November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982
“She never distanced herself from others. Even so, as soon as she came on the set, everyone fell silent.” — Cary Grant
To the public, Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco, the legendary Hollywood screen siren Grace Kelly always managed to maintain the image of cool elegance and perfect happiness. And why not? She was the perfect embodiment of beauty, talent, style, elegance, royalty, and sexual charisma. But in private, Grace Kelly was deeply troubled and disappointed with her arrogant, petulant prince, her headstrong daughters, her decision to leave a successful screen career at the height of her popularity, and her infidelities with a succession of handsome men. Proving once again that fairy tale endings are just that – fairy tales.
Born into the Kelly family of Philadelphia, her father Jack Kelly was a strapping, all-American Olympic champion who, at six-foot-two, exuded overwhelming confidence and power who came to dominate everyone and everything in his domain. While Jack was brilliant at projecting the illusion that he was a self-made man who had pulled himself up by his own bootstraps, the truth was luck and a loan from his brothers played a large part in elevating him from a failed politician to a successful businessman and father of a future Academy Award winning actress. A bricklayer by trade, his brothers Walter and George (Walter Kelly was a famous vaudevillian actor best known for his racist monologue “The Virginia Judge.” George Kelly was a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright whose homosexuality was a closely guarded secret within the family.) lent their younger brother $7,000 to start Kelly For Brickwork and Jack was on his way to earn his first million.
Want to see their estate at 3901 Henry Avenue in East Falls section of Philadelphia?
Kelly memorabilia can be found in New Jersey at the Ocean City Historical Museum(their former Spanish style vacation home is still standing on the corner of Welsey Avenue and 26th it’s the home with the turrets).
Grace was educated at Philadelphia’s Raven Hill Academy
and Stevens School, now owned by the Philadelphia University.
A gorgeous campus.
Although Grace spent her youth surrounded by privilege and wealth (the Levy Family of CBS fame were their neighbors), the Kelly family was not listed in the Philadelphia Blue Book – the defacto Who’s Who of Philadelphia society. Unlike New York or Boston, one has to be born into the Assemblies where old blood and old money rule the day. Philly’s charmed circle is Old Guard and they make no apologies about it – no blacks, no Catholics, no Jews, and no nouveaux riches. Naturally self-made Irish Catholic bricklayers need not apply and this pissed Jack Kelly off to no end. Nonetheless this didn’t stop Grace from achieving an active social calendar. From jocks, lifeguards from Ocean City, and local boys alike, Grace was dating and loving it. “Grace really was a lovely girl. I took her out in my father’s Lincoln so her father thought we had money,” recalled Dick Boccelli, one of her teenage boyfriends. “Grace knew I didn’t but that didn’t matter to her. She had a great personality, a good sense of humor, was bright, sharp and fun to be with.” Dick later became the drummer for Bill Haley and the Comets.
Grace Kelly’s acting career started almost by accident. During the summer of 1947 she set sail for England with her family to support her older brother Kell at his second try to win the Diamond Sculls (it’s a rowing thing). On board with the Kellys was another powerful, Catholic, Irish, wealthy family – the Kennedys. It comes as no surprise that the young Jack Kennedy met, dated, and fell in love with Grace. At first, patriarch Joe Kennedy wanted the two to get married, however by the end of the trip abroad Joe reconsidered, deciding that Grace was too “Hollywood” (side note: when Jackie found out about the relationship between Grace and her then President husband, she hated Princess Grace with a passion). Upon their return Grace and her mother Margaret took a road trip through the New England states to enroll Grace in college. Unfortunately to their surprise they were about six months too late – all the colleges were filled and ready to start in two weeks. They made a trip to New York City and implored the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (where Gene Tierney, Kate Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Kirk Douglas all studied at one time) to consider her admission. With a little help from name-dropping, George Kelly family friend and Columbia Records exec Manie Sacks (the same Manie who loaned Frank Sinatra the money to buy his way out of the Tommy Dorsey contract), and father Jack, she was admitted.
Now finally on her own, living at the Barbizon Hotel for Women on Sixty-Third Street, Grace’s goal was to become self-supporting. With acting classes in the morning and modeling gigs in the afternoon, Grace became very successful very quickly. She was paid handsomely (sometimes as much as $2,000 per photo shot) promoting bug sprays, Old Gold cigarettes, Lux Toilet Soap, and live commercials hocking the latest appliances from Electrolux. In addition to attending classes with the future Anne Bancroft, she was seducing fellow actor Alex D’Arcy (How to Marry a Millionaire and drinking buddy of Errol Flynn) and her married acting instructor Don Richardson. “When she was modeling, she used to wear a Merry Widow corset with a cinch to pull her waist in,” recalled Richardson before he died. “So she would strip down to nothing but her Merry Widow and run around the place, cooking and cleaning and all that, with her buttocks only barely covered. She was marvelously endowed in that department.” I bet she was.
After fifty or so live television appearances beginning in the 1950s, several live theater gigs, and doing the nasty with the Shah of Iran, Grace also filmed a brief vignette that made up the movie Fourteen Hours. But despite stories and rumors to the contrary, it wasn’t her brief on-screen debut nor her stage talents in Colorado summer stock that landed her starring role in High Noon with Gary Cooper. As producer Stanley Kramer remembered, “I wanted somebody unknown opposite Gary Cooper. I couldn’t afford anyone else. So I signed her.” And to answer that nagging question regarding Coop and Grace – no they didn’t. But he did walk away with an Oscar.
Grace returned to New York after the filming of High Noon and continued her romance with actor Gene Lyons (great actor but a flaming drunk reduced to a bit part on TV’s Ironside before he died hammered). After director John Ford (Stagecoach) saw a screen test of Grace, he cast her opposite Clark Gable in Mogambo (despite the 28-year age difference and false teeth, she still had herself some Clark – oh yeah she did). Grace followed the success of Mogambo with the NBC drama Way of an Eagle starring the debonair French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont (nailed it!), Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder with Ray Milland (tapped that too!), Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart (nope, sorry, not Jimmy), The Country Girl with Bing Crosby, and William Holden (oh hell yeah!), and later To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant (just good friends). And somewhere along the line she bumped uglies with Tony Curtis. Oh yes.
Sue Ladd, the widow of Alan Ladd, told Grace Kelly biographer James Spada that while Bing’s then wife Dixie was battling terminal cancer, Bing was popping Grace in the Ladds’ home. This was right before the filming of The Country Girl (around 1951-1952).
It was either on S. Serrano Ave in LA
or N. Mapleton Drive in Beverly Hills.
I do know the house had a pool in the back, so probably the Mapleton address, which is where Ladd tried to commit suicide. He succeeded later in Palm Springs.
In her final year in Hollywood, Grace, nominated for Best Actress for her performance in The Country Girl, was up against Judy Garland for her role in A Star is Born. After the Oscars were awarded, Grace was sharing the post-awards ceremony with Marlon Brando (Best Actor for On the Waterfront) when Brando slipped Grace his phone number. After Grace slipped out of the post-Oscar party at Romanoff’s, Grace hooked up with Brando at her Beverly Hills Hotel Bungalow. During the tryst, a drunken Bing Crosby suddenly appears at her door to find Brando and Grace in flagrante delicato. Bing gets thrown out the door on his ass, leaving the naked Grace alone with Brando again. Two hours later the phone rings, and a famously slurred voice screams into the phone, “This is Judy Garland – JUDY FUCKING GARLAND YOU BITCH! You took what was rightfully mine. Tonight was my last chance for the Oscar. You’ll have many more chances in the future. This was it for me. I’ll NEVER FORGIVE YOU!” And Judy slammed down the phone.
I heard a story that Judy Garland was asked if she thought Grace Kelly was a nymphomaniac, and her response was, “Maybe if they calmed her down.”
The following morning a reporter called on Jack Kelly anticipating a euphoric reaction to his daughter’s award the previous night. Jack replied, “I thought it would be Peggy. Anything Grace could do, Peggy could always do better. I simply can’t believe Grace won. Of the four children, she’s the last one I’d expect to support me in my old age.” dick dick dick dick dick.
After a brief engagement to designer Oleg Cassini and an abortion in Europe, Grace was engaged to be married to the diminutive prince of a cut-rate amusement park known as Monaco. Despite the fairy tale stories surrounding the wedding, this was a business deal, pure and simple. For Grace, her need to become a wife and mother far outweighed the advantages of an Oscar-winning movie star. She had tired of the grind as an MGM contract player so much so that Marilyn Monroe sent engagement congratulations that read: “So glad you’ve found a way out of this business.” For Prince Rainier of Monaco, he was staring at the wrong side of 30 and needed a wife and heirs to continue his rein under the House of Grimaldi. He was also in such dire straits financially that he extracted a dowry of two million from Jack Kelly. But more importantly, Prince Rainier was under extreme pressure from the Director of SBM – Aristotle Onassis. The Greek shipping tycoon controlled the Societe des Bains de Mer et Cercle des Etrangers, the Sea Bathing Society and Foreigners’ Club, and was in charge of extracting the maximum profit from their luxury hotel and casino in Monaco. Onassis complained to Greta Garbo that the resort was nothing if it didn’t have glamour. At first Marilyn Monroe was considered, but she referred to the Prince as “Reindeer” and thought Monaco was in Africa. After meeting Grace during the Cannes film festival and a couple of dates in the states, the deal was sealed.
Two weeks after the official announcement of their engagement, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner published the first of a ten-part series entitled “My Daughter Grace Kelly: Her Life and Romances” by Mrs. John B. Kelly. Circulated to Hearst newspapers all across the country, Grace’s mother produced a stream of revelations regarding the men, ALL the men, in her life (no wonder it was a 10-part series). Even Prince Rainier would later confide, “how could her own mother do that?” Bitch.
For the next 25 years Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco played the part, and played it very well. She transformed a crappy little resort town of less than one square mile in size in the south of France into the Cote d’Azur cocktail of swank and style. She took to her digs, and during her rein she bore him two daughters and a son, Albert – future heir to the throne.
She also took on a host of new lovers including actor David Niven and Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra. Grace may not have believed in fidelity – after all, both the men she dated and her father (a notorious philanderer in his day) considered monogamy to be an aberration. What Grace did believe in was love. She fell in love easily and often.
On the morning of September, 13th 1982, Grace and her youngest daughter were just ending a week long argument on whether Stephanie was to attend the prestigious Institute of Fashion Design in Paris or, as Stephanie would prefer, race-car driving school with her then boyfriend Paul Belmondo. With a few more details to iron out, Grace suggested to her chauffeur that she drive alone with her daughter, the 35 minutes back to Monaco from their vacation residence Roc Agel.
Ten minutes into their journey heading down the narrow, winding CD 37
as it led out of the village of La Turbie,
something wasn’t quite right with the brown Land Rover.
The driver just behind the Rover was Yves Philly. He watched as the vehicle negotiated the sharp, hairpin turns as they neared Cap d’ Ail when the car jerked back and forth with the side doors scraping the mountain side.
Yves thought, “Dear God… stop them. It’s suicide.” He blasted his horn and the Rover straightened up for a moment. But as the car approached the next curve (known as the ‘Devil’s Curse’),
it suddenly accelerated in excess of 60 mph and flew over the edge,
clipping the treetops as it bounced and rolled down the steep embankment.
There were no brake lights, no squeal of brakes. The Rover struck a tree near the bottom and rolled onto a pile of rocks, crushing the passenger-side door and roof. With neither passenger wearing a seat belt, both Stephanie and Grace bounced around within the interior resulting in severe injuries. Stephanie exited the vehicle sobbing and hysterical while Grace was pulled from the wreckage by the ambulance crew.
Contrary to legend, Grace did not take the dive, off the same road used in To Catch a Thief. They are actually quite a distance apart.
The film location however, is still breathtaking.
Just not her’s.
Taken from Iain Calder’s book – My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer – The Untold Story:
The car landed in the garden of a 64 year old flower grower named Sesto Lequio. He heard the accident (wtf?), ran to the wreckage and pulled out Stephanie, and noticed the older woman open her eyes, say a few words, then close her eyes. He had no idea who they were. The words, “Please tell them all I love them… my husband… Caroline… Stephanie… Albert. Please take care of my baby Stephanie… she is badly hurt.” He was also able to confirm that it was Grace behind the wheel.
Grace was taken to a local hospital in Monaco for treatment. Story is, had she been taken to an almost as close medical center in Nice, they had better equipment, and she may have had a better chance. A leading neurosurgeon said that her treatment was “appalling”. By the time doctors realized the extent of the brain damage, she was in an irreversible coma.
A few days after the crash, the car was crushed into a metal cube, taken out to sea, and dropped into the depths of the Mediterranean.
This information comes directly from Robert Lacy’s biography, GRACE:
On the 18th, Grace’s funeral was attended by the King and Queen of Belgium, the Queen of Spain, Prince Bertil of Sweden, Prince Philip of Liechtenstein, Madame Francois Mitterrand, Nancy Reagan (with more security than ANYone) and Diana the Princess of Wales. Sinatra was on tour, David Niven ill, but Cary Grant arrived to bring the right touch of Hollywood and the old days.
Grace looked ghastly in her coffin.
The wounds on her head had been concealed by a bizarre yellow wig. Her girlfriends looked at it horrified, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry, but afterward they decided that it had to be seen as the sort of joke that Gracie and her most giggly would have enjoyed.
Stephanie watched the funeral on television, lying in the hospital with her neck in a brace.
Her hearse was quite comfy. Ask me how I know. Yeah, it’s the one. THE one.
She is buried in the very Cathedral in which she was married.
…and then there were four.
The years preceding and after the death of Princess Grace were not kind to the family:
Shortly after her marriage, John Brendan “Jack” Kelly died of cancer. In his arrogant, self-authored will, he was worth a paltry $1.3 million (seems all those girlfriends and concubines on the side didn’t come cheap). Shortly after his death his hometown of Philadelphia erected a prominent statue of Kelly near the finish line of the Schuylkill River course where he once rowed. It is located just off of the scenic “Kelly Drive,” which is named for Kelly’s son Jack Jr.
After the death of Jack Kelly, Mother Kelly moved out of the Henry Avenue home and into the Tony Alden Park Towers around the corner. In her spare time as the widow Kelly she supported her son’s opponent in the Philadelphia mayoral race. She suffered a stroke in 1975 and was never told of her daughter’s untimely death.
Sister Peggy was a spectacular drunk who burned through two marriages before dying of alcoholism in 1991. Her second husband, Gene Conlan, was horribly disfigured in a near-fatal car crash during their marriage together.
Brother Kell, a four-time Olympian and an Olympic medal winner left his wife and six children to shack up with Rachel Harlow which is nothing spectacular except Ms. Harlow was actually the former Mr. Richard Finocchio who was transformed into Rachel through a much publicized sex-change (snip snip, tuck tuck) operation. A four-time Olympian and an Olympic medal winner he died, oddly enough, at age 57 of a massive heart attack while jogging near his father’s statue along the Schuylkill River.
Youngest sister Lizanne Kelly Levine is the only living member of the original Kelly family and lived year round at the Ocean City home up until the sale in 2002. Her daughter died of cancer in 1998 and her husband in 2000. She is in failing health and lives in a retirement community outside of Philadelphia. Her son Chris Levine and Prince Albert can be seen every year together hitting the party circuit at the Kentucky Derby.
After battling 3 years of ill health which included coronary problems and lung infections, Rainier III, Prince of Monaco (Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi, Count of Polignac) passed away at 6:35a.m. on April 6, 2005. His body lay in state until burial, next to his beloved.
A favorite pastime of Grimaldi was eating pizza and watching television in his underwear. He once said, “Gossip was invented in Monaco.”
Princess Caroline (Caroline Louise Marguerite), The Princess of Hanover, Hereditary Princess of Monaco, is the eldest child of Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Princess Grace. She married investment banker and playboy Phillipe Junot but divorced two years later in 1980 due to infidelity on both sides and constant meddling of Prince Rainier. Three years later she married Italian businessman Stefano Casiraghi, however that marriage ended when Casiraghi was competing in an off-shore powerboat race and he lost control of his craft, was catapulted into the air, and died instantly when the boat came down on top of him. Her third and present husband is Ernst August V, Prince of Hanover, the head of the House of Hanover with whom she raises four children: Andrea, Charlotte, Pierre, and Alexandra. Andrea Albert Pierre Casiraghi (born June 8, 1984) is the eldest child of HRH Princess Caroline of Hanover and her second husband, Stefano Casiraghi and is currently second in line to the throne after his mother.
Albert II, Prince of Monaco (Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre Grimaldi; born March 14, 1958), His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco, is the head of the House of Grimaldi and the current ruler of the Principality of Monaco. He has two children born out of wedlock; Jazmin Grace Grimaldi and Alexandre Coste. Jazmin was born in Palm Springs, California to Tamara Rotolo, a tourist Albert hooked up with while sunbathing in Monaco. Alexandre was born in August 2003 in Paris to his former lover, Nicole Coste, a native of Togo in west Africa. There also was a slew of paternity suits filed during the 1990s, including one by topless model Bea Fiedler who exclaimed in court that the Prince used only his teeth to remove her panties during a steamy interlude in Munich.
Princess Stephanie has had quite a colorful life since that moment when the Land Rover flew over the cliff. She was a failed fashion designer, a mediocre French pop star (remember “Ourangan?” Yeah, me neither), a sortie into the perfume trade, and a circus performer (no, really!). Her love life is on equal footing with her career choices including a convicted sex offender, a film star’s son convicted on a weapons possession charge, a former body guard, and an affair with actor Rob Lowe (they broke up because Lowe couldn’t speak French). Consequently, upon his death in 2005 Prince Rainier left a mere 1% of his estate to Stephanie and the remaining equally divided between Caroline and Albert. This is her home.
She does not suffer.
In the Hotel Bel-Air on Canyon Road in LA – there is a Grace Kelly Suite which was her exclusive suite when staying there.
For 2k a night, it should come with The Deluxe Nancy Reagan Brentwood Hello.
Trivia: The Princess Grace Apartments in Hollywood, have always made me laugh.
Like she would be caught dead there. Well, apparently someone has been caught dead there. When it was called the Hollywood Hawaiian Hotel, a rocker hangout, Jeremy Spencer of Fleetwood Mac, disappeared for two years from this location in 1971. He joined a religious organization. As you do.
More: This is what Grace’s signature looks like.
Story by Scott Stanton, Monaco photographs by Byron Marco, PA photographs by Nicky from Florida. Byron, thank you for my Grace souvenir.
I treasure it – and you guys.