Gone, but never forgotten. Grace Kelly’s life story reads like a two-act screenplay. “She was 26 years Grace Kelly, and 26 years Princess Grace,” friend and biographer Jeffrey Robinson tells Closer. “She was a Hollywood superstar who defined glamour, then walked away to move to a country where she didn’t speak the language or know anyone to become Princess of Monaco.”
Whether she was acting alongside such legends as Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra or tending to her royal duties, Grace brought the same kind of luminescent presence. Thirty-five years after her death at 52 in 1982, she continues to serve as a fashion idol — and an exemplar of grace under pressure. Despite the intense spotlight she lived in, “she would do whatever it took to prepare for whatever job she was doing,” Jay Jorgensen, co-author of the upcoming Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl, tells Closer.
Grace came by her tireless work ethic naturally. Her father, John Kelly, was an Olympic gold medalist in rowing, and she grew up in an affluent Philadelphia family of athletes. “She was a shy girl — she was the dreamer of the Kellys,” says Jorgensen. “When she became an actress, she gave it her all.”
Before long, the model proved herself a genuine movie star, holding her own at 22 alongside Gary Cooper in High Noon and winning an Oscar for 1954’s The Country Girl. With her high-class bearing, “she could play sophisticated and a bit older,” says Jorgensen. Director Alfred Hitchcock saw the fire beneath Grace’s icy-cool exterior, and she became his muse for Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief — the last pairing her with Cary Grant, who would become a lifelong friend.
Prince Rainier and Grace in 1956.
Set up with Prince Rainier of Monaco for a 1955 publicity shoot, she developed an instant chemistry with him. She quit acting, and their wedding became one of the first modern media circuses. “They hated it because there were too many people,” Robinson says. The task of winning over Monaco’s populace drew her closer to Rainier, and their marriage was loving and happy, producing heirs Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. “She was a wonderful mother,” Robinson says.
While driving with Stephanie (who was 17 at the time), Grace suffered a stroke and careened off a cliff to her death. She bequeathed a heritage of beauty and philanthropy. “Young people know her best as a style icon, but she was also a humanitarian who took an interest in people not all royals do,” Jorgensen says. As Grace herself said, “I would like to leave the memory of a human being with a correct attitude who did her best to help others.”