Grace Kelly's Career was short but memorable.
Other than James Dean, no other movie star from the 1950's had such a short, yet memorable movie career as Grace Kelly. Like Dean, Kelly started acting on television and then made it big in film. In her 5 year movie career she made 11 films and earned an Academy Award.
Her first movie was a small role in the film noir Fourteen Hours in 1951. She was 22 years old. The following year she starred in the classic western High Noon as Cary Cooper’s wife. The film was Oscar nominated for Best Picture. Not only did this start a string of memorable movies for Kelly, it also started a film trend of her playing opposite much older men. Her next movie was Mogambo (1953) co-starring with Clark Gable. Where as Cooper was 50 years old when she starred with him, Gable was 52.
1954 was a busy year for Kelly. She made her first movie with Alfred Hitchcock, Dial M for Murder. In it she plays the wife of 49 year old Ray Milland. That same year she again worked with Hitchcock on Rear Window, playing the love interest of 46 year old Jimmy Stewart. She also played the love interest to 41 year old Stewart Granger in Green Fire. In The Country Girl she played opposite 51 year old Bing Crosby and won the best actress Academy Award.
In 1955 she starred in The Bridges of Toko-Ri with one of her more younger co-stars, William Holden, who was only 38 to her then 26. That same year she re-teamed with Hitchcock and was 52 year old Cary Grant’s leading lady in To Catch a Thief which was filmed near her future adopted country of Monaco.
1956 saw James Dean's last film, Giant, released as well as Kelly's last two. In The Swan she played a princess opposite 52 year old Alex Guiness and 47 year old Louis Jordan. In High Society she was the object of lust for 41 year old Frank Sinatra and then 53 year old Bing Crosby. High Society was the most financially successful film of 1956 and Grace Kelly's only musical. It was also Kelly’s last completed film.
Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956. He was only 6 years her senior. Rainier was the son of Charlotte Grimaldi who was the illegitimate daughter of Monaco's Prince Louis. Rainier was the only heir to the throne. On paper, the courtship did not seem very romantic. There can only be a male ruler of Monaco by law or ownership of the small country goes back to France. He was politicaly forced to wed. He met Kelly at the Cannes film festival and fell I love with her and her family’s wealth. At the time, Monaco was not a financially sound country. Along with Kelly’s hand came a $2,000,000 dowery.
Grace Kelly in High Society.
The couple had three children; Caroline, Albert and Stephanie. With the birth of Albert, Monaco’s independent reign was secured for another generation.
Grace Kelly was offered the lead in Hitchcock’s Marnie in 1964 but she turned it down due to royal and family obligations. She was working on a movie, Rearranged, in 1982 when she died. Like James Dean, Grace Kelly died in a car accident. She was driving the car that her and Stephanie were in when it went off the road. A marker on the road to Nice marks the spot of her death. Her grave site, in a chapel on the grounds of Castle Grimaldi in Monaco, can be visited by the public.
Like James Dean, Grace Kelly will always be remembered as being young. Although she lived to be 52, she retired from movies when she was only 27 and thus will always be remembered as that elegantly youthful movie star from the mid 1950s.