George Christy 10-30-2009
Blondes were his dish. Among them: Philadelphia-born beauty Grace Kelly, New Jersey’s Eva Marie Saint, and Chicago’s Kim (Marilyn) Novak. “No bones about it … I love blondes,” filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock would comment when queried about including Grace Kelly in three films, Dial M for Murder opposite Ray Milland; Rear Window co-starring James Stewart; To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant, who claimed Grace was a favorite. Hitchcock cast Eva Marie opposite Cary Grant in North By Northwest, and Kim Novak in Vertigo with James Stewart. Kim had problems “justifying” her role with Mr. Hitchcock politely reminding, “K-i-i-m-m-m, it’s only a movie.”
It wasn’t long before Grace was wooed by Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco after their meeting during the Cannes Film Festival, where Grace was renewing an affair with Jean-Pierre Aumont, with whom she starred in TV’s The Way of an Eagle. The prince then was in the midst of a live-in liaison with actress Gisele Pascal, all the while searching for a proper bride, with the prince’s friend, Rev. Father Francis Tucker, on the lookout for eligible Catholic girls. Legend has Grace’s amours involving her co-stars: Clark Gable (Mogambo); Ray Milland (Dial M for Murder); William Holden (The Bridges of Toko-Ri); both her High Noon co-star Gary Cooper and director Fred Zinnemann; the Shah of Iran, and designer Oleg Cassini, who proposed but Grace’s parents would not accept a divorced Protestant as a future son-in-law.
Her Irish-American dad, John Kelly, whose brick business was the most successful on the East Coast, was displeased with “her Hollywood crowd,” as was brother Jack, a triple Olympic-gold-medal-winning sculler champ with matinee-idol good looks. He wished Grace would drop “those oddballs, and date a sportsman.”
In 195l, Grace stood up against racism, infuriated when the Stork Club in New York refused a table for the expatriate black singing-dancing star, Josephine Baker, who was adored in Europe. Angry at owner Sherman Billingsley, Grace took Josephine by the arm, vowed never to return, and never did. Later, when Josephine was in dire straits, Grace gave her a villa in Monaco, along with financial assistance, and buried her in Monaco.
Grace also disapproved of her family’s ignoring her father’s brother, Uncle George Kelly, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who was gay. She visited him often in Arizona, and flew to Los Angeles for a premiere of his play, The Show Off, with Gant Gaither, a longtime producer friend, hosting a supper party at his Sunset Plaza aerie, where she revealed to the small group that included Mitzi Gaynor and Jack Bean that what she missed in Monaco were our department stores and soft American facial tissue (in Europe in those days it was woodier).
Grace won the Best Actress Oscar in 1955 for her performance as the wife of the alcoholic singer Bing Crosby in The Country Girl, competing against Judy Garland’s comeback performance in A Star Is Born. While filming Rear Window, the eagle-eyed Alfred Hitchcock was unhappy about the look of Grace’s cleavage, suggesting to costume designer Edith Head that Grace wear “falsies.” She refused, Edith made adjustments to Grace’s dress, and Grace, standing straight and tall as she walked onto the set, prompted Hitchcock to smile, “See what a difference the falsies make?”
Clearly, Prince Rainier was smitten with Grace, who found him charming, but she initially appeared indifferent, yet he was determined to wed a glamorous bride who would bring global attention to his principality. Their fairytale wedding ceremony in 1956 in the Cathedral of Monaco drew international front-page coverage – “media overkill,” snapped biographer Robert Lacey.
Hailed as “the wedding of the century,” the Kelly family provided Prince Rainier with a dowry of $2 million. As Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, she bestowed the 800-year-old dynasty with three children: Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. In 1982, at age 52. she was killed in a car crash driving her British Rover 3500 on a hairpin road, plunging down a 45-foot cliff.
Eulogizing Princess Grace, James Stewart said, “I love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met. Grace brought into my life as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own.”
Heir to the Monegasque throne and a bachelor at 51, Prince Albert has sired two children out of wedlock. Jazmin, born in 1992 to Tamara Rotolo, both residing in California where Jazmin Grace Grimaldi’s an honor student. Alexandre Coste was birthed in 2005 to a former Air France flight attendant from Togo, with the prince acknowledging that Alexandre is his biological son. A paternity suit was brought by topless model, Bea Fiedler from Germany, but the blood test proved the prince was not the father of son Daniel. Albert has decreed that neither of his two children are eligible for the Monegasque throne.
Albert is seeing South African swimmer Charlene Wittstock, and his fortune is estimated around $2 billion. Unless Albert, who lives in a 220-room palace produces a legitimate male heir — patrilineal descent of father to son from a recognized dynastic marriage, as the Monaco constitution specifies — his beautiful sister Caroline becomes the sovereign ruler of the principality with its 370 acres, a bit less than the backlot of Grace’s MGM studio. Next in line is Caroline’s eldest son Andrea Casiraghi from her second marriage to sportsman Stefano Casiraghi, heir to an Italian industrial empire who died at age 30 during a 1990 powerboat racing accident which involved the Mafia. Stefano produced three children. Caroline’s first marriage to Paris banker Philippe Junot was annulled (too much of a playboy for the disapproving Princess Grace). She’s wed now for ten years to Prince Ernst August V of Hanover, although they’re living apart. Europeans gossip that the marriage is rocky. They have a daughter, Alexandra.
Prince Albert II, His Serene Highness of Monaco since his father’s death in 2005, arrived recently in Beverly Hills to accept, in behalf of his mother, the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award, a bronze female nude Torso sculpture created by Robert Graham. Let’s not forget that it was Fred Hayman who established this award that Debra Messing presented to Prince Albert in acknowledgement of his mother’s fashion legacy and support for the arts, with the evening raising more than $150,000 for the Princess Grace Foundation. “Since its inception in 1984, the foundation’s amassed $7 million in contributions,” informed Prince Albert, “assisting 650 young talents.”
About Princess Grace referred to as an icon of style, he noted, “If it’s defined by an unmatchable combination of beauty, poise, and elegance, my mother fits that description.”
Every summer throughout my childhood, the Kelly family favored the beach that we did in Ocean City, New Jersey, and we’ll vouch that Grace and her sisters, Peggy and Lizanne, were the talk of the sunbathers. Born beauties that everyone admired, with their mother Margaret keeping the girls on a short leash, not allowing them to stray far from the family’s encampment.
The illustrious French jeweler Cartier, celebrating a 100th anniversary, was also honored, with Demi Moore presenting the award to Cartier’s Pierre Rainero. Serving as the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style co-chairs were Peri Ellen Berne and Susan Moseley, with selections voted by a Rodeo Drive Committee, chaired by Armani’s Wanda McDaniel and costume designer Deborah Landis, along with the prior honorees. They’ve included James Galanos, Giorgio Armani, Valentino Garavani, Tom Ford, Gianni and Donatella Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Edith Head, costume designers Milena Canonero and James Acheson, who was among the guests, as were Angie Harmon and Camilla Belle, at the awards ceremony on Rodeo Drive that was followed by a reception at the Boulevard in the Beverly Wilshire.
It was last year’s honoree Valentino, who declared Rodeo Drive “the most important fashion street in the world.”