Grace Kelly
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If you have ever suffered from
Triskedekaphobia - fear of the Number 13 - then you aren't going to like this piece of trivia.  In 1999, the beautiful and talented Grace Kelly was voted the 13th most popular movie actress of all time by the American Film Institute.  In terms of her tragic death, Kelly was definitely unlucky.

Grace Kelly starred with Cary Grant in the Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief (1955). To this day, To Catch a Thief remains the most popular movie ever filmed on the French Riviera.  In fact, most people would be hard-pressed to list another movie filmed on the Riviera!  (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Ronin (1988), That Riviera Touch (1966), Casino Royale (2006), On the Riviera (1951) to name a few.)

To Catch a Thief was made by Alfred Hitchcock at the peak of his career in 1955.  It had two of his favorite stars - Cary Grant and Grace Kelly - and the movie was filmed in one of his favorite places: the French Riviera. To say the three of them had a good time filming this picture would be an understatement.

Hitchcock was known for dark psychological thrillers like Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds, and Marnie.  However, this movie was so much different from all his other movies.  Not only was this movie far more 'romantic' than it was 'thrilling', I would add that the script was downright funny much of the time.
 Although this polished caper film contains a typical amount of mystery and suspense, its lighthearted, relaxed plot definitely lacked the profound psychological depth and complexity of his other works.  And you know what?  No one minded a bit.  This movie was very entertaining.

The title was based on an old French proverb - "To catch a thief, use a thief".  Cary Grant played John Robie, a man who thieved for the French Resistance during the war. Now a recent spate of burglaries has cast suspicion on him, so Grant is forced to set out to catch the real cat burglar in an effort to clear his name. That is when he crosses the path of Francie Stevens (Grace Kelly), the daughter of an American heiress. At this point, Francie falls for Robie and decides to set a few traps of her own to catch her man.

The plot was clever and kept us guessing right up to the very end who the real thief was.  However, although there was plenty of suspense in To Catch a Thief, the incredible chemistry between Grace Kelly and Cary Grant stole the show.  Thanks in large part to their constant clever and witty banter, you simply could not take your eyes off the romantic interplay between Kelly and Grant.  They sizzled on-screen together (it didn't hurt at all that they both really liked each other in real life.  For that matter, Hitchcock adored both actors).

Meanwhile, the search for the real crook had to settle for playing itself out in the background.  To this day, I can barely remember how they caught the crook, but I will never forget the fireworks scene at the end of the movie.  Hitchcock's masterful use of symbolism was quite effective at getting his point across.

The movie was filmed primarily in Monaco, the small but incredibly wealthy mountainside kingdom whose fame is synonymous with the French Riviera.  By an amazing coincidence, just one year after the release of the movie (1955), Grace Kelly would become Princess Grace of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier (1956).  No movie script could top her real life story. Indeed, their fairy-tale romance captivated the world - an American movie queen, a European prince, and their enchanted life in a hilltop palace overlooking the Mediterranean.  The connection between To Catch a Thief and Kelly's wedding would be forever linked.

There is one more connection between the movie, Kelly, and Monaco that bothers everybody - the car chase scene. It was more of a "psychological" car chase really, but who can forget Grace Kelly zooming along the cliffs of the French Riviera in her little roadster?  The immediate plans were to invite Grant along for a picnic and a countryside drive in her open sports car.  This allowed us wonderful glimpses of Monaco's mountainside beauty. Then came the suspense.  In one of the best scenes in the movie, Grace Kelly drove much too fast across precarious Riviera mountain roads to help Cary Grant elude pursuing police.

As their drive continued, it became a high-speed chase along treacherous mountain roads to elude the police following them.  Kelly/Francie calmly held onto the wheel with her dainty white gloves as she screeched her motor car around cliff-edged curves. In contrast, Grant was worried - clenching tense fists with his sweaty palms resting and rising on both of his thighs. Kelly barely missed running down an elderly woman carrying laundry across a village street. Then she barely missed hitting a chicken in the middle of the road. The pursuing detectives had to swerve to avoid the same bird and crashed into a stone wall.

Screeching tires, tumultuous precipices, a good looking girl, and all seen through the lens of the Master, Alfred Hitchcock!  However, today, the scene plays much differently.  How eerie is it to see Grace Kelly driving so fast on those French Riviera cliffside roads, in light of what happened to her later

As they say about the roads, d
riving a car on the Riviera is only for the brave. The passing of Grace was attended by paradox and premonition. On her first visit to Monaco, Grace took one look at the
twisting, winding roads of Monaca and remarked, "Who would ever dare to drive these roads?"  In 1982, Grace Kelly, 52, tragically died in a car accident when she drove off a mountainside road in Monaco.  Her car plunged down a 45-foot embankment. Although there were countless rumors as to what 'really happened', the consensus today is that Grace Kelly suffered a stroke and lost consciousness.  What unsettles us all is that she died while driving the same roads she had the movie.  Now that is too weird. 

Cary Grant had another famous movie with a French Riviera scene.  Can you name it?  Answer at bottom



RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  The following article is a synthesis between two excellent stories I found on the Internet.  One story was a comprehensive 1996 piece about Grace Kelly I found in the People Magazine archives.  In addition, I found a terrific article on the Pop Culture Institute website that concentrated more on the actual wedding itself.  Both articles came at the story from different angles, but I soon realized they fit together like a glove.

This Article came from the People Magazine Archives
February 12, 1996
Vol. 45 No. 6

When Hollywood's Princess Met the Prince of Monaco, She Traded Her Realm for His. The Result Wasn't Always a Perfect Marriage, but It Lasted Till Death Did Them Part

In the spring of 1955, Grace Kelly was in the South of France attending the Cannes Film Festival
Grace was persuaded to visit Monaco by Olivia de Haviland’s husband Pierre Galante. An audience was arranged with Prince Rainier to be photographed by Paris Match

One reason for her visit to Cannes was to
renew an old affair with the actor Jean-Pierre Aumont. At lunch with him one afternoon, she mentioned her plan to skip the photo shoot the next day with the Prince of Monaco. It conflicted with her appointment to have her hair done. Aumont was aghast. "Grace," he insisted, "you can't possibly do that! He's a reigning prince."  Kelly decided to keep the appointment.

At the palace, Kelly's group was kept waiting by the Prince who was running late. After more than an hour, the Prince appeared just as Grace was about to give up and leave.

After the shoot, the Prince escorted Grace through the formal gardens and showed off his personal zoo, impressing her by petting a baby tiger. He expressed his intentions to visit the US in the future. Reluctantly she took her leave to return to Cannes were she was scheduled to host a reception. It was clear that she was intrigued by the Prince who she found utterly charming. The prince was also intrigued by Grace, who he found beautiful and poised, unlike the characters such as the dowdy Georgie Elgin in The Country Girl. It appeared that the Prince had found his potential Princess.

There wasn't much Grace Kelly couldn't do that year. She was 25, an Oscar-winning actress and a world-renowned beauty. In a short time she had gone from being a Philadelphia debutante to a film star. Alfred Hitchcock had saluted her enchantments that year in To Catch a Thief, and during her long onscreen kiss with Cary Grant, fireworks broke out behind them. Very fitting. To sum up the world's opinion of Grace Kelly, nothing short of fireworks would do.

Prince Rainier of Monaco headed the House of Grimaldi, Europe's longest-ruling princely family (established 1297). Though his domain was just 370 acres—smaller than the back lot at Kelly's studio, MGM—it had space enough for his 200-room pink palace and his private zoo. And room as well for the lightly faded Monte-Carlo Casino, which still pumped out sufficient revenue so that none of his 20,000 subjects paid any personal income tax. Monaco was popular mostly as a tax haven for assorted ex-patriots who made too much money to live in their own country. But under the terms of an old treaty, if Rainier died without an heir, they would all become citizens and taxpayers of France.

Known as the wealthiest bachelor in the world, Prince Rainier had broken off plans to marry a girlfriend,
French actress Giséle Pascal, because she was infertile (a curious conclusion since she later had children). Now it was time for Plan B.  Rainier, 31, had decided to begin searching for a suitable bride. From Rainier's point of view, clearly, looks were a priority. En route once to the U.S., he described to reporters his ideal woman: "I see her with long hair floating in the wind, the color of autumn leaves. Her eyes are blue or violet, with flecks of gold."  From his side of the Atlantic, Rainier saw in Kelly a woman who might bring not only heirs, but a touch of glamour to revive his entire domain.

Despite her initial indifference during the Paris Match photo shoot, the golden-haired, blue-eyed Kelly's first meeting with Rainier went well. "I think he's very charming," she told Aumont. After returning to the States, she and the Prince began a correspondence that was avidly pushed along by Father Francis Tucker, the American priest who was Rainier's closest aide and chief talent scout for eligible Catholic girls.

From Kelly's point of view, aside from his title and a degree of swarthy good looks, Rainier III also had a certain Gallic charm, not to mention the sort of confidence that came from being raised in an atmosphere of total deference. Whatever it was, it worked on Kelly. For a woman whose well-guarded love life had been endlessly complicated by the insecurity of actors, and one whose future career depended on her developing the same insecurities - frowning into mirrors to count each new line appearing in her face - she left Monaco on the fateful day they met with a possible escape route already forming in her mind.

Kelly had already been through Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Ray Milland and William Holden, as well as the Shah of Iran and the fashion designer Oleg Cassini, whom she had come close to marrying. Her taste in men horrified her father, Jack Kelly, an Irish-American bricklayer turned millionaire builder. Her younger brother once complained, "I don't generally approve of these oddballs. I wish she would go out with the more athletic type."

But by the time she and Rainier met, it may have 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."

After she returned to Hollywood to film The Swan (in which she would play a young woman betrothed to a prince!), Kelly initiated a correspondence with her new royal admirer that paved the way. Their second meeting was a dinner date and a meeting with Grace's family seven months later. 

hen Rainier visited the US that December 1955 - ostensibly on a State Visit - rumors were already afloat that he was shopping for a wife.  The common knowledge of his need to produce an heir made it obvious that Rainier was under pressure to something about it.  Consequently Rainier's every move was subjected to intense scrutiny. The 32-year-old Prince was coy whenever asked about his matrimonial aspirations, despite the fact that the gossip columns were fairly oozing with innuendo that his real purpose for the visit was dynastic rather than diplomatic.  Under the terms of a treaty signed by both France and Monaco in 1918, were he to die without an heir, then his country (along with its tax-free status) would revert to French control!  Seeing as the Grimaldis had been squatting on that rocky hillside since 1297, Rainier had no intention of being remembered by history as the one who had relinquished it.

It was during the December state visit that Rainier met his future in-laws.  He proposed during this visit.  Rainier's proposal struck Kelly as more a business deal than anything else.  However, it was a role she wanted to play, so she accepted. 

Shortly after that their formal engagement was announced.  On April 4th, 1956, Grace Kelly sailed from New York City's Pier 84 on board the SS Constitution with 70 members of her family and friends - all paid for by Grace's father Jack Kelly who, thanks to Monaco and MGM, was relieved of his fatherly obligation to pay for the wedding. The ship arrived eight days later, where it was greeted by most of Monaco's 23,000 inhabitants, not to mention a sizable flotilla of pleasure craft, most of them bearing members of the European media. Since the Constitution was too large to dock there, it was greeted at the mouth of the harbour by the Princes' yacht Deo Juvante II, a wedding present bestowed on him by the erstwhile Aristotle Onassis.

"Their relationship was both rational and passionate," says Rita Gam, a Kelly bridesmaid who remained one of her closest friends. "I love his eyes," Kelly gushed. "I could look into them for hours." When Rainier gave her an immense diamond engagement ring, she flaunted it on camera in her last Hollywood film, High Society. Their wedding week in April 1956 brought them even closer. In the words of one of her biographers, Robert Lacey, it became "the first modern event to generate media overkill."

Monaco swarmed with reporters who would have been even more excited if they had known how worried Kelly was about the medical examination demanded by the Grimaldis to determine whether she could bear children—because it would also show that she was not a virgin. (As it turned out, the matter was discreetly passed over.)

Having already been dubbed The Wedding of the Century, this was a title it would hold securely until a rival in July 1981 would surpass it.  The wedding of Rainier and Grace was actually two weddings; the first, held the day before the big event, was a civil ceremony attended by eighty guests in the throne room of the palace, at which Grace wore a dress of rose pink taffeta and Alençon lace, designed by the head of MGM's costume department Helen Rose. Following the somber affair a luncheon was held at the royal palace.  After that there was a garden party on the palace grounds for 3,000 guests.

The next day Saint Nicholas Cathedral was the scene of one of the most opulent - yet elegant - weddings of all time. The wedding dress, also designed by Helen Rose, was the crowning achievement of her career. Three dozen seamstresses worked in top secret for six weeks creating a demure fantasy of 125-year-old rose-point lace, silk taffeta, peau de soie, and tulle at a cost of more than $7,200. Following the wedding, Princess Grace donated the dress to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in her hometown; it wasn't seen in Monaco again until the summer of 2007, when it was loaned to the Grimaldi Forum for an exhibition timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Princess Grace's death on September 1982.

The wedding was performed by Monsignor Gilles Barthe, Bishop of Monaco, in the presence of 600 guests, and watched on television by 30 million more.
 The guests did not include a single representative from any of the royal houses of Europe, which were inclined to see the Grimaldis as quarrelsome minor aristocracy. For example, Queen Elizabeth II is said to have turned down an invitation because there'd be "too many movie stars" there - and were there ever! Cary Grant, Ava Gardner, David Niven, and Gloria Swanson to name just a few, in addition to the Aga Khan, King Farouk, Aristotle Onassis, Conrad Hilton, and W. Somerset Maugham. Rainier's mother came in the company of a former jewel thief, which caused some suspicion among the several guests whose jewels were stolen throughout the week.

That evening the newlywed couple hosted a wedding gala at the Opera House.  Following the whirlwind of events, the royal couple took a week-long honeymoon aboard the Deo Juvante II.  Nine months and five days later, Princess Caroline was born.  However, it was not until March 1958 with the birth of the future Albert II that the House of Grimaldi was safe for another generation.

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. But the constraints of palace life were not always easy for Grace. 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."

To fill her time, Grace devoted herself to charities and cultural affairs, the allowable occupations of crowned heads. But her husband was against her growing wish to resume acting. "They were living in a gilded cage," says her onetime fiancé Cassini. "She wanted to be respected as an actress." When Hitchcock offered Kelly the lead in his 1964 film Marnie, Kelly leaped at the chance.  Rainier had given her his lukewarm approval in the beginning.  However the public furor in Monaco was so negative against making the movie that Rainier put his foot down. The part went to Tippi Hedren instead, a near-clone of Kelly in looks.

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.

Then came the brutal end. Kelly once told the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, "I hate to drive a car...I am not a good driver." On Sept. 13, 1982, she and Stephanie, then 17, were returning from France along the mountain roads approaching Monaco. On a hairpin curve the Princess lost control of the car (doctors would later suspect a mild stroke at the wheel). Her Rover plunged down a 45-foot embankment, landing on its roof. She died the next day without ever regaining consciousness.

The media that had descended upon Monaco for the wedding returned for the funeral. And the royalty that had snubbed the happier occasion came this time, a recognition of the dignity that Kelly had given her role.

His wife's sudden death also brought home to Rainier what he had lost. Growing old in a principality where her picture is still to be seen everywhere, the Prince, by most accounts, was sincere in his grief.  Outliving Grace by 23 years, he never remarried.  One of Kelly's favorite quotations was from the poet Kahlil Gibran: "When love beckons to you, follow him, though his voice may shatter your dreams...." In their different ways, it was a line that Grace and Rainier would come equally to understand.



RICK ARCHER'S NOTE:  Before Diana, there was Grace - just as beautiful, just as fabled a wedding, just as fashionable, just as much a royal philanthropist, just as tragic a death.

Except Grace had the added cachet of Hollywood glamour —she had an Oscar. And she was well-mannered in an era in which stars never appeared in public without underwear and princesses never blabbed to the media.  Princess Grace was an elegant woman who carried herself with extreme dignity.  Grace was invaluable to her husband; she did much to help shift the international perception of Monaco as a "sunny place for shady people" to the financially successful tourist mecca it is today.  The success and respectability of modern Monaco owes much to the auspices of Princess Grace.

Apparently the lives of these two famous women crossed two times in the space of a year.  In March 1981, Grace was in London for a poetry reading party to which Prince Charles had been invited.  Recently his engagement to Diana had just been announced; this would be Lady Di's first public appearance since the announcement.  .

Diana showed up in a low-cut dress two sizes two small.  Her breasts were barely contained.  The sight of her struggling to get out of the car in that dress had driven the media into a frenzy. This was Diana's first real taste of what it was going to be like.  She was a nervous wreck.

panic was still evident at a reception after the reading at Buckingham Palace. It was then that Grace asked the young Diana if she would accompany her and her aide Gwen Robyns to the ladies room for a chat.  Gwen Robyns later reported that while Diana was touching up her make-up standing in front of the mirror, she burst into tears.

“The dress Diana was wearing was so revealing, she explained, because it was two sizes too small; the intended outfit had not arrived in time – an unnerving situation to occur for her first formal appearance. Diana also said she now realized more than ever how unbearable it would be to have so many people jostling for her attention, asking questions, not only of her but of anyone who knew her. She saw a life totally devoid of privacy. She was frightened. She asked Princess Grace, "What can I do?"

Diana was certainly asking the right woman for advice. At this point Diana seemed to shrivel under the spotlight’s glare. Not Grace.  Grace had always known how to use her celebrity to her advantage.  No matter how troubled her private life, once the spotlight shone upon her, the former Grace Patricia Kelly transformed into Her Serene Highness – the greatest role of her life.”

Grace put her arms around the distraught Diana and patted her on the shoulder. She then cupped Diana’s face in her hands. “Don’t worry, dear, ” she said with a gentle smile. “You see, it‘ll only get worse.”

Not the most tender of words, but quite prophetic.  Here was a breath of honesty rare in Diana's world;  words that could only echo back as the sad years passed.

The second meeting was a brief encounter at Diana's Royal Wedding in July 1982.  Little did anyone suspect what was in store for either women - a tragic death for Grace five short months later in December 1982 and a terrible broken marriage for Diana.

Unfortunately, like Princess Di, I think Grace had a marriage that left something to be desired. As I read between the lines of all the Grace stories, her fairy tale marriage definitely had its ups and downs.  Although the magazines of the day were thrilled at the story lines, there were details that raised my eyebrows.

For one thing, the courtship was ridiculously short. I studied stories about Rainier and Kelly for two entire days. Unless I wasn't reading things right, it looked to me like the man proposed to her the second time they met!  Yes, there had been correspondence across the seas, but typically a decision to marry requires some getting-to-know-you time.  To me, the Wedding of the Century was in reality Rainier and his mail-order bride!  Here is one chilling anecdote I ran across.

"After accepting Rainier's proposal, Grace called her friends to tell them she was engaged to be married but hung up before telling them who the man was. Confusion reigned. The consensus was Oleg Cassini, her off and on boyfriend.  At the time no one suspected Prince Rainier.  She had never said a word about him. Where did he come from?  Legend has it that Marilyn Monroe's engagement congratulations to Grace ran, "So glad you've found a way out of the business." '

It is impossible not to draw comparisons between the Princess Di and Princess Grace.  Both women were known for their beauty.  Both women were known for their sense of style.  Both women were known for their philanthropy.  Both women were known for their philandering.

Both woman had Royal Weddings of the century.  Both women died of tragic car accidents.  Both women lived out their lives before constant media scrutiny.  Despite their wide public popularity, both women appeared to have troubled personal lives.  Both women died the victim of Cinderella marriages that ended with shattered glass slippers.

As I continued to poke around the Internet, I found these comments in a 2007 blog by Robert Stein that seemed to support my suspicions.

Born Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, she was glowingly beautiful, as movies on TCM still show, and talented enough to win an Academy Award at the age of 25. Yet she gave it all up to marry a man she hardly knew and become the Princess of a financially distressed country smaller than the size of Central Park.

As a magazine editor then, amid all the hoopla of the fairy-tale wedding, I wanted to know why.  So I sent a reporter to interview her mother and three sisters, who pictured her as a quiet middle child who failed to fit into an extroverted, hyperactive rich family like the Kennedys and withdrew into her own fantasy world.

They persuaded Grace to talk about it. “You get beyond the point of anger," she said. “If you try to fight back, it takes too much out of you. I can be stubborn, but I can’t quarrel. I’d rather give up. I don’t like fighting, all the loud voices and the angry words. When it’s finished, I feel as though a steamroller had gone over me.”

She escaped all that by marrying a Prince with whom she had only spent a few hours, in a virtual arranged marriage that would bring new life to the main industry of his domain, the casinos of Monte Carlo.

On their twentieth wedding anniversary, Grace and Prince Rainier did another interview for me. Looking back, he admitted, “It was not love at first sight … We were both ready for marriage.”

On their first weekend, Rainier was impressed by the Kelly family “with the father absolutely the boss. I liked that. It’s the way I wanted my marriage to be.”  He went on enthusiastically endorsing male dominance as “natural and right based on his experience training wild animals."

Grace tactfully agreed. “I was a star, but I wasn’t happy. I wanted to marry, but it had to be someone who wouldn’t become Mr. Grace Kelly. It was important that he be a man and remain one.”

When Rainier was out of the room, she added, "As a Gemini, two people in one. Light and darkness. When it’s dark, I avoid it or make light of it. You know, turn a quarrel into a laugh."

In the following years, throughout her older daughter’s disastrous marriage and divorce, Princess Grace kept her silence, but friends were troubled to see her drinking heavily and gaining weight.

Then, on a morning in September, 1982, driving back from a shopping trip to Nice, with Stephanie, her younger daughter, sitting beside her, 53-year-old Princess Grace of Monaco approached a hairpin curve at high speed and went off the road without, as a driver behind her testified, even touching her brakes.

The official explanation for the accident was that she may have suffered a stroke, but those who knew Grace Kelly believed otherwise; perhaps the repressed anger of a lifetime had finally exploded during a quarrel with her daughter.

So ended the fairy tale.



 Post-Trip 1: French Riviera  Post-Trip 2: Nice and Eze  Post-Trip 3: Monaco
Pre-Trip: History of the French Riviera  Pre-Trip: Grace Kelly Read Next: Stories about the French Riviera

So did you guess An Affair to Remember (1957)?  Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr play their parts to perfection as two people who meet on a cruise ship and find themselves irresistibly attracted to one another (even though they are both engaged to others).  Deborah Kerr keeps Grant at arms length by assuming his reputation as a lady's man is well-deserved.  However she begins to fall in love with him when Grant invites her to meet his aged grandmother at her villa on the French Riviera. This is when Kerr realizes how kind he really is.

Speaking for myself, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Riviera landscapes in the background.  This movie marked the first time I knew I wanted to visit the Riviera someday.
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