“How’s yo ur leg?” s he murmurs. “It hurts a little,” Jim my Stewa rt answers. A nother so ft kiss, more teasing questions . “Anythin g It may be the softest kiss else both ering you ?” in film history. The sun is she asks. “Uh-huh,” setting over West Side he says. “ Who are rooftops, the sky peryou?” simmon. A man, his leg Who, inde ed! In 195 4, in a cast, sleeps near an when Rea r Window premiered open window, undis, Grace Kelly had turbed by a neighbor been in only four singing scales. Just after film was hardly s. She the highest note is reaknown to the public ched, a shadow climbs , and then she was s over the man’s chest, uddenly known—a shoulder, and chin. We sta first film, F r. In her see a face: blue eyes, ourteen Hours, sh red lips, skin like poured e played an innocent cream, pearls. Then he bystander, The appearance and on-screen sees it. The kiss happens for two m then sudden disappeainutes and in profile, a slow-motion 14 second rance of gifted, beautiful s. In her sec hallucinatory blur soond, Fred blondes is not unknown Zinneman mewhere between myth n’s High to Hollywood. Before Noon, she and dream, a limbic co-starred Grace Kelly’s five-year as the pac level of consciousness. ifist bride phase of radiance in the of embattled The director, Alfred sheriff Ga 50s, there was Frances ry Cooper. In Hitchcock, liked to say her third Farmer, whose brilliance movie, Jo he got the effect by hn Ford’s roused the industry for Mogambo shaking the camera. In , she was six years, from 1936 to the prim w truth, this otherworldly ife of an 1942. Like Kelly, Farmer anthropolo kiss comes to us by way gist (Dowas intelligent, her own nald Sind of a double printing. en) and Ja person, and a serious n e Has any muse in cinema to big-game h u n te r actress wary of binding Clark Gab been graced with such le’s Tarzan contracts. In 1957, only . a perfect cameo portrait It was a steep a n d im a year after Grace Kelly’s pressive le of her power? arning cu rdeparture, Diane Varsi ve, straigh t to the to took the baton, map . By the tim e Hitchco c king a big impression k got his ha nds on he r, as a sensitive ingénue figurative ly speakin g , in Peyton Place. Varsi, casting him self as Pyg too, was both smart and malion to her Galate a skeptical of Hollywood, , Grace Ke lly was rea dy and fled the industry in for her clo se-up. ted . 1959. (She returned in “A snow-c overed vo lthe late 60s, but without cano” wa s how he put momentum.) Farmer and it. She wa s ladylike, Varsi left, respectively, yet eleme ntal. in mental and emotional disarray. The word “disarray,” however, would never find its way into a sentence that included the name Grace Kelly. She was always in control. Always prepared.
The story of Grace Kelly has been told and retold by friends, journalists, historians, and hacks. This April, it will be told yet again, not Though it is in Rear Window where Grace Kelly achieves full iconic stature, answering Stewart’s question by circling the room in her pure-white snowcap of a skirt, there is nothing “rear window” about her. She states her full name as she switches on three lights, and her picturewindow, Park Avenue perfection is itself a kind of incandescence. Here was a white-glove glow to make men gallant and women swoon, and it was present whether she was dressed in dowdy daywear (her beloved wool skirts and cashmere cardigans) or in the confections of Hollywood designers and Paris couturiers. Hitchcock goes so far as to make a joke of it.
in words but in artifacts, when London’s Victoria and Albert Museum unveils the exhibition “Grace Kelly: Style Icon.” It begins as her story must, in Philadelphia, where she was born on November 12, 1929. Baby pictures aside, the image that seems to set her life in motion is one that recurs in a series of vacation snapshots. It is Grace as a little girl on the Jersey Shore, being twirled in the air by her father, who looks Herculean in a tank suit as he swings her by her legs or by an arm and a leg. The photos capture an essential dynamic: Jack Kelly was the vortex of his family, and its life revolved around him, his interestest.ack’s goal was success in all things, pursued honestly yet relentlessly, and his drive was physical.
con eras th b c a i r t w e e v s h i e r p Th es pro that would m i t e Kelly. t e r c a som a r d r of G life an ween gh the caree u te thro
When in 1949 she won her first big part on Broadway—the daughter in The Father, with Raymond Massey in the lead—it was again a role in sync with her own situation: the loving daughter who must break away from a powerful family. Grace got good notices, which brought calls from New York television producers, but Broadway did not fall at her feet. The problem was her voice: it was too high, too flat (those sinuses), and not easily projected over the footlights. She put a clothespin on her nose and worked to bring her voice down a register, to achieve clarity and depth. The result was diction with a silver-spoon delicacy—slightly British—and the stirring lilt of afternoon tea at the Connaught. The Kellys teased Grace mercilessly, this putting on airs, but her new voice would be key.
third as the w y l l e ne aK only o Patrici Grace our and the on. Peggy, ff iti child o a clear defin r father’s t he withou ly witty and t. John jue y. es extrem was the eld the only bo , s se a e favorit n second, w r, not becau e he or nior, b r like his fat ) And Lizann . e o w him t letic, on ro hampi er expected sn’t: not ath ble c a e th wa om ou ld bec cause his fa y what she inus tr ocked s u o d w e r ” b e e l l ff (“Kel o but b was defined lthy (she su oung Grace t out, t d e t he wan baby. Grace terously hea y story has y crying to ge il is e of urs. . was th oing, not bo epeated fam ne; instead for ho , s l l ss Jack r dn’t o g i e n t r d a h d u p z c r i s o u e L m u t i h us no Am t of ith arly pestuo ying w thma). articul the res he told and as oard by tem cked in, pla h a serenity nity didn’t p . Early on, s e Grace lo it er pb re on in a cu ayed quietly been born w rtunately, se er imaginati lieve was wh her first t s w: h ave with e-be Unfo Grace ntin’t sho ncess.”Mak , beginning ed to h r explained. d i m d e t and co e e i s i s r e — l e r e t p t a e h n c a a i l a h S “ tr e w th e ge place Lizann ss thea wood, ng to b vity pa have,” as active in a day I’m goi lls and in cla school Nati tice in Holly is was w no ne Th ntdo Grace r Peggy, “O ith her enhill-conve just gaining f nowhere.” of showw g n i e v s y t o e her sis , both in pla ary in the Ra r, as she wa mingly out re verbal lin theater: e e o t d e e M a e s l m l h l n t exce e Virgi chool. Years t she “came lly clan ran a ed fame in h t — ing pla e l big ro rough high s uld write tha od in the Ke ho had gain r Prize–winn ged her o th lo sw Pulitze ho encoura hose a nuing eles Times w sporting b two brother , y l l e w g the nd w had orge K t. It was he e y l l G Los An Alongside e tem, a ramatic d s K y n n k s a a c , o d a i . n fi D d e n .J ia not tru —the stage ful vaudevill ntor and co ’s feudal stu Academy of d e s p i n s o m h erica llywo ce’s succe mans elly, a became Gra er about Ho nowned Am K r e t l re Wa dh rge warne ission to the t. Geo o h h g i w r , w m y ng late ad of acti s did dream lped her win ace’s parent he ew . Gr name e for N ith hattan n m a o h M Arts, in her to leave se friend Jud f o nt lo not wa cording to c ould be one e c w h York. A Quine, who s and later t eK n id Balaba ix bridesma aids: Grace as m i ’s t s n m Grace f The Bride d Six I g “a n a , o o c author ess of Mona hought actin c yt n l t an i l lly, Pr ck Ke r”—no race a J e k , l s a d w n t ut G te Frie above stree ime. B m she t e e t h c u t c t n a o a r m f i l w s riviform on vie r t away nce p o e m g e p m h e o t h n o c , o un . “S ell, amant ther, K aduati f Tracy Lord ia Story. was ad rly,” her bro t of n her gr I s ea delph ent, role o a l i e h h home one of the re t.” t P a N played iress in The g of the pot tsaid. “ ged to do th a he n be nnin us man leged nectio e begi
Goddes of Love
This was the beginning of the potent, sometimes prophetic connection between life and art that would reverberate through the career of Grace Kelly. When in 1949 she won her first big part on Broadway—the daughter in The Father, with Raymond Massey in the lead—it was again a role in sync with her own situation: the loving daughter who must break away from a powerful family. So would her walk. Grace had studied ballet as a Grace got good girl, keen on becoming a ballerina, but she grew notices, which too tall (five feet six) to be a classical dancer brought calls from in that era. She never, however, lost her ballet New York television producers, but posture or a dancer’s awareness of her limbs in space. Furthermore, she’d paid her own tuition Broadway did not at the academy by doing lucrative work, making fall at her feet. more than $400 a week as a commercial model for the John Robert Powers agency, selling soap, cigarettes, whatever, in print ads. This too contributed to a poise, an inner stillness, in the way she moved. Her walk became something unique: regal above the waist, shoulders back and head high, and a floating quality below, akin to a geisha’s glide, or a swan’s. In fact, Grace developed her acting chops not onstage but in the live “playhouse” television dramas that were a new form of entertainment in the early 50s, and one of her more than 30 TV appearances was in a shortened version of Ferenc Molnár’s The Swan. In this play, Grace, as a princess, must choose between young love and a destiny tied to duty, a life where she will “glide like a dream on the smooth surface of the lake and never go on the shore.…
Add in the white gloves she wore to auditions— unheard of in the drafty, gypsy world of theater—and the neutral hose, the low-heeled shoes, the slim wool skirts, the camelhair coat, the hornrimmed glasses (she was nearsighted), and the less-is-more makeup. Well, Grace was her mother’s daughter, and Margaret had never approved of frippery.
“She didn’t necessarily lead fashion in a new direction,” says Jenny Lister, a curator of Textiles and Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum. “She’s become shorthand for a very polished and well-accessorized look. Contemporary designers like Zac Posen have talked about her timeless appeal. I think it boils down to quite ethereal ideas, because in some of her films she almost seemed like a goddess, and because they couldn’t pin her down—she was so private. That aura of mystery, she retained that. And because she stopped making films, it never changed.” “Though Grace can be very inviting,” says Janie Bryant, “and her voice has a warmth to it, there’s also an austerity to her. It’s about the façade.” “I think Grace Kelly was someone that came along at the right time,” says fashion historian June Weir. “If she had come along in the 60s, or in the 40s, I don’t think it would have worked. She was the perfect 1950s beauty. Pastel colors, beautiful luxury fabrics, and very pretty necklines.”