Film career of Grace Kelly

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Grace Kelly has been cited as one of the most elegant and influential iconic film stars in American cinematic history. Her relatively short career of seven years occurred between 1950 and 1956, during which she appeared in just 11 films. She was a model, a theater artist, television actress and a film star in Hollywood films. In June 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her number 13 in their list of top female stars of American cinema.

After a successful stint on stage, Kelly was approached by Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her a co-starring role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952). In October 1953, with the release of Mogambo, she became a movie star, a status confirmed in 1954 with a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nomination as well as leading roles in five films, including The Country Girl, in which she gave a deglamorized, Academy Award-winning performance. She retired from acting at the age of 26 to begin her duties as princess consort of Monaco to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco.


Kelly in High Noon

Grace Kelly, was influenced by her uncle, George Kelly, who was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. He advised and mentored during her Hollywood film career.[1] Her film career lasted from September 1951 to March 1956.[2]

As a theatre personality she was mentioned in the Theatre World magazine as a "most promising personality of the Broadway stage of 1950" and some of her well known works as a theater actress were "The Father", "The Rockingham Tea Set", "The Apple Tree", "The Mirror of delusion", "Episode" (for Somerset Maugham's tele-serial), among others.[3] After New Year's Day 1951, she was invited by Gant Gaither to act in the Broadway Drama, the "Alexander" in the role of a sophisticated Society girl who sings in a Manhattan night club. She did act in this drama.[4] Impressed by her work in "The Father", the director of the Twentieth Century-Fox film Fourteen Hours, Henry Hathaway, offered her a small role in the film, which she did for two days filming for a fee of $500. Kelly has a minor role as a young woman contemplating divorce opposite Paul Douglas, Richard Basehart, and Barbara Bel Geddes.[5] The film, which was released in March 1951, was re-released 50 years later when it became more popular. Her co-artist Paul Douglas commented of her acting in this film, "In two senses she did not have a bad side – you could film her from any angle and she was one of the most un-temperamental cooperative people in the business."[6] After the film, the "Grace Kelly Fan Club" was established which turned out to be popular all over the US with many local chapters springing up with many members as her film career took off. Kelly referred to her fan club as "terrifically amusing".[6] After this, she moved to a new apartment, the Manhattan House, which was a trendsetting architectural edifice with a light grey façade in New York City.[6] While working on this film, Gary Cooper saw her acting and promoted her career,[1] by casting her in High Noon (1952) as his young wife, which paved the way for her high profile stardom in films.[7]

Kelly was performing in Colorado's Elitch Gardens when she received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her a co-starring role opposite Gary Cooper in Fred Zinnemann's High Noon, a western set in a historic old mining town of Columbia. She accepted the role, and the film was shot in the late summer/early fall of 1951 over a 28-day shooting schedule in hot weather conditions. In High Noon, she was cast as a "young Quaker bride to Gary Cooper's stoic Marshall" in a "suitably demure vaguely Victorian dress" with Gary Cooper who was 30 years older to her.[5] The movie was released in the summer of 1952.[8] High Noon garnered four Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Cooper, and has since been ranked among the best films of all time.[9] Kelly's own performance however was not acclaimed, and although she had her first major role in the film as Cooper's Quaker wife,[10] it wasn't High Noon that made her a movie star, despite it now being one of her best-known films.[11] As biographer H. Haughland states, "Miss Kelly's acting did not excite the critics or live up to her own expectations."[5] Some critics scoffed at the conclusion of the film in which Cooper's character has to be saved by Kelly.[12][13] David Bishop argues that her pacifist character, killing a man who is about to shoot her husband was cold and abstract, saying that it "pulls pacificism toward Apollonian decadence."[13] Alfred Hitchcock described her performance as "rather mousy" and stated that it lacked animation, and said that it was only in the later films that she "really blossomed" and showed her true star quality.[9][14]

After filming High Noon, Kelly returned to New York City and took private acting lessons, keen to be taken seriously as an actress.[5] She also pursued her studies in the School of Theater, as there were no film offers at the time. This stint helped her to hone her acting skills became evident in her later films. Then she did a few dramas in the theater and in TV serials.[15] She appeared in several television plays (starred in over 60 television shows[1]) and screen tested for the film Taxi in the spring of 1952, but at this stage she was more keen on pursuing a career in theatre.[5] After this, she returned to New York and director John Ford noticed Kelly in a 1950 screen test. The studio flew Kelly to Los Angeles to audition in September 1952. Ford said Kelly showed "breeding, quality and class". She was given the role, along with a 7-year contract, at the relatively low salary of $850 a week.[16] Kelly signed the deal under two conditions: first that one out of every two years she had time off to work in the theatre, and second that she be able to live in New York City at the now landmarked Manhattan House, at 200 E. 66th Street.[17]

The cast of Mogambo (1953)

Two months later in November 1952, Kelly and the cast arrived in Nairobi to begin production of the film Mogambo. Though Gene Tierney was initially cast in the role, she had to drop out at the last minute due to personal issues.[18][19] Kelly later told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, "Mogambo had three things that interested me. John Ford, Clark Gable, and a trip to Africa with expenses paid. If Mogambo had been made in Arizona, I wouldn't have done it."[20] A break in the filming schedule afforded Kelly and Mogambo co-star Ava Gardner a visit to Rome.[21] Kelly's role as Linda Nordley in MGM's production of Mogambo was as a contemplative English wife with a romantic interest in Clark Gable. The costumes designed by Helen Rose for the film were of "safari style" and during the entire filming over a three-month period no feminine looking outfits were used. During the shooting of this film in Kenya, Kelly had an affair with Clark Gable. When questioned about it, her reply was, "What else is there to do if you're alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable?"[7] The film released in 1953 had a successful run at the box office.[16] For her performance, she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and was given her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. This was a turning point for her career in films.[22]


Kelly in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

After the success of Mogambo, Kelly starred in a TV play The Way of an Eagle, with Jean-Pierre Aumont before being cast in the film adaptation of Frederick Knott's Broadway hit Dial M for Murder opposite Ray Milland and Robert Cummings. Director Alfred Hitchcock, who had also seen the 1950 screen test, would become one of Kelly's last mentors. She was loaned by her studio, MGM (with whom she had signed a seven-year contract in order to do Mogambo, to work on the films of Hitchcock, later appearing in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief.[23][16] Hitchcock became her friend and mentor and called her "epitome of the femme fatale". He took full advantage of Kelly's beauty on-camera, later admitting that he had a strong allurance to elegant women such as Kelly. Hitchcock was enamoured with her "sexual elegance" and brought it out in the film by changing her wardrobe from "bright to sombre" to match her character; however in one scene Kelly had her say on the type of dress to be worn for the attempted murder scene, that of a velvet robe. Her role was again as an English wife, the wealthy wife of a retired professional tennis player .[16][24] In a scene in which her character Margot Wendice is nearly murdered, a struggle breaks out between her and her would-be-killer Anthony Dawson as she kicks her legs and flails her arms attempting to fight off her killer. Dial M for Murder opened in theaters in May 1954 to both positive reviews and box-office success.

Kelly began filming scenes for her next film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, in early 1954 with William Holden for Paramount Pictures. The story line was based on a story of Jet fighters of American Navy fighting in Asia, written by James Mitchner. She played the role of William Holden's wife. Her dress designer was again Edith Head (with whom she had established friendly relationship). The upper class outfits received a mixed reception from critics; one critic said that "Kelly's favouring was just plain vanilla".[16]

Kelly unhesitatingly turned down the opportunity to star alongside Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, which won her replacement, Eva Marie Saint, an Academy Award. Kelly committed instead to the role of Lisa Fremont in Rear Window. Said Kelly: "All through the making of Dial M for Murder, he [Hitchcock] sat and talked to me about Rear Window all the time, even before we had discussed my being in it."[25] Much like the shooting of Dial M for Murder, Kelly and Hitchcock shared a close bond of humor and admiration. Sometimes, however, minor strife would emerge on set concerning the wardrobe. Kelly said:

At the rehearsal for the scene in Rear Window when I wore a sheer nightgown, Hitchcock called for Edith Head. He came over here and said, 'Look, the bosom is not right, we're going to have to put something in there.' He was very sweet about it; he didn't want to upset me, so he spoke quietly to Edith. When we went into my dressing room and Edith said, 'Mr. Hitchcock is worried because there's a false pleat here. He wants me to put in falsies.' Well, I said, 'You can't put falsies in this, it's going to show and I'm not going to wear them.' And she said, 'What are we going to do?' So we quickly took it up here, made some adjustments there, and I just did what I could and stood as straight as possible – without falsies. When I walked out onto the set Hitchcock looked at me and at Edith and said, 'See what a difference they make?'[26]

Kelly's new co-star, James Stewart, was highly enthusiastic about working with her.[27] The role of Lisa Fremont, a wealthy Manhattan socialite and model (a fashion model who "never wore her dress twice"),[16] was unlike any of the previous women which she had played. For the very first time, she was an independent career woman. Stewart played a speculative photographer with a broken leg, bound to a wheelchair in his New York City apartment and so reduced to curiously observing the happenings of his neighbors outside his window. Just as he had done earlier, Hitchcock provided the camera with a slow-sequenced silhouette of Kelly, along with a close-up of the two stars kissing and finally lingering closely on her profile. Hitchcock brought out her elegance to the fore by changing her dresses many a time, from "glamorous evening short dresses, a sheer negligee over a sleek night gown, a full skirted floral dress, and a casual jeans.")[16] With the film's opening in October 1954, Kelly was again praised. Variety's film critic remarked on the casting, commenting about the "earthy quality to the relationship between Stewart and Miss Kelly. Both do a fine job of the picture's acting demands."[28]

Kelly won the role of Bing Crosby's long-suffering wife, Georgie Elgin, in The Country Girl, after a pregnant Jennifer Jones bowed out. Already familiar with the play, Kelly was highly interested in the part. To do it MGM would have to loan Kelly out to Paramount. Kelly was adamant, and threatened the studio that if they did not allow her to do it she would pack her bags and leave for New York for good. MGM relented, and the part was hers and she got a higher price in the light of her success.[29] The wife of a washed-up alcoholic singer, played by Crosby, Kelly's character is emotionally torn between two lovers. Holden willfully begs Kelly to leave her husband and be with him. Kelly said of his role, "a pathetic hint of frailty in a wonderful glowing man. That appeals a lot to us. It did to me. I was so young. His weaknesses seemed touching and sweet, they made me love him more." She was again dressed by Edith Head and to suit her role in the film she was initially dressed in fashionable dresses which changed in the later part of the film to ordinary looking cardigans and "house dresses."[29] As a result of her performance in The Country Girl, Kelly was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her main competitor for the prize was Judy Garland's much heralded comeback performance in A Star Is Born; playing not only the part of an up-and-coming actress-singer, but also ironically, the wife of an alcoholic movie star. Although Kelly won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for best actress for her performances in her three big movie roles of 1954 (Rear Window, Dial M For Murder, and The Country Girl), she and Garland both received Golden Globe Awards for their respective performances.

With every film her acting talent blossomed and received greater acclaim and for her acting in The Country Girl the New York Times praised her role as excellent. Rear Window also got her marque credits at par with her leading male actor James Stewart and her mentor director Alfred Hitchcock and in some marques only she was mentioned.[30]


By the following March, the race between Kelly and Garland for the Oscar was very close. On the night of the Academy Awards telecast, March 30, 1955, Garland was unable to attend because she was in the hospital having just given birth to her son, Joseph Luft. However, she was rumored to be the odds-on favorite, and NBC Television cameras were set up in her hospital room so that if she was announced as the winner, Garland could make her acceptance speech live from her hospital bed. However, when William Holden announced Kelly as the winner, the technicians immediately dismantled the cameras without saying one word to Garland. Garland was reported not to have been very gracious about Kelly's win, saying in later years, "I didn't appreciate Grace Kelly taking off her makeup and walking away with my Oscar."

In April 1954, Kelly flew to Colombia for a 10-day shoot on her next project, Green Fire, with Stewart Granger. the story line was emerald hunting in the forest of South America. Kelly played Catherine Knowland, a coffee plantation owner. In Granger's autobiography he writes of his distaste for the film's script, while Kelly later confided to Hedda Hopper, "It wasn't pleasant. We worked at a pathetic village – miserable huts and dirty. Part of the crew got shipwrecked ... It was awful."[20] When she saw MGM's publicity posters showing her in a strapless dress she was upset and observed that "the dress isn't even in the picture".[31] Green Fire was a critical and box-office failure but made a small profit of $840,000.

After the consecutive filming of Rear Window, Toko-Ri, Country Girl and Green Fire, Kelly flew to France, along with department store heir Bernard "Barney" Strauss, to begin work on her third and last film for Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief, in the French Riviera again for Paramount Films (lent by MGM for the fifth time). She dressed up in the best of French fashion (best of clothing and jewellery and of a creative style) in the elegant backdrop of Cote d' Azur. Kelly and her dress designer shopped in Paris for the best of fashion accessories. She plays the role of a temptress she wore "luxurious and alluring clothes" while Cary Grant plays the role of a former cat thief now looking to catch a "thief who is imitating him".[31] Kelly and her co-star, Cary Grant, developed a mutual admiration. The two cherished their time together for the rest of their lives. Years later, when asked to name his all-time favorite actress, Grant replied without hesitation: "Well, with all due respect to dear Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace. She had serenity."[32]


Kelly opposite Frank Sinatra in High Society

In 1956, Kelly portrayed Princess Alexandra in the British film The Swan under director Charles Vidor, opposite Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdan. Her final role was in Charles Walters's musical film High Society, a remake of the 1940 MGM classic The Philadelphia Story, in which she starred opposite Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Celeste Holm.[33] Both films were shot in 1955; High Society premiered on July 17, 1956, three months after she married Prince Rainer in a high-profile wedding on 18 April 1956.


Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Kelly left a lasting legacy as a model, a theater artist as a television actress (her most prolific work, acting in around 100 TV plays) and an iconic film star in Hollywood films.[34] Kelly has been cited as one of the "classic Hitchcock blondes" and as one of the most elegant women in cinematic and world history.[35][36] One author cites her as the "elegant glamour girl of the screen".[37] Many of her photograph stills from the period of her film career are considered to be iconic.[38]

Grace Kelly appeared on the cover page of the weekly magazine Time on the 31 January 1955 issue. The magazine hailed her as the top movie star who brought about "a startling change from the run of smoky film sirens and bumptious cuties." She was described as "Girl in White Gloves" because she wore "prim and noticeable white gloves" and "Gentlemen Prefer Ladies" by Time, and journalists often called her the "lady" or "Miss Kelly". In 1954, she appeared in the Best Dressed list, and in 1955 the Custom Tailored Guild of America listed her as the "Best-tailored Woman".[39]

In appreciation of her association with Hitchcock in three of his films, later in life, Kelly wrote a foreword to the book titled The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, authored by Donald Spoto. Spoto had also written High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly.[40]


Year Title Role Director Co-stars
1951 Fourteen Hours Louise Ann Fuller Henry Hathaway Paul Douglas, Richard Basehart, Barbara Bel Geddes
1952 High Noon Amy Fowler Kane Fred Zinnemann Gary Cooper, Katy Jurado, Lloyd Bridges, Thomas Mitchell
1953 Mogambo Linda Nordley John Ford Clark Gable, Ava Gardner
1954 Dial M for Murder Margot Mary Wendice Alfred Hitchcock Ray Milland, Robert Cummings, John Williams
Rear Window Lisa Carol Fremont Alfred Hitchcock James Stewart, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr
The Country Girl Georgie Elgin George Seaton Bing Crosby, William Holden
Green Fire Catherine Knowland Andrew Marton Stewart Granger
The Bridges at Toko-Ri Nancy Brubaker Mark Robson William Holden, Fredric March, Mickey Rooney, Earl Holliman
1955 To Catch a Thief Frances Stevens Alfred Hitchcock Cary Grant
1956 The Swan Princess Alexandra Charles Vidor Alec Guinness, Louis Jourdan
High Society Tracy Samantha Lord Charles Walters Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm


  1. ^ a b c "Grace Kelly biography". Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Spoto 2010, p. 6.
  3. ^ Spoto 2010, pp. 51–52.
  4. ^ Spoto 2010, p. 59.
  5. ^ a b c d e Haugland 2006, p. 954.
  6. ^ a b c Spoto 2010, p. 56.
  7. ^ a b "Grace Kelly biography page 2". Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Spoto 2010, pp. 69–79.
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  14. ^ Fawell, John (2004). Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-made Film. SIU Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-8093-8970-4. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
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  16. ^ a b c d e f g Haugland 2006, p. 956.
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  18. ^ "The Private Life and Times of Gene Tierney". Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
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  20. ^ a b Hedda Hopper Collection. Maraget Herrick Library, Los Angeles. 
  21. ^ Kaplan, James (2010). Frank: The Voice. Doubleday. p. 586. ISBN 0-385-51804-8. 
  22. ^ Haugland 2006.
  23. ^ Gottlieb, Sidney (1997). Hitchcock on Hitchcock: selected writings and interviews. University of California Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-520-21222-0. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  24. ^ Hölting, Beatrice (14 June 2012). The Destruction and Re-creation of the 'Hitchcock Blonde' in "The Birds and Marnie". GRIN Verlag. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-656-21762-6. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  25. ^ Spoto, Donald (1983). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-306-80932-X. 
  26. ^ Spoto 1994, p. 348.
  27. ^ Eyles, Allen (September 1987). James Stewart. Stein & Day. ISBN 0-8128-8298-9. 
  28. ^ William Brogdon (July 14, 1954). "Rear Window". Variety. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Haugland 2006, pp. 956–958.
  30. ^ Elizabeth Gillen Surcouf (1 November 1992). Grace Kelly, American princess. Lerner. ISBN 978-0-8225-0548-8. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 
  31. ^ a b Haugland 2006, p. 957.
  32. ^ Nelson, Nancy (December 2002). Evenings With Cary Grant. Citadel. ISBN 0-8065-2412-X. 
  33. ^ Curtis, Jenny (2002). Grace Kelly: a life in pictures. Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 978-0-7607-3571-8. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  34. ^ Spoto 2010, p. 5.
  35. ^ D'Lugo, Marvin; Vernon, Kathleen M. (22 February 2013). A Companion to Pedro Almdovar. John Wiley & Sons. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-118-32538-4. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  36. ^ Curtis, Jenny (2002). Grace Kelly: a life pictures. Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 978-0-7607-3571-8. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  37. ^ Peterson, Amy T (2008). The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through American History 1900 to the Present: 1900–1949. ABC-CLIO. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-313-04334-5. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  38. ^ Tomshinsky, Ida (13 December 2011). Gloves: History and Present. Xlibris Corporation. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-4771-6052-7. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  39. ^ Haugland 2006, p. 960.
  40. ^ Spoto 2010, p. 4.