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The Whole Town’s Talking About Grace Kelly!

If ever a girl was in the running in Hollywood, it’s Grace Kelly. And what the whole town wants to know is, how did she get so far so fast?

Some say it’s the luck of the Irish. But that’s too easy. Some say it’s talent or sex or what she knows or whom she knows. But one who knows her well says, “I’ve read dozens of articles about Grace—how beautiful she is, how well-scrubbed, soft-spoken, ladylike, how smart and subtle and sophisticated—how talented and genuine and hard-working. But nowhere have I seen a mention of the one quality that is most characteristic.

“That quality,” the friend continued, “is ambition. Grace Kelly is one of the most ambitious girls I know.

“How do you think she gets all her marvelous roles? By sitting back and waiting for producers to beat a path to her door? Hardly.

“This girl really knows how to operate. She’s got a highpowered agency, MCA. And she knows what she wants.”

And in the last three years this quiet blonde from Philadelphia has got what she wanted.

Although she is only twenty-six, no other young actress has touched her record, qualitatively speaking, of eight top-notch movies with eight top-notch leading men.

No other young actress has such a record of romance rumors, either, some with the aforementioned leading men.

According to the gossips, Grace Kelly is a femme fatale, an American combine of Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, who has allegedly toyed with the affections of Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ray Milland and Bing Crosby, to name only a few of the more famous men in her life.

Grace has still a further distinction: she is the envy of practically every other motion picture actress in the world. A few of these were gathered in a Beverly Hills restaurant discussing their sister actress.

“For my money,” said one, “Grace Kelly is the most overrated actress to hit this town in years.”

“I saw Clark Gable taking her to the Academy Awards,” added another, “and all I can say is that the King’s eyesight must be slipping.”

“Compared to Lana Turner,” a third volunteered, “she’s got about as much sex appeal as a string bean.”

When actresses start talking about one of their colleagues in this salty fashion, the conclusion is inescapable: Grace Kelly has arrived.

Now, what makes Grace so distinctive, so desirable, so popular with men and so much in demand by the industry?

When she came out to Hollywood four years ago to test for a role in Taxi, she was turned down for the lead. One cameraman says, “Because on film she just didn’t come across. She generated absolutely nothing—no sex, no vitality, just a kind of subdued prettiness.”

A few months later when Grace was signed for a small part in Fourteen Hours, she again made little or no impression. Of the millions of people who saw the film, hardly anyone can remember Grace in it.

From this standing start, how did Grace Kelly suddenly burgeon into “the hottest young actress in the business?” How, for instance, did she outdistance all the acting ladies in Hollywood who were plotting for the role opposite Bing Crosby in The Country Girl?

The old acquaintance who believes that it’s Grace’s ambition that moves her along tells how it was done.

“Grace told her agent that she wanted the role very badly. Then she called the producer, Bill Perlberg. She told him the same thing. Perlberg hedged. Grace had done a wonderful job for him in The Bridges At Toko-Ri, but Bill knew that MGM wanted Grace back for Green Fire with Stewart Granger. And he knew something else. He knew that Bing Crosby wasn’t particularly anxious to have Grace as his leading lady. So Bill stalled for a while, diplomatically, of course. He was convinced Metro wouldn’t let Grace remain at Paramount for a second picture.

“But Bill didn’t reckon with Kelly’s ambition. She pressed for the part, day after day. When Metro finally told her a loanout was impossible, Grace led with her trump.

“ ‘If I can’t play the roles I want,’ she said, ‘there is no point in my being in this business. I’ll pack up and go home.’

“Grace has a big advantage. She doesn’t need money. Her father is rich. Metro knew that of course, and in Hollywood as in Wall Street, people who have money are not kicked around—not very much, anyway. So Metro gave in and Grace was cleared for The Country Girl.”

Bing says now that he never did object to Grace’s joining the cast of the picture. And apparently he didn’t. Of course Bing was aware of Grace’s alleged affinity for leading men—as in the case of Ray Milland.

No sooner had Dial M For Murder started when stories that Milland was leaving his wife and hoped to marry Grace began to circulate.

At that time Bing was being mentioned in connection with both Mona Freeman and Margot James and he didn’t want any more publicity like that. When The Country Girl began, Bing and Grace were polite to each other.

Bing has never been a man to offer his friendship freely, and Grace sensed that. She has an unerring facility for judging men. At the start of the production the Kelly-Crosby relationship was purely professional. Gradually it thawed and grew into a personal relationship. Bing and Grace have a great deal in common. They are both of Irish descent, both Catholic, both hard-working and both emotionally restrained.

Before the picture was finished, Bing was dating Grace quite frequently. Once, Bing took her dancing at the Mocambo, where the photographers gathered around and shot him without his hairpiece, an indelicacy which always arouses the Crosby ire.

Some or Grace’s rivals would have you believe that she appeals to men like Crosby, Gable, Milland and Cooper “because they are well on in years and are always searching for a leading lady who won’t make them look too old.” They say that Grace’s outstanding professional virtue is the maturity of her appearance.

Last year when Clark Gable was in London, he was, as usual, reluctant to say anything. Asked about Grace, he answered, “She is a very sweet and refined young lady with lots of inner warmth and talent.”

Was it true that while they were making Mogambo in Africa, they fell in love?

“Ridiculous,” Gable said. “We went hunting together a couple of times. That’s about all.”

A British newspaperman who had accompanied the Mogambo troupe all through Kenya, was a bit more expansive.

“Very quickly,” he reported, “Grace Kelly became the darling of the outfit. John Ford, the director, took a liking to her right away. He gave her one of his favorite caps and began calling her Kelly.

“The general feeling among members of the cast was that Kelly was one regular girl, normal and easy to get on with.

“I don’t knew whether she fell for Gable first or vice versa but they certainly struck up a close friendship. When they returned to London, they took up where they left off in Nairobi.

“I saw them dining together several times and I later ran into them at the New Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre. In fact, I believe they were sort of mobbed when they tried to see Paint Your Wagon.

“Once when I rang up Kelly, I asked her if she were engaged to Gable.

“Don’t be foolish, she said. ‘Mr. Gable is a very dear friend and a very kind man who was very considerate on location. Yes, I’ve gone out with him a few times. But it’s nothing serious.’ ”

The friendship may not have been serious then. But somehow Grace’s mother, Mrs. Margaret Majer Kelly, got wind of it in Philadelphia. The next thing anyone knew, Mrs. Kelly was in London living with Grace in the Savoy Hotel and Gable was staying over at the Connaught. Al Menasco, his old pal from California was on his way to join Clark for a tour of the continent.

When Mrs. Kelly took her beautiful young daughter back to the States, Gable and Mr. and Mrs. Menasco went on to Paris. It was there that Gable met Schiaparelli model Suzanne Dadolle d’Abadie.

Suzanne joined the wanderers and soon rumors began to drift back to Hollywood that in this statuesque French beauty, Gable had found his fifth wife.

How these rumors affected Grace Kelly nobody knows. Nobody but Grace, that is, and she is not one to talk about her personal life. She’s a sensible girl, and perhaps she realized that there was no point in pining for a man who was thousands of miles across the Atlantic, apparently having a great time with a French model on the sands of Capri.

Grace threw herself into her television work in New York, starring in one playlet after another until the day Jay Kanter, her agent at MCA, called her to ask, “How would you like to go to Hollywood and play opposite Ray Milland in Dial M For Murder?”

Grace had seen the play on Broadway and she was enthusiastic—in her own quiet way. Little did she know that she was destined to be attracted to Reginald Truscott-Jones, formerly of His Majesty’s Household Guard. Mr. Truscott-Jones acts under the name of Ray Milland.

Grace’s friends say, “She never would have fallen for Milland if she hadn’t been under the impression that he was separated from his wife. She has far too much self-control for that. She is an idealistic girl, and she would sooner cut off her arm than break up any going marriage.”

Anyway, Milland was extremely taken with Grace during the filming of Dial M For Murder, and it was no secret on the Warner lot that he planned to divorce his beautiful wife Mal and marry Grace Kelly.

Naturally enough, Milland, now reconciled with his wife, refuses to discuss the affair. For her part, Grace airily acts as if it never even happened. The approximate truth is that once she learned that Ray had not been separated from his wife when they met—that is, that their friendship had begun under false pretenses—Grace called the whole thing off.

As in the Gable problem, Grace’s mother came to her daughter’s side in the problem of Ray Milland. It was said that henceforth Mrs. Margaret Kelly would act as Grace’s chaperone in Hollywood.

Of course Grace Kelly needs no chaperone. She is self-reliant, blessed with integrity and righteousness, and would never do anything embarrassing to herself or to her family. Her best chaperone will always be her own conscience and her parents know that.

Once the Milland rumors blew clear, Mrs. Kelly went back to Philadelphia, and Grace took off for South America to star in Green Fire.

When she returned she began to see Clark Gable again, but the time she had for social life was limited. She had to leave for Cannes and Catch A Thief.

Grace Kelly is near-sighted and wears glasses, is blessed with natural beauty and unerring understanding of men.

From whom she got this understanding it is difficult to say. Some believe it came from her father, a rugged athlete who started a bricklaying business in Philadelphia with $7,000 borrowed from two wealthy brothers. That bricklaying business is now an eighteen-million-dollar contracting outfit.

Others say Grace learned how to handle men by handling her brother John, a world champion oarsman. But a girl who attended the Stevens School with Grace and knows her background well, says, “She learned about men from a boy in Philadelphia named Harper Davis. She was very much in love with him and eventually they might have been married. But he died last year.”

Someone else insists that Kelly, before movie fame, used to go fairly steady with Gene Lyons, an excellent stage and TV actor. Supposedly Lyons was smitten by her born-to-the-purple manner.

Grace’s technique apparently consists of being natural, quiet, and attentive.

Bill Holden said, “I’ve never known her to take advantage of being a woman. In Toko-Ri she was always on time, always knew her lines, always contributed a good deal to the scene.” And Grace has a wonderful way of contributing without being pushing. She talks in modulated tones and makes it a point never to hurt anyone.

Grace has made her own living, more or less, since she was seventeen or eighteen. Her family wanted her to go to Bennington College in Vermont but scholastically she couldn’t make the grade. Then she decided to study acting.

In 1947 she went to New York, enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and found work as a model. Since she is extremely photogenic, she soon became a very popular photographers’ model. She appeared on magazine covers and gradually she worked her way into TV where casting directors said she looked like “the typical young British bride.”

One night a talent scout from 20th Century-Fox saw Grace on his TV set and suggested that the studio test her for a bit in 14 Hours since much of it was being shot on location in New York.”

Grace got the part, but Fox didn’t find her sufficiently promising for a term contract. Her appetite for fame had been whetted, though.

She worked hard. She played Bucks County in Pennsylvania, then Ellitch Gardens in Denver, then back to TV in New York, always learning, always listening, always studying and waiting for that one all-important wedge in the door of fortune.

It wasn’t long in coming.

In 1951 Stanley Kramer had signed Gary Cooper for High Noon and needed “a young leading lady at not too much dough.” MCA sent over some film on Kelly and Kramer ran it off. He liked what he saw. So did Cooper.

Grace was signed for the role of Cooper’s wife. High Noon turned out to be the best western of the year, winning an Oscar for Coop and critical acclaim for Kelly.

MGM then offered Grace a contract, the salary starting at $750 a week, an opportunity to play opposite Gable in Mogambo and plenty of time for stage work. Grace affixed her signature to the contract. And she was off to the races.

So much of Hollywood beauty is belt-line processed that Grace’s natural good looks immediately registered with the critics—and with her leading men. They began to describe her as “one of the few ladies in the picture business—reserved, refined and restrained.”

She is smart enough not to compete with her escort. When she’s with Gable she gives him the impression that she is honored to share his company. With Crosby she makes Bing feel like a gay, young, dancing blade. She dresses simply and conservatively and makes her escort feel that she will be very much at home no matter where he takes her.

Gable says he was afraid to take her hunting with him in Africa but that she acquitted herself nobly. “Never griped a single time.”

Because Grace Kelly is genuinely reserved, she does not make a particularly rewarding interview. She answers questions briefly, competently and respectfully, but she rarely offers an elaborating anecdote.

One newsman said, “She gave me the feeling that I was being presented at Buckingham Palace.”

Grace has adopted a quasi-British accent or as Cary Grant explained, “She speaks English in a very special way as if she belonged to both America and Great Britain.”

Despite her sensational success, Grace never has gone Hollywood. On the west coast she sublets reasonable apartments and in New York has kept her small apartment on East 66th Street.

Ask her how she feels about things and her blue eyes light up and she says modestly, “I’ve been very lucky and I know it. Once in a while that happens to someone in Hollywood and it’s happened to me. I’m hot at the moment. But how long it will last I don’t know.”

Grace, incidentally, had good luck at the gaming tables in Monte Carlo before Catch A Thief got started.

“I went with Betsy Drake and Jessie Royce Landis,” she told a friend, “and they had the most complicatedgambling systems. All I did was put my money on number six. And I won.”

Grace insists upon describing herself as “just lucky.” Certainly she’s been lucky in birth, background, beauty, career, and lately, in gambling. One wonders if she will be as lucky in love.





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