lighter, Kelly's all-American good looks now sold cigarettes, handcreams and toothpastes, and adorned the covers of Redbook and Cosmopolitan. Her earnings were dutifully sent home to Jack to pay for her tuition and her hotel room.

Grace was, in fact, spending less and less time at the Barbizon, for men were fascinated by her. She had a certain cool, aloof manner that intrigued them, and a passionate response to their advances that surprised them. Kelly had discovered the pleasures of sex not long after her arrival in New York after finding herself alone with the husband of a friend. "We were just talking," she claimed afterward, "and the next thing I knew we were in bed." It was the only such encounter with the errant husband, and the succession of men whom Grace dated had no inkling of her enthusiasm for sex until the suggestion was made. "She was always shy, that's why I liked her so much," one of them recalled many years later. "She didn't dress as the sort of girl that would jump into bed with you." But when he reached out and touched her knee one evening in the back of a taxi, he went on, "she just jumped right into my arms. I could not believe it. She was the very opposite of how she seemed." Her first serious relationship was with one of her acting teachers at the Academy, a liaison quickly cut short when her rigorously Catholic parents discovered her paramour was in the midst of a divorce and was Jewish. Both discoveries were made by Margaret, who secretly inspected the contents of the young man's suitcase during a weekend visit to Philadelphia with Grace and found legal papers relating to the pending divorce. Her mission was accomplished while the lover was downstairs telling Jack that his daughter would one day be a movie star. "Don't worry, she'll soon get over that!" Jack guffawed.

As if to prove her father wrong, Kelly was one of only two American Academy students to be chosen at graduation for the Bucks County Playhouse's 1949 summer season, during which she was cast as the ingenue in a play of her Uncle George's, The Torch Bearers. She enchanted a local reviewer, who wrote: "For a young lady whose previous experience was slim, Miss Kelly came through this footlight baptism of fire splendidly." Jack was impressed enough to bring friends to see his daughter perform, and allowed her to return to New York for her Broadway debut in August Strindberg's The Father, playing Raymond Massey's daughter. Jack installed Grace in a sprawling complex on 66th Street for which he had been a principal contractor, where Kelly promptly resumed her affair with the acting teacher, inviting threatening phone calls to her lover from her brother and an attempt to buy him off with a Jaguar from her father. Neither was effective, although the affair gradually faded as Grace's play opened in November of 1949 and Broadway sat up and took notice. "Grace Kelly gives a charming, pliable performance," Brooks Atkinson told his New York Times readers; while George Jean Nathan, who rarely liked anything he saw, thought that "only the novice Grace Kelly … relieves the stage from the air of a minor hinterland stock company on one of its off days." The Father had a respectable two-month run, after which hopes for a successful theatrical future quickly faded. "People were confused about my type," Kelly later said, "but they agreed on one thing. I was in the 'too' category—too tall, too leggy, too chinny."

Television came to the rescue. She first appeared in January of 1950 in a network adaptation of a Sinclair Lewis novel, the first of some 60 television roles that taught her more about her craft than she had learned in any classroom. Kelly quickly established a reputation for taking a part on short notice and learning it in just a few days, a valuable talent in an era before videotaped performances. Some years later, after she had graduated to feature films, an amazed Cary Grant asked how she learned dialogue so quickly. "Dozens of soaps," replied Kelly.

She continued to enjoy the company of men, including the banqueting manager of the Waldorf who invited her to attend a reception at the venerable hotel for the visiting Shah of Iran, touring the United States on his first diplomatic mission to America. The shah, then one of the world's most eligible bachelors, was so taken with Kelly that the two seemed inseparable during his week-long stay. It was Grace's first experience with royalty, and she never forgot how the entire house at the Metropolitan Opera rose to its feet in applause to mark the shah's appearance in the box reserved for him and his demurely beautiful companion. By week's end, the shah had proposed marriage. Grace politely refused, still determined on an acting career and telling her mother later that, in any event, she did not love the man. Margaret insisted she give back the opulent jewelry which the shah had bestowed on her, but Kelly stubbornly refused. Nor did she return the bracelet known to be the standard gift of the wealthy playboy Aly Khan for beautiful young ladies whom he had taken to bed. Grace sported the bracelet for another lover as a signal that she was not his alone. "She had become a career carnivore," the lover bitterly claimed later. "She was rapacious about getting famous and being important."

Kelly's combination of cool professionalism and high-profile love affairs was making her very famous, indeed. She was offered her first movie role in 1950 in an unusual film released by Fox called Fourteen Hours, an experiment in gritty storytelling in which Grace was one of a number of characters whose lives are examined as a man threatens, over the time period of the film's title, to jump to his death from a building ledge. Kelly's screentime was short, and she was identified only as "lady in lawyer's office," the office being across from the building where the main drama is unfolding. She refused Fox's offer of the standard seven-year contract after she completed work on the picture, having no intention of becoming one of a stable of young hopefuls.

That same year, independent producer Stanley Kramer was searching for the female lead in High Noon. The film's budget was such that Kramer could only afford one star, and that was to be Gary Cooper. Kelly's alert agent sent pictures. "I couldn't afford anybody else, so I signed her," Kramer later said of his decision to hire Grace to play Amy Kane, the prim Quaker wife to Cooper's sheriff. For Kelly, it was another opportunity to act in a film while avoiding, because of Kramer's independent status, a long-term contract. There was the added benefit of playing opposite Cooper, ruggedly handsome, talented, 25 years her senior, and separated from his wife. "Grace was very serious about her work," Cooper remembered years later, "and she had her eyes and ears open. She was trying to learn, you could see that." Cooper could apparently see something else, too, for not far into High Noon's 28-day shooting schedule in the Sonoma Mountains, and despite the fact that she was being chaperoned by her younger sister Lizette, Grace and her leading man became lovers. Margaret quickly flew to California and chaperoned Grace through the final days of the shoot.

Although High Noon became one of the most famous Westerns ever made, mythical in its stark confrontation between good and evil, Kelly hated her work in it. She was mortified that while Cooper's great talent silently communicated every emotion, she had no such gift. "I thought, 'God! This girl may not make it unless she does something very quickly.' I was horrified," she said, "I was miserable." Classes at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner helped Kelly put more emotion into her acting, although her next role was as another inhibited woman, Linda Nordley, in MGM's Mogambo. Instead of the Sonoma Mountains with Gary Cooper, it was Africa with Clark Gable, 30 years her senior and between wives.

Kelly had carefully arranged her own terms before signing the studio contract she had been avoiding, making sure that clauses were inserted that allowed her to live in New York between pictures, limited her to three pictures a year, and allowed her to appear in the legitimate theater as her schedule permitted. For Mogambo, her first picture for MGM, Grace was cast in the second lead, behind Ava Gardner (then Mrs. Frank Sinatra) as the proper married Englishwoman whose hidden passions are aroused by Gable's big game hunter. It was a remake of 1932's Red Dust, in which Gable had starred with Jean Harlow . Soon, Grace was skinny-dipping with Gable in Lake Victoria and writing home to a friend, "What else is there to do if you're alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable?" In London, where some of the film's interiors were shot on the crew's return from Africa, the two lovers kept a low profile until Margaret swooped in once again and began primly chaperoning the pair in an effort to scotch all the scandalous talk. Gable pitched in by answering a telephone query from gossip queen Hedda Hopper with, "Good God, no! I'm old enough to be her father!"; but when it came time for Kelly to return to America, leaving Gable behind, her tearful goodbyes at the airport appeared on the covers of gossip sheets and tabloids throughout the United States. All was forgotten on Mogambo's release in 1953. Kelly was nominated for an Oscar that year and was hailed as the new Ingrid Bergman , who had been hounded from Hollywood for her adulterous affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Look named Kelly Best Actress of the year, a refreshing replacement to the "sweater queens" of the day. "Grace Kelly is all the more exciting for her quality of restraint," one reviewer wrote.

Among the many captivated by Kelly's performance in Mogambo was Alfred Hitchcock, the director who would elevate her to the ranks of international stardom. Hitchcock had a well-known penchant for blonde leading ladies, beginning in England with Madeleine Carroll in the 1930s and extending through the now-disgraced Bergman. He delighted in presenting audiences with a heroine whose carefully controlled emotions are unleashed in threatening circumstances by a handsome leading man, and Grace's work in Mogambo convinced him that he had found, as he called her, a "snow-covered volcano." Their collaboration resulted in three films that are still considered the best work of each, all produced within a two-year period starting in 1954—Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief.

The first starred Grace as a wife whose husband plots to kill her but who instead kills her intended assassin with a pair of scissors in the film's most famous scene. The scandal and cruel gossip surrounding Kelly's affair with leading man Ray Milland nearly broke up Milland's marriage, caused endless anxieties for MGM's publicity department, and made Kelly feel, as she later said, "like a street walker. As an unmarried woman, I was thought to be a danger," she went on. "Other women looked on me as a rival, and it pained me a great deal." Particularly hurtful were Hedda Hopper's description of her as "a nymphomaniac," and Hopper's unsuccessful efforts to convince producers and directors not to hire her.

For her second Hitchcock film, Rear Window, Hitchcock set off Grace's beauty with stunning costuming by Edith Head and the performance that made her career, as the uninhibited girlfriend of Jimmy Stewart and the only one who believes he has witnessed a murder. To Catch a Thief, the third picture and the most romantically inspired film Hitchcock ever made, set Kelly against the glamorous French Riviera as a wealthy American who falls for Cary Grant's raffish jewel thief. The film became famous for its playful sexual innuendo and its final, passionate embrace with fireworks exploding in the background, broadly hinting at what lay ahead for the lovers after the fadeout. The fact was that Grace at the time was considering a marriage proposal from couturier Oleg Cassini, with whom she appeared at dinner engagements during the shoot to form a threesome with the Hitchcocks and the Grants (Grant was then married to his third wife, actress Betsy Drake ). Because Cassini was twice divorced, Margaret was adamantly opposed to any such union but had so far been unable to break up the relationship.

By the time Kelly had arrived in France to begin production on the film in the spring of 1954, she had shot five pictures in eight months. In addition to her previous two pictures with Hitchcock, she had taken a small but significant role as William Holden's wife in the Korean War saga The Bridges at Toko-Ri and played opposite Stewart Granger in a lurid tale involving emeralds and misplaced passion which she had shot in Colombia, Green Fire. She found Granger conceited and boorish, but Holden was more to her liking. The affair they began during The Bridges at Toko-Ri had continued into a second picture, The Country Girl, in which Kelly had won the part fought over by every leading lady in Hollywood.

Based on the Clifford Odets play of the same name, the story of a quietly strong-willed woman who saves the career of her actor-husband from alcoholic oblivion cast both Grace and her leading man against type, for Bing Crosby abandoned his debonair crooning to play a helpless drunk and Kelly forsook her glamorous gowns and high heels for frayed sweaters and pumps. (Holden played the director trying to coax Crosby back to the stage.) Hollywood gossips claimed that Holden had graciously stepped aside when Crosby, whose first wife had recently died, was as unable as any other man to resist Kelly's beauty and charm. His proposal of marriage, however, was gently refused. Despite these off-screen dramas, or perhaps because of them, Kelly's performance as Georgie Elgin brought her a second Oscar nomination for Best Actress. "As close to theatrical perfection as we are likely to see onscreen in our time," Cue magazine claimed, while The New York Post wondered at how "Miss Kelly extends her range down to the bottoms of un-glamour and dead-faced discouragement."

The competition for the Oscar that year was stiff, with Audrey Hepburn (for Sabrina) and Judy Garland (for A Star Is Born) among the competitors. The Oscar, however, went to Grace Kelly. After the accolades and post-award parties, Grace returned to her house in the wee hours of the morning, alone with the diminutive golden statue. "There we were, just the two of us," she remembered later. "It was terrible. It was the loneliest moment of my life." Her father's telephoned congratulations earlier in the evening had been lukewarm, for he remained the one man whose admiration for her accomplishments eluded her. Kelly once told a friend that she would do anything for her father, but claimed her love was never returned. Indeed, when once asked by a reporter what he thought of his daughter's success, Jack had merely shrugged and said, "I'm glad she's making a living."

After that triumphant 1954, Kelly had achieved the kind of international celebrity reserved for only a handful of stars. Her appearances at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival drew hordes of photographers and journalists, and an exhausted Grace confessed to her old friend, French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, that she was thinking of refusing an appearance arranged by Paris Match with Prince Rainier, the scion of the ancient House of Grimaldi that had ruled the tiny principality of Monaco for six centuries. Convinced by a horrified Aumont that one did not stand up a reigning prince, Kelly impatiently sat through the hour that Rainier kept her waiting, then obligingly smiled as she walked with him in the royal gardens of the castle in Monte Carlo long enough to satisfy the photographers. Kelly wrote a polite thank-you note on her return to the United States, then began work on her next picture. It was The Swan, a film adaptation of Molnar's play about a beautiful young princess who cannot choose between her love for her tutor and her duty to marry a prince.

Rainier, meanwhile, was making discreet inquiries. He found himself in a peculiar position, for under the centuries-old terms under which Monaco had become a principality independent of France, Monaco's subjects would become French citizens if the ruling prince did not produce an heir to the throne. Among the many liberties enjoyed by Monaco's population was the lack of an income tax; the revenues produced by the famous casino in Monte Carlo could support what Somerset Maugham had called "a sunny place for shady people." The possibility of having to pay French income tax made the prince's marriage of intense interest. Rainier, 31 years old at the time he met Grace, had dallied for some years with a French actress, and had been prepared to marry her until fertility tests indicated she would be unable to bear children. Kelly, child-bearing abilities aside, had fascinated him with her beauty and regal bearing, something he had not expected to find in a movie actress. The fact that she was Catholic was a great advantage, too, for the intensely Catholic Grimaldis had been close to the Vatican since seizing Monaco from rebellious papal subjects in the 13th century. Rainier's Catholic adviser, Father Francis Tucker, carefully checked Grace's credentials and spent hours grilling hapless friends of the Kelly family who had come to Monaco on vacation. By autumn of 1955, Prince Rainier's first visit to the United States had been arranged, ostensibly diplomatic in nature; but as Grace finished work on The Swan in early December, she learned that Rainier would be spending Christmas Day with her family in Philadelphia. On the journey from Monaco, Rainier described his ideal woman to reporters as having "long hair floating in the wind, the color of autumn leaves. Her eyes are blue, or violet, with flecks of gold."

Suddenly, Kelly found herself in the position of having to choose between her career and marriage to a man she had met only once. She had told Aumont before leaving France earlier that year that she had found Rainier charming, and she gushed to her old friend, actress Rita Gam , "I love his eyes. I could look into them for hours"; but to many of her friends, these hardly seemed reasons to cut short a brilliant career which as yet showed no signs of fading. Kelly said nothing about her plans, the press reporting on her dates in Hollywood with Frank Sinatra, David Niven, and Spencer Tracy. A friend later reported that Kelly had seemed distracted during a dinner engagement early in December 1955, as she was finishing work on The Swan. Grace's explanation was that she was trying to decide whether to go home to Philadelphia for the holidays, but she said nothing about why she was so concerned about the visit.

In New York shortly after the New Year, Kelly called Oleg Cassini and asked him to take the ferry with her to Staten Island and back. Cassini believed he and Grace had a future together, but with the towers of lower Manhattan gleaming behind her in the sharp winter light, Kelly told him that Rainier had proposed to her at her parents' home on Christmas Day, and that she had accepted. To Cassini's objection that she hardly knew the man, Grace replied firmly, "I will learn to love him." She offered no other explanation for her decision, but later wrote that she acted on instinct. "But then, I always have," she said. "We happened to meet each other at a time when each of us was ready for marriage. There comes a time in life when you have to choose." The announcement was made public a few days later, Rainier finding the publicity distasteful but bearing the press' onslaught with as much royal reserve as he could maintain. Kelly had to withstand her father's embarrassing wheedling during the negotiations over the dowry his daughter was required to provide; worse, Margaret wrote and published a series of detailed articles in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner called "My Daughter Grace Kelly: Her Life And Romances." Kelly was publicly humiliated by her mother's exposé of her amours, despite Margaret's protests that she was donating all her royalties from the articles to charity. "First I had to fight the studio to avoid being a commodity, and now my own family trades me on the open market!" Grace exploded. "Why couldn't she just bake some cookies or organize some damn benefit!" Kelly cut off all communication with her mother for weeks as she began work on her last picture, High Society.

There was a certain irony in Grace's acceptance of the role of Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite who nearly marries the wrong man. Although MGM had hired a singer to dub Grace's voice for its musical version of Phillip Barrie's stage play Philadelphia Story, Grace insisted on doing her own singing—to particularly good effect with Cole Porter's lyrics in the drunken "You're Sensational," where Grace sang "I don't care/ If I am called/ The Fair Miss Fridigaire." The shoot, Kelly's last time before the camera, was a bittersweet experience. The film, directed by veteran Charles Walters, co-starred two old friends, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, as the two men Grace must choose between; and the studio, which had only a year before placed Kelly on temporary suspension for refusing roles offered to her, now generously donated all the dresses she wore in the picture for her trousseau. As if to declare her pending freedom from Hollywood

stardom, Kelly sported in the film the huge white diamond Rainier had given her for their engagement. When the picture wrapped in February of 1956, Grace left the MGM lot for the last time.

Within weeks, doctors had confidentially reported to Rainier that his intended was fully capable of bearing children, while at the same time delicately sidestepping the issue of Kelly's virginity. On April 18, 1956, Grace Patricia Kelly was metamorphosed into Her Serene Highness, Grace, princess of Monaco, the royal consort of a kingdom that was, at less than 400 acres, smaller than one of MGM's back lots. It took three ceremonies to complete the transformation—the civil wedding required by Monaco law, a second one performed strictly for the press of reporters and whirring cameras that had descended on Monte Carlo, and a full-blown royal wedding by strict Catholic rite in the Cathedral of Monte Carlo. Show business royalty, including Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, and Alfred Hitchcock, rubbed elbows in the cathedral with minor potentates and jet setters, all eager to be seen at the media event of the decade. As gifts to her bridesmaids, Kelly handed out the jewelry she had been given by the shah of Iran so many years before.

Precisely nine months and six days later, Princess Caroline was born to the royal couple, the only one expressing disappointment at the infant's sex being Grace's father. "Aw, shucks," Jack told reporters, "I was hoping for a boy." Two more children followed over the next eight years, Rainier obtaining his heir and keeping his kingdom with the birth of Prince Albert in 1958. By 1962, Kelly was taking such an active role in state affairs that she was generally credited with averting a potential French blockade of the border and seizure of Monaco's assets in France after Rainier fired a meddlesome foreign minister who, as it turned out, was an agent of Charles de Gaulle's. "Grace is the best ambassador I have," he said. His wife was widely admired, too, for her charitable activities, particularly on behalf of the elderly, and for sponsoring the construction of Monaco's first state theater at the bottom of the royal palace's hill.

But by the birth of her third child, Princess Stephanie , in 1965, the rigid order of palace life was having its effect on Kelly. A palace gossip reported that when Rainier asked his wife in 1966 what she wanted for their tenth anniversary, Grace snapped, "A year off!" Rainier apparently granted her wish, for Kelly took her own apartment in Paris and spent considerable time there, and later that same year arranged to be named to the board of directors of 20th Century-Fox, which required her to be in Hollywood for quarterly meetings. Back on the studio party circuit, Her Serene Highness sometimes belied her title with liberal helpings of martinis and became, as Ava Gardner reported, "just another one of the girls dishing the dirt." She referred to Rainier as "The Dodo" but insisted that her marriage and position were all that she could have hoped for. Nevertheless, Kelly jumped at her first offer of film work in over a decade—Alfred Hitchcock's plea to return to the screen in the title role of his upcoming film, Marnie, again opposite Cary Grant.

Rainier did not object at first, even going so far as to arrange the rental of a house in Los Angeles for the production period; but his subjects thought otherwise. They had been disturbed by the way Kelly had broken state protocol by meeting Grant alone at the airport in Monaco when he came visiting and, worse, had kissed him as cameras flashed. Grace had, in fact, been carrying on an affair for some time with her former leading man, who had just divorced his fourth wife, actress Dyan Cannon . She told a confidante that Grant was the only man who understood her and wondered if she should have married him instead of Rainier. Besides her over-familiarity in public with a film actor, the role Grace had accepted was problematical for a reigning princess, too, the character being a kleptomaniac with a sexually explosive secret. In the end, Kelly was forced to refuse the role, writing Hitchcock that she was heartbroken at the decision. (The title role went instead to Hitchcock's new blonde leading lady, Tippi Hedren .)

Denied her return to the screen and the freewheeling Hollywood milieu, the 1970s became Kelly's loneliest decade. Her affair with Cary Grant ended when Grant remarried, while her own marriage to Rainier became little more than a formal friendship. The couple had long ago taken to occupying separate quarters in the palace on the hill. "If I had a choice," Kelly confided to a friend, "I'd divorce him. But I have no choice. He'd keep my children." In 1981, she received permission to appear, as herself, in a television film being made by an Austrian director whom she had been seeing in Paris. Rearranged was a social farce about a gardening club in Monaco, and Kelly's presence in the film had drawn the interest of American television networks. Completing her work on the picture in Paris, Kelly and her youngest daughter, Stephanie, broke their drive back to Monaco by spending the night at a villa the family owned near St. Tropez, on the Côte d'Azur not far from Monaco. Grace wanted to use the time alone with her daughter to try and convince Stephanie to end her much-publicized affair with Paul Belmondo, the son of French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, which had been causing considerable embarrassment to the royal dignity. The next morning, September 13, 1982, Grace and Stephanie set off in their Land Rover for Monaco, less than an hour's drive along the winding Corniche—the same stretch of road, in fact, along which Grace Kelly had recklessly driven Cary Grant 30 years before in To Catch a Thief. Now Kelly was once again at the wheel, although she had often said that she disliked driving.

Less than a mile from the Monaco border, as a truckdriver following behind later reported, the Land Rover swerved, seemed to straighten, then failed to make a sharp curve and plunged off the road, tumbling 50 feet down an embankment and rolling on its roof before coming to rest. Both women were pulled unconscious from the wreckage. Stephanie later revived at the hospital and was treated for relatively minor injuries, but Grace never regained consciousness. On the evening of September 14, after being informed by doctors that there was no hope, the family agreed to disconnect the life-support equipment that had been maintaining Grace's vital functions. She died peacefully at 10:15.

The world would never learn what had happened in the Land Rover that sunny September morning, for the royal family has maintained a strict secrecy ever since Kelly's death. It is known that Grace suffered a stroke, but doctors were unable to say whether it had struck her while driving or whether it was a consequence of her fatal injuries and subsequent trauma; nor will there ever be proof for rumors that Grace's attention had wandered from the twisting road during a heated argument with Stephanie over the disputed affair with Belmondo.

The same illustrious guests that had attended Kelly's wedding nearly 30 years before now saw her to her rest in the royal tomb in the Cathedral of Monte Carlo four days after her death. A grieving Cary Grant was so distraught that he had to be helped to and from his car, while Rainier himself, for the first time in public memory, was unable to maintain his regal demeanor and sobbed uncontrollably. "Can there be any doubt that he loved Grace with all his heart?" Grant later said.

Rainier has never remarried and appears in public only when protocol demands it. Grace's picture is still lovingly displayed throughout Monaco and her name adorns public buildings, monuments, and streets dedicated to her memory. But it is her films, particularly her radiant work for Hitchcock, that are the true keepsakes of a life marked by both notoriety and regal splendor, by passionate spontaneity and cool logic. In the weeks after her death, friends would often recall Kelly's favorite bit of poetry, from Kahlil Gibran. "When love beckons to you," the line went, "follow him, though his voice may shatter your dreams."


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Norman Powers , writer-producer, Chelsea Lane Productions, New York