Sunday, 15 November 2009

Grace Kelly: November 12, 1929 - September 14, 1982

There has, I believe, never been an actress with a shorter list of screen credits yet whose fame far exceeds that of most other film stars whose film career may have lasted decades while Kelly's own lasted a mere five years.

And a star is what she was first and foremost: Grace Kelly, born into wealthy Philadelphia family of Irish stock, Grace embarked on her acting career at the age of 18, before breaking into television. This led to her feature film debut as Louise Ann Fuller in Henry Hathaway's Fourteen Hours. Kelly made 11 films between her debut in 1951 and her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco in April 1956. Of those 11 films, only three have become classics, while four, perhaps five - if you want to include John Ford's Mogambo or her Oscar-win The Country Girl - can be considered memorable. The former three are, of course, Kelly's two collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock and her role as Gary Cooper's pacifist Quaker girl friend in Fred Zinneman's High Noon. Her parts in Dial M For Murder and, to a greater extent, in To Catch A Thief, are the ones Kelly is most associated with today. In both films she played classy, well-to-do, women with excellent breeding and an impeccable taste in clothes, roles that foreshadowed her subsequent role in real life as the wife of Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Anthony Dawson and Grace Kelly in Dial M For Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1954)

In connection with Romy Schneider I mentioned elsewhere on this blog that when drawing up a list of her own films, Schneider realised that there wasn't a single classic among them, the fact notwithstanding that she made more than five times as many films as Kelly did. Consequently, that a conservative assessment of Kelly's films yields as many as three classics, makes Kelly's a very impressive career indeed.
Romy Schneider and Grace Kelly both died in 1982. Nine years Schneider's senior, on November 12 this year Grace Kelly would have been 80 years old.

"Leg or breast?" Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1955)