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Lovely To Look At—Grace Kelly

Eight years ago there were a great many more boys than girls attending Stevens High School in the Chestnut Hills area of Philadelphia. The girls loved it; no one was a wallflower and the “rush” was terrific. But some of the mothers were concerned; they thought their daughters might develop a conceit that would take a bad beating later when they got out into a world less bountiful with attentive males.

They needn’t have worried. The effect on the girls in the class was good. They developed excellent poise based on a fine confidence in themselves. One of them, a quiet, blue-eyed blonde named Grace Kelly, was the daughter of John Kelly, once an international sculling champion, and now a building contractor. Later, her older brother. Jack, won similar renown. Today Grace is pulling her own oar as an actress. Even though she is single she seems to have a monopoly on Hollywood’s best young-wife roles.

Her film husbands have included Gary Cooper (in High Noon), Richard Basehart (14 Hours), Ray Milland (Dial M For Murder), and Bill Holden (The Bridges At Toki-Ri). In Mogambo she loses Clark Gable to Ava Gardner but in Rear Window she’s a cinch to settle down domestically with Jimmy Stewart and it’s anybody’s guess whether she will settle down with Bill Holden or Bing Crosby in Country Girl. Friends are beginning to kid her that marriage in real life may be an anti-climax.

Grace, who was born twenty-five years ago in Philadelphia, needed that favorable boy-girl setup at high school because she was not so sure of herself to start with. Bracketed between an older and a younger sister she is reported to have been a “withdrawn” kid at twelve.

One of the favorite family stories about her is that when she wanted to play hooky at this period she would first announce the fact at breakfast time—the point being that she was emulating other girls but not really wanting to skip school. She was hoping that someone would talk her out of it.

This indecision was general. “She couldn’t shop for herself until she was quite a bit older,” says her mother: Grace herself recalls, “Well, I was generally down with all the sicknesses—the original sinus kid.”

Now Grace is a tall girl, five feet, five and a half inches, weighs a nicely modeled 115 pounds and is nobody’s weakling. Not according to the tales brought back about her from Africa, when she made Mogambo with Gable and Ava.

In more than four months on safari beset by heat and restricted to the rigorous routine of camp life, she didn’t miss a day’s shooting. As a matter of fact, in contrast to Ava, who spent her spare time reading in camp, Grace used hers to accompany the hunting parties sent out to get meat for the company personnel. The man who shot the heavy game on these expeditions was generally Gable. But Grace had a quick eye for fowl and bagged a great number of guinea hens.

Perhaps her nerves were most severely tested the morning she awoke in her tent to see what looked like a long, four-inch-wide snake wriggling along the ground. A closer look revealed that the “snake” was really a long line of giant ants migrating right through the tent. She got up and dressed, stepping gingerly back and forth over the undulating line, and went to breakfast. Late that afternoon when she returned from the day’s filming the parade of ants was still in progress. Attacking with a pail of boiling water her native servant managed to break up the line of march and divert it around the tent. Unfortunately a few thousand ants lost their way and got into her baggage where they kept showing up for weeks.

Grace Is not sure how her love for acting was fostered. There is a theatrical tradition in the family founded by two of her father’s brothers. One uncle is the noted playwright, George Kelly, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Craig’s Wife, and The Show-Off. Grace had a share of his blood but none of his encouragement. He thought the theatre was not for her. Another uncle was Walter C. Kelly, a famous vaudeville headliner known as “The Virginia Judge,” who died when Grace was a youngster without delivering any opinion about her talent.

As a child she took up ballet (ten years of it), studied the piano and had voice lessons, so there were some early ideas about show business. She attended an exclusive school, the Raven Hill Academy, and at the same time took part in amateur theatricals with the Old Academy Players Theatre in Philadelphia. As an aid to expression she chose two foreign languages to study, French and Spanish, stuck to them all through school and speaks them today. But she knew definitely that acting was in her life to stay after a visit she made to New York as a young girl. She was taken to the Russian Bear restaurant for dinner and there had her fortune read by a gypsy who told her not that she would be an actress but that she was an actress. Whenever Grace has any doubt about her ability she hurries back to the Russian Bear for further confirmation.

Her folks were not inclined to be influenced by gypsies and after Grace graduated from Stevens High School they wanted her to enter Bennington College in Vermont. But she came a cropper in her college board exams, doing badly in mathematics. That this was as fortunate a failure as has ever befallen any girl became apparent in the next two and a half years.

By that time she had switched to the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, had been tagged for some model work in movie shorts by Warner Brothers, was selected to join the cast of a Broadway play by Raymond Massey, had offers from a number of summer theatres including Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, was well into radio and tv work and was already being talked about in letters from eastern talent scouts to the big Hollywood studios.

What most of the scouts stressed in their reports was that Grace not only had the features of a real beauty, but also a quality too rare on the screen—serene ladyhood. “She not only looks terrific,” said one talent eagle, “she seems to be having wonderful thoughts, too.”

Grace has had some nice things to think about in her life. There have been a few bad times, but not too many. There was her first appearance at Bucks County Playhouse when she was told the most dreadful fate for an ingénue is to have the critics say no more than that she is very pretty—and that’s exactly how they dismissed her. There was the quick death of her second Broadway play, To Be Continued, which ran only three weeks even though the great Katherine Cornell praised her by saying, “I laughed and I cried at you on the stage.” And there were and are all the meal times in which she doesn’t eat well. Grace can’t cook and she won’t dine out alone, so when in New York or Hollywood she lives on such meager fare as milk, soda crackers, an apple or orange, unless she has a roommate who can cook or is invited out.

She has had the happy childhood and youth of a good looking, wellborn girl, some nice surprises (a European trip to England, France and Switzerland, for instance, to help her forget her failure to make Bennington) and an interesting and successful career in the legitimate theatre. Nor is her luck running badly now, what with the men she has had in her professional life to guide it. These, the directors of her various pictures, represent the very cream of the industry: Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Fred Zinneman, Mark Robson and George Seaton.

Although she is poised, Grace is by no means an extrovert and her personality has an essence of shyness. When she knew she was to work with Jimmy Stewart (whom she had never met) in Rear Window she was very anxious to overcome quickly any feeling of strangeness for the sake of the picture. She didn’t have to worry. In one of the earliest scenes Jimmy was called upon to kiss her thirty-seven times in three minutes. After that she felt she knew him pretty well.

Her shyness, really a disinclination to talk much about herself, seems to have convinced some people that she has a lot to hide. Her name has been linked with almost every one of her leading men. There was a to-do, for instance, about her as the other woman in the marital troubles of Ray Milland last year—a charge that Grace’s friends brand ridiculous.

During the filming of Mogambo she, Ava Gardner and Clark Gable were the best of friends from start to finish of production. This did not prevent rumors coupling Grace and Clark romantically. The basis for these reports in the columns of Hollywood writers were two-fold. First, there were all those hunting trips they made together. Second, there was the fact that they ate a great many of. their meals as a twosome in camp.

Sounded like the real business but Grace punctured the whole story when she got back. The only times Ava didn’t share a common meal with Gable and Kelly were during Frank Sinatra’s visit to the camp, she said. At such times he and Ava naturally paired off a lot. And as for Clark’s inviting Grace on so many of his hunting jaunts, Grace said companionship, not romance, was involved. It was her long silences Clark fell in love with. When he is hunting he wants no talk and no talk comes naturally with her.

Ava and Grace were not only co-hostesses at the company’s Christmas show and dinner (December, 1952) held in the jungle, but they concocted a skit and presented it together. Frank Sinatra was master of ceremonies and even Gable got on his feet to entertain with a few stories.

Rita gam, with whom Grace roomed in Hollywood, can testify to Grace’s ability to keep her own counsel—ordinarily, that is. Last January Grace inadvertently upset a nice little alibi Rita had stacked up about a black eye she sported for a spell.

She had actually slipped in the shower and had fallen against a towel rack. Grace was present and played nurse. This took so much time that Grace was late for a luncheon interview and—without thinking—explained what had happened to Rita. A little later in the day Rita went out, met Louella Parsons, and on impulse decided that a fall in a bathtub sounded fishy as an explanation for a shiner. “A horse kicked me,” she said. Louella printed it that way and thus the clash of explanations.

Both girls, because their permanent homes are in the east, consider themselves nomads when they are in Hollywood. They rent ordinary little apartments which can be had without leases and naturally try not to buy any furnishings which must either be abandoned or shipped about when they leave. The only trouble is that as girls will—they get a bit penny wise and pound foolish about this. They were short of blankets when a cold wave struck California, but rather than buy extra ones they kept stalling and hoping for warmer weather. It came, but not until they had spent night after night freezing.

Last Christmas found Grace alone in Hollywood without Christmas Day plans until one of the girls at her studio found out about it and asked her to her home. When Grace arrived she found that it was to be a big family dinner—a total of twenty-seven adults, nine children, two dogs, three cats and one parakeet.

Grace, quite used to family gatherings, fitted in perfectly. She helped feed the youngsters before the big dinner was served for the adults. As Grace said, “It was almost as good as being home.”

In the opinion of Hollywood’s producers Grace is a classic beauty, faultless they say, no matter how photographed. She doesn’t agree. She feels that her left side is her best side and arranges her hair with this in mind. But she makes no point of it when she is before the motion picture camera—just when she is making a portrait sitting.

She has a permanent apartment in New York on 66th Street and lives with Henry, a parakeet. When she leaves New York for Hollywood Henry has to leave for the apartment of friends (hers, that is) until she can return and take care of him. She counts Henry the oddest friend she has in New York. In Hollywood her oddest friend is human—a girl who had an atom bomb shelter built in the garden of her house, but is never home.

Grace likes New York because she likes her Manhattan radio and TV work contacts, likes being near her family and because she has a great collection of shoes there, too many to take on her travels. She says she is crazy about shoes. She skis, does pastel sketching, swims and rides. All of these things, she claims, are better done around New York than anywhere else. And there is always her favorite gypsy fortune teller at the Russian Bear.

“Don’t laugh,” she says. “After all, most Hollywood actresses have their astrologers, don’t they?”





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