Grace Kelly: Actress, Princess

Grace Kelly: Actress, Princess

Actress Grace Kelly died 30 years ago today. The Hollywood beauty -who demonstrated glamour, elegance and class – became a real-life princess with her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Grace Patricia Kelly was born in Philadelphia, to a family of Irish and German origin, on November 12, 1929. She was named after her father’s sister who died as a child.

Her father – John Brendan “Jack” Kelly – was a successful businessman and triple Olympic rowing champion. He won two gold medals at the 1920 Olympics and another at the 1924 games.

Jack’s parents – John Henry Kelly and Mary Anne Costello – emigrated from Ireland in 1869 and 1867, to the US, where they met and married.

Grace’s mother – Margaret Katherine Majer – was born in Germany. Her parents – Carl and Margartha Majer – arrived in Philadelphia shortly after their daughter’s birth. Margaret, a swimming champion and fashion model, was well-known for her work in the department of physical education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Grace’s siblings were Margaret (Peggy) Katherine (1925-1991), Elizabeth (Lizanne) Anne (1933-2009), and John Brendan, Jr. (1927-1985). John, like his father, was a rowing champion who won a bronze medal in the 1956 Olympics and headed the US Olympic Committee in 1985.

Grace Kelly was 10 when the enumerator came round to her family home which was worth $50,000 – a lot back then! (Click to zoom).

Grace Kelly was 10 when the enumerator came round to her family home which was worth $50,000 – a lot back then! (Click to zoom).

Grace followed in her uncles’ footsteps. Her uncle, vaudeville actor Walter C. Kelly (1873-1939), appeared in numerous Broadway productions and several films, while another uncle, George Kelly (1887-1974), was an actor, playwright and screenwriter who won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize.

When Grace was barely a teenager, she began acting and dancing and was admitted to New York’s prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. To pay for her classes, she became a fashion model, and was noticed by the television networks. Her popularity opened the doors to Hollywood and a movie career.

She earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress  in the 1953 film, Mogambo, starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner. Grace starred in three of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies: Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. In 1955, she won the Oscar for Best Actress for The Country Girl.

Grace’s life changed in May 1955, when she attended a photo shoot at the Prince of Monaco’s palace, and met Prince Rainier. They later announced their engagement. After the engagement and wedding, she left the movie world. Her last movie was High Society, in which she co-starred with Frank Sinatra, who would later be godfather to her second daughter, Stephanie.

The couple’s religious wedding was celebrated – and broadcast internationally – on April 19, 1956. The press billed the event as “the wedding of the century.”

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier had three children: Caroline (January 23, 1957), the current reigning Prince Albert Alexandre Louis Pierre (March 14, 1958) and Stéphanie Marie Elisabeth (February 1, 1965).

Princess Grace was active in many humanitarian causes. She died September 14, 1982, following a car accident the previous day, which may have been caused by a stroke.

Do you have memories of Grace Kelly to share? Do you remember her more as an actress or a princess?

Share your memories in the comments below.


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  • Ann

    September 15, 2012

    I saw the Grace Kelly exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria Australia recently. It was amazing and a really interesting, glamorous and unique chronicle of her life, viewed and enjoyed by seniors, young and middle-aged. It was so intriguing to see the young children enamoured of the Princess and movie star too.

  • Linda Paxton

    September 14, 2013

    She was so beautiful and elegant. She was born to be a princess like Princess Diana. I remember her most as an actress. I barely remember the wedding as I was only 5 years old, but it was like the wedding of Diana and Charles. So beautiful.