This article is part of the ‘Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon’ which is hosted by my great friend Virginie at her blog “The Wonderful World Of Cinema”. Click here to view the other entries being exhibited during the event.
Grace Kelly is one of the most celebrated stars to ever grace the silver screen. In a motion picture career that spanned for only six years, Grace with her striking luminous looks that made her the epitome of beauty along with her famed marriage to Prince Rainier has become a recognizable legendary figure from the golden years of cinema.
With all that to her credit audiences were intrigued to know the background on how the creation known as Grace Kelly evolved. With the popularity that she garnered a plethora of people worldwide has automatically came to the conclusion that she was born into a stage struck family of opulence. In truth the ambience that surrounded the birth was quite different.
From the moment she was born she had the face of a movie star, and her life resembled something of a fairy tale, but even though she hailed from a wealthy background the legend known as Grace Kelly didn’t evolve overnight. To reach the status that she attained required years of hard work and dedication.
Grace Patricia Kelly made her star studded debut in this world on November 12th, 1929 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a family of affluent wealth. At the time of her birth her parents were already prominently established with her father John B. Kelly Jr. attaining three Olympic gold medals for sculling and later becoming Democrat and being nominated to be a mayor for the 1935 election, but while the presidential aspects never eventuated, he had his brickwork contract to fall back on. Years later it came to a head when President Roosevelt appointed Kelly as National Director of Physical Fitness.
Accompanying John Kelly during this vicissitude was his wife, Margaret Katherine Majer, who like Kelly was largely involved in fitness and taught physical education at the University Of Pennsylvania. With her prowess in sports, Margaret later became the first female to coach women’s athletics teams at the institution, which would pave the way for her years as a beauty queen and model during the latter days of her career.
While John and Margaret wasn’t busy working they were engaged in child raising. In 1925 their first daughter Margaret was born. These motherhood duties would continue on until 1933 when Kelly gave birth to her youngest child Elizabeth. Following the birth of Margaret the family expressed much disappointment regarding the fact that she wasn’t given the namesake of Grace after their first daughter who had died young. With this wish fully instilled the conflict was resolved when John planned that the next daughter would be given the name Grace.
The name Grace it was, and this wish was accomplished three years later with the arrival of their third child, but little did they know then just how much was in store for their daughter, the girl who inherited the special meaningful name of Grace.
Growing up Grace Kelly exhibited a strong interest in becoming an actress. While her brother John was eagerly obsessed about following in his fathers footsteps by pursuing a career in athletics, Grace was yearning for a profession on stage and was determined to compete with her two uncles who were already seasoned veterans of the arts.
Even though her uncles were well cemented stage and screen actors, this kind of employment seemed very much unrealistic and impossible for Grace with her parents inserting rejection. They had other plans for their daughter, but Kelly with her adamant beliefs knew what she wanted, and nothing was about to stop her.
Grace Kelly was educated at Ravenhill Academy, a prestigious Catholic girls school and Stevens School, situated in northwest Philadelphia. Never astute academically, Kelly floundered in most of her subjects and due to her lack of requisites in maths she was denied admission into Bennington College in July 1947.
During her time at Steven’s College, Kelly’s disregard to school studies was largely evident. One of her teachers noted:
“She really wasn’t interested in scholastic achievement – she gave priority to drama and boys.”
Whilst Grace Kelly was struggling through school, she looked forward to daily modelling sessions at local social events with her mother and sisters.
In 1942 she made her stage debut when she appeared in the lead role in Don’t Feed The Animals, a play that was produced by the East Falls Old Academy Players. A few years later in May 1947, Grace Kelly graduated from Steven’s School. Even though she failed through most part of her schooling, Kelly was later remembered for her creativity in acting and dancing. Her graduation yearbook listed her favorite actress as Ingrid Bergman and favorite actor Joseph Cotten with the “Stevens’ Prophecy” section being “Miss Grace P. Kelly – a famous star of stage and screen.”
With her lack of education and her insouciance to schooling, Grace Kelly realized that the only profession she could really rely on was a career in acting, so she immediately began canvassing around for avenues to follow.
Upon this final decision, Kelly’s father was the first to express his opinions, and with his serious attitude towards life he was disappointed, believing that acting was a poor second choice for his daughter. John had always viewed acting as a slim cut above a streetwalker. Though ironically enough it was John’s brothers, Walter and George Kelly who were among the most influential stars of stage and screen. George Kelly had won the Pulitzer prize for his comedy drama The Show Off, a successful series that ran from 1924 – 1925, and had garnered a myriad of accolades for Craig’s Wife. Walter also had considerable success and obtained a multitude of accolades for his nationally known act The Virginia Judge, which was filmed as a 1930 MGM short as well as a 1935 Paramount feature.
“My parents, despite their serious attitude toward life in general, and that of their children in particular, were very broadminded people. There was no such thing as a bad profession for them. As I was their daughter, they knew that, whatever profession I chose, I would do it well. That was enough for them.“
For a while acting seemed beyond the bounds of possibility, but after a few months of set backs Kelly finally came to the destination and followed the road that will lead to where she hoped to be.
With the help from her uncle, Grace Kelly received authorized admittance into the American Academy Of Dramatic Arts in 1947. At first a placement at the academy didn’t seem possible. The school had already met it’s semester quota and there was no room for anymore enrolments, but through sheer persistence Kelly acquired an interview with the admission officer, Emile Diestel once she used a scene from her uncle George’s 1923 play The Torch Bearers.
The academy was impressed with Kelly’s audition and the following October she commenced her studies. On the first day Kelly entered into the school with an enthusiastic approach and after a few months her dramatic finesse captured the attention of the lecturers, who immediately realized that stardom was on the horizon for Grace Kelly.
Like all dreams, studying at the academy had a price tag on it. To help support her lessons she worked as a model for the John Robert Powers Modelling Agency. This income allowed Kelly to be financially secure, so with her daily wage and the minimum financial support she received from her parents, Kelly was able to reside at the Barbizon Hotel for Women while studying.
Grace Kelly was destined to become a star, and that was evidently apparent as time progressed, but just how long was never determined.
Grace Kelly certainly was euphoric about the recognition she was receiving from her tutors. After a full day studying Kelly would return back to her hotel at night and would endlessly rehearse by using a tape recorder to practice her voice lessons.
Shortly after Kelly’s status at the academy escalated to great heights, and before she knew it her acting pursuits led to Broadway when she made her debut on the Broadway stage in Strindberg’s The Father, where she starred alongside Raymond Massey. At the age of nineteen she appeared as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story for her graduation play.
By now stardom was more than viable. With each performance, Kelly found that acting opportunities were coming at an expeditive rate. Less than a few weeks after her performance as Tracy Lord for the graduation play, Grace Kelly was approached by the television producer, Delbert Mann, who witnessed potential in the young star and cast her in the role of Bethel Merriday in an adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel of the same name. Years later her portrayal of Bethel is now marked as the first of nearly sixty live television productions.
Not only did her success on television deliver her an array of accolades, it also transported her to cinematic lights and into the role of Louise Ann Fuller in the 1951 motion picture Fourteen Hours.
Fourteen Hours did not garner Grace Kelly a commodious reception, but it did lead her to the helm of Gary Cooper, who visited the set and immediately had his eyes fixated on the illuminating presence of Grace Kelly. “She was not like any other star”, Cooper stated. “She was different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of.”. A year later Kelly starred alongside Gary Cooper in High Noon.
For Grace Kelly, High Noon was the turning point in her career. With the films wide encomium, Kelly attained a seven year contract with John Ford, and skip a few films later and an Academy Award, Grace Kelly had now completed a three film collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she developed a mutual admiration. And the rest they say is history.
From her childhood days in Philadelphia, and her Hollywood superstardom to her renowned marriage with Prince Rainier, Grace Kelly has done it all, and just in a short spate of 52 years.
Happy 86th Birthday Grace Kelly. Even though her resume of films is rather condensed compared to most stars due to the fact that she married Prince Rainier of Monaco, Grace Kelly is one of the most recognizable icons from Hollywood’s golden age. She was not only the epitome of beauty, she inhabited such a unique and refreshing charm that made audiences captivated by her illuminous screen presence. It’s interesting to note what would have happened to her career wise if she hadn’t of met or married Prince Rainier.