Grace Patricia Kelly was born on 12 November 1929 in Philadelphia, USA. She was one of the leading film actresses of her day, becoming a major star in the 1950s and ending up as a bona fide princess when she married into royalty.
Grace Kelly came from a well-off and supportive family. Her father was John B. Kelly Sr, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and her mother Margaret Majer, was the first woman to ever coach women’s athletics at the University of Pennsylvania and had also been a model in her youth. Even so, Grace’s parents were not in favour of her desire to become an actress. Her dad is said to have viewed it with particular displeasure, not feeling it an appropriate job for a respectable woman. However, Grace was not to be deterred and she set out on a path towards becoming an actress.
The first step to be taken happened when she tried out for a place at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. Even though the school was already at capacity she still managed to get an interview and was even admitted with the help of her Uncle George who had some sway within the acting profession.
From this point forward, Grace Kelly worked tirelessly at perfecting her craft, debuting on Broadway in The Philadelphia Story by the time she was 19 years old. Some of her other famous theatre work included The Rockingham Tea Set, The Apple Tree, and The Mirror Delusion among many others.
Grace Kelly also went on to have some success in early television, even getting a movie role; although this didn’t immediately lead to significant offers of other parts for the big screen. However, that would change, when, in 1952 she was offered a chance to star alongside Gary Cooper in the classic western High Noon. Although many consider this to be her best-known film and one which won several Academy Awards, Grace Kelly still struggled to be recognised as a serious actress and by some, her performance was considered to be subpar. Consequently, High Noon was not the big Hollywood break she desired.
The film that really showed her star potential was Mogambo which was released in 1953, and also starred Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. The film did quite well during its box office run and Grace Kelly was even nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best supporting actress.
Following the success of Mogambo, work started to come her way and throughout the early to mid-1950s, Grace Kelly appeared in a wide variety of stage shows, television programs, and films, most notably To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant, The Country Girl with Bing Crosby which won her an Academy Award for best actress, The Swan, in which she played the part of Princess Alexandra alongside Alec Guinness as Prince Albert, and High Society with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. It is possible that Grace Kelly’s star would continue to rise in Hollywood, but we will never know as things changed significantly for her in 1955 when she met Prince Rainer III of Monaco.
They met at the Cannes Film Festival in May of that year and the two began a short courtship before the prince proposed. An American actress marrying a real-life prince and foreign dignitary was the talk of Hollywood. Grace Kelly’s popularity shot through the roof, and only months after playing the part of a princess on the big screen, she retired from the movie industry at the age of 26 to become Princess Grace of Monaco.
The law in Monaco required that the couple have two ceremonies, a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony. The civil ceremony lasted for only sixteen minutes and most of that time was spent with Princess Grace receiving the 142 titles which were hers by right as a princess of the realm and wife to the prince. The religious wedding was held the next day and was said to have been viewed by over 30 million people around the world and attended in person by 700 guests who included such famous names as Cary Grant, Ava Gardner and David Niven.
The couple had three children, Princess Caroline who was born on 23 January 1957, Prince Albert, who was born on 14 March 1958 and who, at the time of writing this is the current Prince of Monaco and Princess Stephanie who was born on 1 February 1965.
Although Grace Kelly’s story is the stuff of fairy tales, its ending is less so. Whilst driving back from her country home, it is thought that Grace Kelly suffered a stroke which caused her to lose control of her vehicle and despite Princess Stephanie, who was in the car with her, attempting to regain control, it plunged 120 feet off the mountainside road. Grace Kelly was taken to the hospital with brain injuries but died at 10:55 on 14 September 1982. Princess Stephanie survived but due to the injuries she sustained, she was not able to go to her mother’s funeral. Prince Rainier never remarried and was buried beside her after his own death in 2005.