The Night Was Filled With Memories—Grace Kelly & Prince Rainier
The guest list was limited to sixty-five close friends and family only. The press was barred from the Club. Photographers, columnists and radio stations had made requests to crash the party, but this was a special occasion, and the Prince and Princess of Monaco wanted privacy.
The place was the Harwyn Club, at 112 East 52nd Street, New York City. It was the scene of tender memories, for it was here that the engagement party of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier was given three years ago.
MODERN SCREEN’s reporter was there that night, however, and this is his exclusive report:
The party started at 11:00 on the evening of Wednesday, December 17. It was sponsored by old friends of the royal couple, Major General J. F. R. Seitz, Commanding General of Governor’s Island, and his wife, actress Jessie Royce Landis. It was the last big social function before Monaco’s rulers would go back to their principality.
When Grace and Rainier arrived—they were about the twelfth couple to come—the General and Mrs. Seitz greeted them warmly. Grace looked very radiant and very beautiful dressed in a gorgeous Empire gown, her hair done up in a bouffant style.
The Prince wore a very dark suit, white shirt and white silk tie. The hostess was wearing a blue-and-silver lamé dress and over it, a matching cape. It was warm in the room and the Prince made a gesture as if to remove the cape. But she shied away and put her hands up on her shoulders as if to prevent it. The Prince laughed and said, “I’m always trying to do something like that.”
The first section of the Harwyn Club contains the bar, and in the second room there are tables for dining, a small bandstand and a small dance floor. Grace and Rainier spotted their friend Charles Boyer having some beer at the bar and went over and shook hands cordially. There was no formality; the Prince was relaxed and casual. This was a rare occasion when he could be himself and not worry about the prying eyes of the press and the public.
After a few minutes Grace left the two men and went around chatting with some of the other guests. The Prince seemed to have eyes only for his wife. Even across the crowded room, their eyes would meet and they would smile. This trip to America was a sort of second honeymoon for them.
Soon the party adjourned to the next room for dancing.
The host couple and the guests of honor sat together. A spectacular centerpiece adorned their corner table: a champagne glass, about ten inches tall, filled with white and red roses—the colors of Monaco—and rising from the fountain of flowers was a spire-shaped Christmas tree ornament. The other tables were decorated with smaller versions.
Charles Boyer sat at the next table. He had brought his beer with him from the bar, but when the waiters brought the champagne to the head table, he left it unfinished and joined the Prince and Princess. Soon he and the Prince were deep in conversation, both in French and in English.
An old married couple
It was observed that the young royal couple acted at times like an old married couple. One of the times was when Charles Boyer asked the Prince if he might see some pictures of the royal children. Rainier put his right cheek tenderly on the shoulder of his wife and leaned down, reaching for the wallet in his left pocket. Then he sat up again, took the snapshots from the wallet and delightedly showed off his Caroline and Albert.
When Cyril Richard came over to their table, Grace whispered to him, “I bought the Prince a lovely present for Christmas but I’m not going to tell anyone what it is; I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”
Everyone wanted to come over to the table and reminisce with the visitors. Rita Gam (now married to Thomas Ginsberg, the publisher) had been one of Grace’s bridesmaids. Grace kissed her hello and they had a long chat about old times and new babies. Grace admired the choker Rita was wearing in a criss-cross fashion.
Grace’s two sisters were there, and the three strikingly beautiful young women looked enough alike to be triplets. Sister Mrs. Donald Levine was wearing a green sheath dress, and Mrs. George Davis, Grace laughingly noticed, looked more like ‘a country girl’ in the checked dress she was wearing than Grace herself had looked when she played in the film of that title.
When actor Raymond Massey joined their table, he immediately became the center of attraction. He had grown a beard for his Broadway play, J. B. Everyone was fascinated by it and wanted to stroke it. Grace and her husband teased Massey about it—Grace adding, “It’s adorable.” The Prince put his head on her shoulder and asked playfully, “Would you like me to grow one for you, darling?”
A tender memory
Behind the bandstand was a large crest, in honor of the Prince. When the music was slow and dreamy, the royal couple got up to dance. They’d look deep into each other’s eyes, smiling, remembering, reliving the days of their engagement, when the Harwyn had been ‘their Club.’
But when the band struck up a mambo, a merengue or a cha cha, the Prince preferred to sit that one out.
By 3:30 in the morning about eight people were still partying. Grace and Rainier had moved over to another table with the General and Miss Landis, the bodyguard Frank Cressci and Mrs. Cressci, and an Italian silk merchant named Mario Inzani. The orchestra played a special number for the Prince and Princess, ‘their song,’ Your Eyes Are the Eyes of a Woman In Love. They had loved this song from the first days of their romance.
Eventually everyone agreed that it was time at last to go home, but no one seemed ready to be the first to leave. Finally, the Prince and Mario Inzani got up, and the group walked toward the checkroom. Rainier picked up his light raincoat and his wife’s silver grey fur wrap and helped her on with it.
The movie queen who had become a real-life Princess smiled a sleepy smile at her Prince. It was the end of a wonderful evening, a night filled with memories.
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MARCH 1959