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That Girl Kelly And Me—Grace Kelly

“Why exactly,” a friend asked me, “are you and Grace Kelly friends? What, besides your work, do you have in common?”

“Oh,” I said, off the top of my head, “rocks.”

Then I went on to explain that when Grace was in central Africa a couple of years ago on location with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “Mogambo,” in which she starred with Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, I was in North Africa on location with “Saadia” for the same studio, and unbeknown to each other we both brought home trunks full of the incredible-looking stones, veined with amethyst, that cover the African fields. M-G-M paid a fortune in freight charges for the “rocks” which now ornament our apartments, but we couldn’t resist carting home these beautiful stones.

Rocks are not the only things, of course—firm though they may be—that serve as a foundation for our friendship. Careerwise, we have the same interests, many of the same problems, the same drive and we are trying to make, I think, the same kind of life.

We both have extreme cases of wanderlust. Grace was unhappy when she couldn’t go to Japan on location with Paramount’s “Bridges at Toko-Ri,” but was solaced to some extent when Bill Holden, who did go, brought her back some stones! She was so happy, on the other hand, when M-G-M’s “Green Fire,” in which she co-stars with Stewart Granger, took her to South America that she went about referring to the assignment as “Grace Kelly sees the World!” (Grace wants to see the world and she will. Grace has purpose. And direction. She knows what she wants.) Similarly, I was happy when, after the African safari, I made “Night People” in Germany, “Sign of the Pagan” in Hollywood, then back again to Germany (the Bavarian Alps this time) and only recently returned for William Dieterle’s “Magic Fire,” the life of Wagner in which I play Cosima Liszt, the daughter of Franz Liszt and Wagner’s last wife. I loved the part because as Cosima Liszt I go from a very enthusiastic eighteen-year-old girl to a very strong sixty-year-old woman.

Both Grace and I are collectors of souvenirs. We become very attached to things. In addition to our treasured rocks, we also brought home from Africa suitcases full of pictures of native women washing their clothes on the banks of rivers. Looking over our pictures one night we sat admiring the supple dark women bending over the rivers’ dark waters. “So graceful,” we said, “but thank God,” we added laughing, “we don’t have to do that!

We’re lovers of clothes, too, Grace and I. We have lots of clothes, buy them in fits and starts, great gobs of things, then forget all about them for six months. In the daytime Grace wears skirts and sweatery things and rarely wears a hat. Then at night she breaks out in lovely satin brocaded coats and beautiful feminine things. Grace always dresses very carefully. And always there is that look of freshness about her, the American finishing school look, that very elegant and ladylike look.

I remember seeing her at the theatre one night in a brown satin dress, long white gloves and pearls. Everything was very right for her. Grace knows what is right for her and not only in the matter of clothes.

We both need glasses for near work, Grace more than I—she’s really blind! She can be pretty formidable with her glasses on, too—looks like a pretty but very efficient secretary!

We’re alikes, too, in that we both choose to live in New York, refuse to live in Hollywood. Though a Philadelphian, Grace loves New York. She does most of her socializing in New York. When she is in Hollywood making a picture, she usually rents a furnished apartment, but She speaks of her New York apartment as “my real apartment.”

Very much like its tenant, Grace’s “real apartment” is very feminine and sentimentally filled with souvenirs, snapshots, sketches, from each of her pictures. For instance her rocks, which are reminiscent of her “Mogambo” and of Africa; a banner from “Bridges at Toko-Ri,” and the stones Bill Holden brought her from Japan. From her “Rear Window,” she has a sketch of the set given her by the set designer; she has something from “Dial M for Murder,” too, but I can’t remember just what. A plaque inscribed “To Our Favorite Country Girl” given her by the crew of “Country Girl” is treasured as is another rock or two (veined with emerald?) in memory of “Green Fire.” And everywhere about her apartment are pictures of her family, her mother and father, her two sisters, her brother Jack, her uncle, playwright George Kelly, her nieces and lots and lots of cousins.

Grace’s bedroom is all blue and white and green, fresh bright colors which she loves and there may be, and probably are some stuffed animals around which she has bought for some kid. Very fond of kids, Grace is closer to children than any girl I know. Her miniature French poodle, Oliver, who is an exceptionally well-trained and happy little dog, clues you to the disciplined but happy and free children Grace will someday have and raise.

For a girl brushed by wanderlust, Grace is the most all-round home-and-family loving person I know. When she is in New York she usually goes to Philadelphia weekends to visit her family. She is very close to them, particularly close to her older sister, Peg. Grace works very hard at her job, studies quite a lot, is a very careful and conscientious actress. Real dedicated. Yet she wants to live her life on several levels, wants to have and intends to have as full and rounded a life as possible. With her deep family feeling and love of children I think she would certainly like to be married. And I don’t think she’ll have any difficulty managing marriage and career. Grace has clarity—clarity of mind and of character and of purpose. She has clarity about what she has done in the past, what she is doing now and will do in the future. She’s still in the process of growing up and she knows it. She also knows what she’s growing up to. If I could use only one word for Grace, the one word would be clarity. I think you can tell she has it just by looking at her.

Oh, I don’t mean in the everyday little things. Matter of fact, Grace lives much the same disorganized life I do; more so, if that is possible. Both of us like to take long walks, long slow walks—destination nowhere. Grace is vague about time, about dates. She sort of floats from place to place, doesn’t take care of correspondence right away, forgets to answer telephone calls, forgets, like me, to put the laundry out, too, which created something of a problem during the two months we shared an apartment (Grace’s apartment) in Hollywood.

Curious how we got to be friends. . . .

We met on tv in New York at a time when both of us were engaged in making the rounds of the Crime Circuit—TV Whodunits, that is. Just what the shows were I don’t remember. I do remember that I was being always the bad girl and Grace was being always the good girl and that I admired her work and she, mine. Between scenes we’d sit around and mull over our old modeling days in New York, both of us having started out as models, although Grace, who is always successful in everything she does, had an easier time of it than I did. While I worry more and am more easily diverted by extraneous things, Grace is in the things that matter, single-minded. She saves herself for the things that matter. In those early TV days we used to meet, now and then, at parties around New York and were always glad to see each other although we were not close friends.

I remember very well my first impression of Grace. I remember thinking, She’s like her name—soft, yet strong, great inner resources and direction. She was also very reserved at first, very shy, yet warm and responsive.

Grace was making “Rear Window” when I went to Hollywood to make “Sign of the Pagan” and one day, quite by accident, we ran into each other on Hollywood Boulevard. After the usual How-are-you? Good- to-see-you, Grace suggested coming over to her apartment for coffee. I went over to the two-room apartment Grace had rented for the duration of the picture. It was done in modern style and Grace felt it didn’t fit in with her taste. (Grace’s taste in her New York apartment is for French Provincial, old pieces, and nothing, even though new, with the modern look.) Over coffee, we talked about our work, about New York and how we missed it, about Hollywood, too. I admitted I was lonely in Hollywood and Grace said ditto and then, at her suggestion, I moved in!

Since I never went to college, the old roommate routine was something brand-new to me. I wasn’t too sure how it would work out for either of us. But speaking for myself, at any rate, it worked out comfortably and congenially. One of the reasons Grace and I got along so well is that temperamentally we are different. But like unrelated ingredients in cooking, we combine well. She never loses that sense of control you feel in her, a soundness, a dignity. I find it very calming to be with Grace. She gives me something, something fine which not many people can.

She’s fun, too, great great fun. She has a marvelous kind of humor—a vague, whimsical humor, not the exuberant, life-of-the-party kind.

But although we are opposites, temperamentally, our rhythm is much the same; we have a similarity of tempo in a way. Grace enjoys single relationships, for instance, more than she does being the center of the party. So do I. She is extremely self-sufficient, enjoys being alone. So do I. Being self-sufficient, she doesn’t make demands, of any kind, on others. Neither, I hope, do I. So, at any rate we fell, effortlessly, into a smooth routine.

Since both of us were working we’d breakfast in the kitchenette at 6 a.m., usually on prunes! At the time we were going through a diet routine. A mad diet—only prunes, steak, eggs, and prunes! We ate prunes all day long. Once when, characteristically, we’d forgotten to order some, we came home to a pruneless larder, were distraught, went out in the dead of night to buy some. We couldn’t find any so we tracked all over Hollywood until we eventually found a store in the dreariest street with prunes. Actually, while we dieted, we cheated something awful. We nibbled and gnawed. “Oh well,” we’d say, making inroads on a fat piece of pie, a hunk of cake, “just this little bit won’t hurt!”

Since exercising while dieting is beneficial, we would exercise every night; Grace in the bedroom; I in the living room. Here, too, we cheated. We’d tell each other we’d kept at it for the prescribed fifteen minutes until one night I quit (not for the first time) at the end of ten minutes, walked in on Grace to find her prone upon the bed (not for the first time) and the truth came out.

We lunched, usually, at our respective studios. Occasionally Grace would have a date for dinner at La Rue or one of those places. Now and then an intrepid male would invite us both to dinner. Phil Silvers, I remember, took us both out—and Mitch Miller of Columbia Records. More often though, we’d fix hamburgers at home.

Since Grace likes a lot of sleep—and I do, too—we would usually sleep through Sunday—all of it. When we woke, one or the other would get dinner. We alternated. One Sunday Grace did her spaghetti bit, with green salad. Or, if in gourmet mood, her Beef Strogonoff. The next Sunday I’d do my Duck l’Orange with wild rice. And always champagne. We would keep champagne in the house, nothing but champagne, even had it with our hamburgers—which friends say has ruined my appetite for humble beverages.

When we were invited out to dinner Sundays sometimes we’d go, mostly we wouldn’t. Since all the bachelors comprising Hollywood’s Bachelor List were calling, I’d sift all of Grace’s calls for her. Frequently she’d prefer to be “not at home.”

Not that Grace doesn’t like men; far from it! After dinner in the apartment, we’d often let down our hair, talk—and what did we talk about? Men, of course! Books, too, music, our work. And we’d gossip like mad. But mostly we talked about men. I think Grace likes handsome men. She also likes field-and-stream out-door men. The big reason Grace and Clark Gable were so congenial is that they love outdoor living—the woods, the sea, fishing, hunting. They went on hunting safaris in Africa. Met lions, face to face, and on equal terms. What does Grace really think of Gable? She thinks he’s charming.

Grace has a pretty rounded taste. Matter of fact, in men, she likes writers, directors, musicians, businessmen, artists, politicians, actors. And since she is very interested in, and knowledgeable about a variety of things—music, dancing, politics, art and is extremely well read, she talks to men on their own terms.

Coming, as she does, from a very conservative and fine family, Grace is fastidious about everything, almost to a fault. She’s especially fastidious about her relationships and is very reticient about them. She definitely does not like to talk about her friendships or her romances. And to have her personal affairs mentioned in the newspapers is a shocking thing to her. She may get over this, but I doubt it.

When success comes to you in such leaps and bounds as it has come to Grace, it is likely to be staggering. Grace is surprised, of course, but she is not staggered or overwhelmed. She is grateful. Especially to Director Alfred Hitchcock, who did both “Dial M for Murder” and “Rear Window.” For. Mr. Hitchcock Grace feels a personal enormous gratitude and great respect. And she was more excited than I have ever seen her about winning the New York Critics Best Actress of the Year (1954) Award. Here, again, Grace has clarity—she distinguishes between the laurels that are made of tinsel and the green and lasting laurels that will grow.

Now that her success is on the level it is, Grace is in process of reorganizing her life. She is planning to take a larger apartment. Instead of fixing herself a frozen chicken pie or something, as she’s been doing, she’ll have help. Up to now she’s been living, in other words, like a young actress without roots. Now her life is going to be more organized, lived on a larger scale, as befits a young actress who has taken root in her life—deep and sturdy roots.

I think, too, she will now be very discriminating about the pictures she makes. She mentioned the other day, “I’m not going to do anything unless it is a good part in a good script. Meantime, I’ll stay in my apartment with my poodle and my friends and my books and my theatre—and rest.”

People will call this “temperament.” It won’t be—merely a matter of taking what she wants from the life instead of letting the life take her over.

When she marries she’ll be the same, only more so. No matter how high a level her career has reached, she will never live on one level.

Young as she is, Grace Kelly has already asked herself, “What am I doing with my life?” And she knows the answer. Which is why success may change the four walls within which she lives but will not essentially change her.

Grace is lucky, it’s true, because she comes from a family of background and money and protection so that she comes equipped with strength. But you can misuse this, you know, and she hasn’t.

The fact is that Grace is an exponent of what we in the profession are now and what we want to be. What we want is to get away from the nonsense, away from the lush self-indulgence and extravagance you read about in the earlier days of Hollywood that gave us no life at all, to something that does. We’re fighting in a very sane way to retain values, to make the career work for us as well as we for it, so that we end up with some dough, some life apart from the career, some health and happiness.

Because Marlon Brando doesn’t fit into any cliché, he is called eccentric and crazy. He isn’t. He is trying to be a mature human being.

Because Grace doesn’t fit into any cliché, doesn’t carry a pet monkey on her shoulder, doesn’t go in for exhibitionism of any sort or kind, people say she’s cold, shy. She isn’t cold. Everything Grace does stems from a very feeling person. But deep feeling and real, not just for show. I’m sure Grace doesn’t say, or even consciously think, I won’t give any of myself to this interviewer. And I’m sure, too, that her success is enabling her, in a curious way, to be more open and more giving of herself. Meantime, she is merely trying to protect herself, to save herself for her life.

It’s a different era we’re living in, that’s all. Of this different era, Grace is a shining example. She is gentle. She is a gentlewoman. She is very wholesome. She has the healthy thing. It is this, added to her natural talent, that has made her the star she is on-screen and off. For ask yourself, Is there anyone else in pictures like her? I think not.

By Rita Gam




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