Tuesday, October 09, 2007

True Grace

You may have noticed in the sidebar that I’m reading the latest biography on Grace Kelly, “True Grace”. It’s not the first book I’ve read about her. I have a lifelong fascination with the actress similar to the one I have for Jackie Kennedy.

“Rear Window” is one of those movies that I’m simply incapable of passing up when channel surfing. Hitchcock, the master of suspense, and one of the great directors of all time, absolutely outdoes himself with this film. It is perfectly constructed and cast, with not a single unnecessary scene, eventually building to almost unbearable suspense.

Hitchcock’s attraction for the “cool blonde” type of woman is legendary and, in my opinion, Grace, more than any other actress he cast (Tippi Hedron or Kim Novak or Janet Leigh or Ingrid Bergman) perfectly embodies the type. “Dial M for Murder” is for me only slightly less fabulous than Rear Window.

I never tire of watching the scene I posted above. It is the famous kiss that introduces Kelly into the “Rear Window” action some twenty minutes into the film. It’s just…magic. And Hitch’s longest running close-up of anyone ever.

The thing about Grace is, beneath her cool persona; beat the heart of a very passionate and remarkably free spirited woman for the time. I wouldn’t have thought this was a gal who could give the all-time boom-boom champ, Marlene Dietrich, a run for her money. But guy for guy? I’m beginning to wonder (though Grace did not share Marlene’s bent toward bi-sexuality which, let's face it, narrows the field by half).

So, of course, I knew you guys would want the condensed version of what I’ve learned so far. Here’s a partial, mind you, first-half list of Grace’s romantic liaisons:

Gary Cooper during the filming of High Noon. I must say, I don’t “get” Gary Cooper. I mean, okay, he was rugged and masculine. Whatever.

JFK. Grace’s father, Jack Kelly, and JFK’s father, Joe, were fast friends and co-womanizers. Both Irish-Catholic, rich, successful, powerful and well-connected, they had much in common. It is perhaps not surprising that their kids, Jack and Grace would get together at some point. After all, we know Jack wasn’t one to pass up quality tail. It didn’t go on for long, but Jackie knew about it and never could stand Grace for that reason. When Grace and Rainier made a state visit to the Kennedy White House, Jackie barely spoke to Grace and downgraded what would have normally been a state dinner to just a luncheon. It is said Jackie could do a dead-on exaggerated imitation of Grace’s Rear Window performance and never hesitated to trot it out for friends just any old time. Later, after Jack’s death, when Grace tried to pay a condolence visit on Jackie, Jackie refused to see her.

Bing Crosby. Grace wanted to marry Bing, but Grace’s rival for the position was Bing’s eventual second wife, Kathryn, who turned out to be more competition than Grace bargained for. The night Grace won the Oscar for her performance in “Country Girl”; she celebrated by giving that year’s Oscar winner for Best Male performance in a leading role a tumble. He was…

Marlon Brando: MEEowww. Bing Crosby was surprised to find Marlon in Grace’s bungalow at Chateau Mar mount on Oscar night. Surprised and pissed. It all ended up with Marlon cleaning Bing’s clock, which, face it, wasn’t much of a challenge for the young Adonis.

Clark Gable: Grace just couldn’t get enough of older men, likely the result of her difficult relationship with her father. She met Clark on the set of Mogambo, which was filmed on location in Africa under extremely difficult circumstances: bugs, heat, only tents to live in, and raging sexual urges. Ava Gardener, the female lead in the film, was at the time busy driving her then husband, Frank Sinatra, bat sh!t by running hot and cold on the marriage, ending a pregnancy with Frank’s baby, and having affairs with matadors. While Grace was immediately smitten with Clark, Clark was finding Ava the far more interesting woman on location. Clark settled for Grace only after the sassy Ava made it clear she wasn’t interested. The affair between Grace and Clark lasted only as long as the shoot after which Clark dropped Grace like a sack of rocks. The friendship that developed between Ava and Grace lasted until Grace’s death.

Other Royal Bedmates: Prince Aly Khan and The Shah of Iran. (I’m getting tired. Are you getting tired? This is, seriously, tiring.). Both Aly Khan and the Shah gifted Grace with outrageously extravagant jewelry. Grace’s mother was appalled and pressed Grace to return the pieces, but Grace refused. Eventually, on the eve of her wedding to Rainier, she would gift the jewelry to her bridesmaids, feeling it was inappropriate to keep such pieces after she became a wife.

Ray Milland. Grace’s co-star in Dial M for Murder 24 years her senior. This little dalliance almost cost Grace her career. Milland’s 30-year marriage to wife, Muriel, was at the time a Hollywood institution—today’s equivalent would be Angelina Jolie moving in on Paul Newman. Once the affair with Milland came to light, all of Hollywood including powerful gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper, rallied around Muriel Milland.

Oleg Cassini: Possibly Grace’s most serious relationship outside Rainier. Cassini, a dashing Italian fashion designer was, incredibly, straight, charming, handsome, and enough older than Grace to satisfy her ‘daddy’ complex. Grace met Cassini toward the end of her relationship with Ray Milland and assured the besotted Oleg that she was in love with Milland and not interested in pursuing another relationship. Undeterred, Cassini began anonymously sending her red roses, confessed after ten days, and charmed her into a date. Eventually, they would become engaged and Grace pregnant with his child. Grace’s father, however, objected strenuously to the marriage and Grace would end both the pregnancy and the relationship largely in response to her parent’s objections. Cassini would go on to become Jackie Kennedy’s favorite designer responsible almost entirely for developing the “Camelot” look.

William Holden. During the filming of “The Bridges of Toko Ri”. William is another guy I don’t “get”. So, yah, she did William Holden. Whatever.

A couple of guys she didn’t sleep with were Howard Hughes, who was infatuated with Grace, but in whom Grace had absolutely no interest. She did not conquer Jimmy Stewart, but unlike Hughes, it wasn’t for lack of trying. Grace flirted with Jimmy shamelessly during the filming of Rear Window and he flirted back, driving Jimmy’s wife, Gloria, absolutely wild. Jimmy remained faithful, however, and the attraction never progressed.

Which brings us, mostly, up to speed, at least with Grace’s more famous conquests, to the time of her first meeting Rainier when she was all of 26 years old.



Brenda said...

Grace had very good taste in men most of the time (especially Marlon Brando and Gary Cooper...I loved them both!) But I don't get the Cassini attraction. In my opinion, he was in the David Niven class (with whom, I understand, she also "dilly-dallied")!

Suzanne said...

Yes, Nivan was probably on the list in the "after" the marriage category. He lived not far from the Grimaldis in Monaco. Nivan's wife was either completely insane or great fun to be with, depending on who's doing to recollecting. And, anyway, it's not like a little thing like a wife ever stopped Grace.