Grace Kelly got to live every little girl’s dream by transforming from a glamorous actress to a beloved princess. When Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, she traded in the silver screen for a golden crown, but her fairy tale romance had a heartbreakingly high cost. Through all her trials and tribulations, though, Kelly lived up to her name. She truly was grace personified.
Grace Kelly Facts
1. Her Father Disapproved
When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, there’s a good chance that they’ll say “actor” or “musician.” But when Kelly told her parents that she wanted to act and then enrolled into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, well, her parents weren’t exactly thrilled. Rumor goes that Kelly’s father, Jack, believed acting to be “a slim cut above streetwalker.” Yikes, that’s pretty harsh.
2. She Almost Didn’t Make It
Despite being a Hollywood icon, Kelly almost didn’t make it into the Academy of Dramatic Arts. The school had already filled all available openings, but Kelly’s playwright uncle George stepped in to urge them to accept her. After auditioning with a scene from her uncle George’s play The Torch-Bearers, Kelly managed to get an interview with the admissions officer. Of course, Grace charmed him and secured herself a place in the prestigious Academy.
3. She Hid a Secret from Hollywood
Kelly has a reputation for being ladylike and proper, and she didn’t get it by sitting around. Instead, Kelly had to take lessons to rid herself of her Philadelphia accent. No, really! While at acting school, her instructors suggested she work on her voice and delivery, so she did. She used a tape recorder to help herself, and, as a result, her speech started hinting at a British kind of sound: measured and well-rounded.
4. She Couldn’t See Her Own Beauty
Although we all know that Grace Kelly is one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, her friends and family were surprised to discover her good looks. “We had no idea she was as beautiful as she was,” said one of her childhood friends. “Grace always a bandana on, and had the glasses, and the sweater, nothing glamorous.” When she went off to act, they had a hard time believing the girl they knew was now a major Hollywood star.
5. She was Destined to be a Star
Kelly’s childhood friends didn’t realize her beauty, but her fellow students at the Philadelphia high school she attended could tell that she’d go far. When she graduated from Stevens School, a private and socially prominent school, in 1947, the “Stevens’ Prophecy” section of the yearbook read: “Miss Grace P. Kelly – a famous star of stage and screen.” Correct!
6. She Went Her Own Way
Young Grace Kelly’s life as an up-and-coming actress would make an amazing TV show. In her late teens and early 20s, Kelly worked as a model and auditioned for roles while living in the Barbizon Hotel for Women. Men weren’t allowed to go above the main floor, with the entire building exclusively for women. Some other famous ladies who lived in that hotel? Liza Minnelli and Ali MacGraw.
7. Her Parents Controlled Her Love Life
Kelly’s parents weren’t too keen on the men their daughter dated. In fact, she once romanced one of her instructors while studying at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. When she brought him home, though, everything fell apart. Apparently, Kelly’s parents often put an end to her relationships, and their daughter’s tryst with her teacher was no different. As Kelly’s biographer said, “They just did not give Grace any freedom as to what man she would become involved with romantically, unless he was exactly what they wanted for her.”
8. She was Wild in her Youth
Before settling down with Prince Rainier, Kelly was known to have quite the dating life. She fell for so many of her older male co-stars that multiple biographers have wondered if Kelly had some daddy issues. There was Gary Cooper who she met while filming High Noon, Clark Gable during filming of Mogambo, and Ray Milland on Dial M for Murder, just to name a few. Milland’s wife even called Kelly a “home-wrecker.”
9. She Was Part of a Twisted Affair
When Gary Cooper filmed the classic Western film High Noon, his bad-boy ways got the better of him. He embarked on a torrid affair with his young co-star Grace Kelly, who was just 22 to Cooper’s 51. When describing their romance, Cooper didn’t mince his words. He said “She looked like a cold dish with a man until you got her pants down. Then she’d explode.”
But Kelly and Cooper’s enormous age difference and sexual dynamite was nothing compared to what came next in their doomed romance.
10. Her Actions Doomed a Rival
Not only was Cooper already married, he also had a young mistress, the actress Patricia Neal. Neal became utterly distraught at going from the object of Cooper’s affections to the chip on his shoulder. When Cooper began yet another illicit relationship with Kelly, the affair led Neal to the edge of insanity. She had a severe breakdown and left Hollywood permanently.
11. She Had Daddy Issues
On the set of Mogambo, Kelly got into even more trouble with her male co-star. This time, she couldn’t resist 52-year-old Clark Gable, and apparently, he felt the same way. Rumor has it that after a co-star walked in on Gable and Kelly getting busy, Gable set up a room at a nearby hotel for some private time. The affair only ended when monogamy came knocking. Kelly’s mom starting pressuring Gable to put a ring on it, leading the womanizer to get out of Dodge.
12. She Didn’t Always Pull It Off
There’s another, far less steamy version of Kelly and Gable’s romance. According to Kelly’s biographer James Spada, Kelly was head over heels enamoured with Gable, but he didn’t return the feeling. Upset, Kelly became very drunk and went to visit Gable in his tent…where she promptly vomited all over the floor. Unsurprisingly, they did not become an item after that.
13. Men Couldn’t Resist Her
Come what may, though, most men just couldn’t resist Grace Kelly’s charms. When she struck up a flirtation with Ray Milland, her co-star in Dial M for Murder, he fell head over heels for Kelly…despite being a married man. Thankfully, Milland and Kelly’s romance didn’t last long. When Milland’s wife discovered the affair, she reminded him that all their assets were in her name. With that, he changed his tune and came crawling back.
14. She was a Secret Bad Girl
All these wild stories about Grace Kelly’s dating life are probably surprising since she’s gone down in Hollywood history as an icy blonde and a classy actress-turned-princess. But according to the wife of one of Kelly’s directors, nothing could be further from the truth. Kelly’s good girl reputation was bunk. She had affairs with, and I quote, “everybody” and even though “she wore those white gloves, she was no saint.”
15. She Drove Wives Insane
By the time Grace Kelly signed on to appear in Rear Window, her reputation as a maneater was so well known that her co-star’s wife went to disturbing lengths to make sure Kelly wouldn’t steal her man. Apparently, Jimmy Stewart‘s wife watched Kelly and Stewart like a hawk throughout shooting. She would even drive her husband to and from set every day to make sure he couldn’t get up to anything.
16. Mrs. Stewart Was Not a Fan
Jimmy Stewart’s wife Gloria had reason to be nervous about Grace Kelly. Kelly had told some gossip columnists that she thought Stewart was one of the most “masculinely attractive” men she’d ever seen in her life. That remark, combined with Kelly’s notorious man-eating record, makes Gloria’s extreme actions make a lot more sense. And hey, they worked! Stewart was one of the only leading men that Kelly couldn’t ensnare.
17. She Was a Maneater
They say that life imitates art, and in the case of The Country Girl, they’d be right. This movie saw Grace Kelly’s character caught up in a passionate love triangle on screen and a love pentagon off screen. Over the course of filming, she had dalliances with four of her co-stars: Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, William Holden, and David Niven. At a certain point, Kelly became convinced that Holden would leave his wife to be with her (Spoiler: He didn’t). So maybe it’s a good thing that Kelly’s feelings for Holden didn’t stop her from flirting with Bing.
18. She Broke Hearts All Over Hollywood
Bing Crosby was drawn to Grace Kelly like a moth to a flame. He became deeply enamoured with her, sneaking off for illicit trysts with his beautiful co-star at all hours of the day. Crosby even went so far as to propose but sadly, despite Crosby’s best efforts, Kelly turned him down for a heartbreakingly simple reason. As Kelly’s sister said, “She loved him, but she wasn’t in love with him.”
19. Her Heart Belonged To Daddy
Despite Grace Kelly’s penchant for dating men who were old enough to be her father, studios felt differently. Paramount actually delayed the release of the now-classic film To Catch A Thief because they were worried about the movie’s romantic duo. Who’d believe that a young woman like Grace Kelly would go for a 50-something man like Cary Grant? Uh, anyone who knew her, apparently.
20. She Had a Dark Past
But why did Kelly feel the need to have so many affairs? According to one of her friends, the answer won’t make fans feel good. Kelly’s parents were incredibly strict and demanding. She grew up craving love and attention, and felt that romance was an easy short cut to intimacy and validation. As her friend Don Richardson said, “She was starved for affection because of the family. She was afflicted with a great sense of emptiness, terrible loneliness, and this was her way of alleviating it.”
21. She Hated Hollywood
Even though Grace Kelly has become a Hollywood icon, she didn’t always enjoy her time in tinseltown. She is quoted as saying, “I hated Hollywood. It’s a town without pity.” Kelly didn’t know of any other place “where so many people suffer from nervous breakdowns, where there are so many alcoholics, neurotics, and so much unhappiness.” As if she hadn’t dropped the mic enough, Kelly also declared that Hollywood was “holier-than-though” in public, but “unholier-than-the-devil in reality.” Drag ’em, Grace.
22. Her Dad Was Cruel
In 1955, Kelly won Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl, which also starred her flames Bing Crosby and William Holden. It should have been a happy day, but when Kelly’s father heard that his daughter had achieved cinema’s greatest honor, his response was heartbreakingly mean. He looked Grace up and down and stated that he’d expected his other daughter Margaret to succeed, not Grace. Ouch.
23. She Won By A Hair
Kelly won her precious Oscar by beating Judy Garland‘s celebrated turn in A Star Is Born with just six votes. Other than the tie between Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn, that’s the closest Best Actress race in Oscar history.
24. Her Romance Was Fiery
When Kelly agreed to attend the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, she had no idea that the trip would change her life forever. While at a photoshoot, she met Prince Rainier of Monaco and immediately felt a connection. They struck up a courtship and even after Kelly returned to the United States, she and Rainier wrote letters to each other constantly. Luckily, they didn’t have to deal with long distance for long.
Rainier had a diplomatic tour that brought him to the US, where he met with Kelly and her family. Three days later, he proposed.
25. Her Family Paid the Price
Before Kelly was allowed to marry Prince Rainier, her family had to seal the deal with a dark gesture: They had to pay a dowry. Yes, you read that correctly: a dowry…in the form of two million dollars. Even worse, half of the money for the dowry came out of the inheritance that Kelly should have received when her parents eventually passed. Kelly paid the other half herself. What a romantic start to her marriage!
26. Kelly’s Dad Disliked Rainier
When Grace Kelly’s father heard that the Rainiers wanted Kelly to pay a dowry, he had some choice words for his daughter’s new in-laws. Mr. Kelly reportedly said, “My daughter doesn’t have to pay anyone to marry her.” And yet…
27. Her Marriage Had Dark Roots
Grace Kelly’s dowry wasn’t just a matter of tradition. At the time, Monaco wasn’t doing so well and Prince Rainier was desperate for a cash injection into his territories. His friend Aristotle Onassis suggested an easy way to improve Monaco’s reputation (and thicken its wallet). If Rainier married a glamorous American actress, he could bring attention and tourism to the area. Um, and also hopefully find everlasting love? Let’s not forget about that one, guys.
28. Her In-Laws Were Brutal
On top of having to pay Prince Rainier to marry her, Kelly had a couple other things to do before she could join the royal family of Monaco. The first being that she had to renounce her American citizenship. But the second made that look like a piece of cake. Kelly had to take a fertility test. The royal family needed to be sure that she could give the prince an heir. If it turned out that she couldn’t, the Rainiers likely would have forbidden the marriage.
Luckily, Kelly was a fertile gal. She and Rainier had three healthy children over the course of their marriage.
29. Her Last Film Contained a Secret Meaning
If you’ve ever watched High Society, which happened to be Kelly’s last feature film before her marriage, you may have noticed a certain ring on her finger. Even one of the characters, played by Kelly’s real-life ex Bing Crosby, draws attention to it, saying, “Some stone, did you mine it yourself?” This ring just happens to be Kelly’s real-life engagement ring from Prince Rainier. Set on a platinum band, the emerald-cut diamond was a whopping 10.47 carats.
30. She Kept a Secret from her Husband
Despite Kelly’s, um, healthy romantic history, when she said “I do” to Prince Rainier, he truly believed that he was marrying a virgin. Apparently, when Monaco’s royal staff checked to make sure that Kelly was in tact down there (royal people do weird stuff before marriage, what can I say?), she said her hymen must have been torn when she was horseback riding. Sure, Grace.
31. She Dressed to Impress
When Grace Kelly walked down the aisle, her stunning wedding dress immediately made fashion history, even inspiring Kate Middleton‘s gown. Kelly’s show-stopping white dress featured 25 yards of silk taffeta, 100 yards of silk net, and priceless antique rose point lace. To top it all off, the veil showcased thousand of small precious pearls, each of which had to be sewn in by hand.
32. She Played the Role of a Lifetime
The wedding between Kelly and Prince Rainier was a grand affair, to say the least, and the people of Monaco were ecstatic. Thousands of them lined the streets to greet their new 26-year-old princess following the nuptials. Kelly’s old film director Alfred Hitchcock also felt pleased. He quipped that he was “very happy that Grace has found herself such a good part.”
Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly had a fairy tale wedding, but their marriage? Well, that was a little more complicated.
33. She Kept Her Past At Bay
Rainier knew his people wouldn’t accept a movie star princess, so one of the first things he did after the wedding was ban all screenings of Kelly’s films. Then he demanded that his bride give up acting. This was a brutal order for a woman so passionate about acting. Not performing took a terrible toll on Kelly, eventually causing her to suffer from depression.
34. Her Husband Had a Mean Streak
While you’d hope that Kelly would be able to talk to her husband about her feelings and maybe reach some kind of compromise, it doesn’t seem like that was an option. Rainier could be cold and withholding, and he was profoundly disinterested in Kelly’s creative pursuits. For instance, when Kelly hosted an annual poetry reading, her husband didn’t attend for years in a row.
35. She Stayed True to Herself
Despite marrying into royalty, it seems like Kelly never really gave up her true self. Kelly’s long-time personal assistant has said, “she wasn’t stuffy. She had a mischievous sense of humor, a glint of naughtiness in her eye and a great passion for limericks – even saucy ones.” And–get this–the style icon could often be seen wearing simple trousers around the house. But that’s nothing compared to her wildest joke…
36. She Played the Long Con
Despite her ladylike manners, Grace Kelly was a huge practical joker. When she and Alec Guinness worked together on the film The Swan, Guinness decided to play a trick on Kelly, not knowing that it would spark a 26-year-long prank war. Guinness got a hotel porter to slip a tomahawk into Kelly’s bed one night. Kelly never acknowledged the tomahawk, but years later, when Guinness performed in London, he discovered the same tomahawk slipped in his own hotel room’s sheets.
Guinness and Kelly kept sneaking the tomahawk into each other’s hotel rooms for almost three decades, without ever acknowledging the joke.
37. She Accessorized her Bump
When Kelly was pregnant with her daughter Caroline, she often covered her belly with her purse so that the paparazzi couldn’t snap photos. The luxurious company who made the bag, Hermès, wound up renaming the princess’ tote in her honor. It’s now known as the famous and highly coveted “Kelly bag” as an homage to the woman who popularized it: Grace Kelly.
38. She Endured a Dark Romance
As we know, Prince Rainier was far from the first man to fall for Grace Kelly. But according to some sources, the actress coldly left her previous partner just to pursue Rainier. Kelly had previously been attached to Oleg Cassini, a fashion designer and the man behind former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s iconic outfits. But their romance was far from a light-hearted romp.
39. Her Parents Forbade It
Kelly’s parents were dead-set against their daughter marrying Oleg Cassini for one reason: He’d already been married before, making him completely inappropriate for a good Catholic girl like Grace. Little did Kelly’s parents know, rumors swirled that the couple was hiding a far darker secret that Oleg’s precious marriage. According to Hollywood gossip, Kelly had become pregnant with Cassini’s baby and then had an abortion.
40. She Looked Back in Anger
In the end, Grace gave into her parents’ wishes and left Cassini. After she married Prince Rainier, though, Kelly would occasionally wonder what would have happened if she’d stayed with Oleg. In interviews, Kelly pondered over the film roles she could have accepted and what kind of life she could have led outside of the royal family. While Kelly never explicitly said she regretted her decision, she suggested it to none other than Princess Diana…
41. She Met Her Dark Double
Princess Diana and Grace Kelly are both beloved blondes who married royal princes, and then sadly perished in horrific car accidents. They’ve often been compared, but few people realize that they actually met in real life. Back in 1981, when Diana was newly engaged to Prince Charles, she attended an event where she chatted with Kelly. The Hollywood icon reportedly gave Diana some advice about becoming a princess. She quipped, “Don’t worry, dear, it’ll only get worse.”
42. Tragedy Struck
On September 13, 1982, a terrifying car accident caused Kelly’s life to end far too soon. Kelly and her daughter Stephanie were driving home along the hilly Monaco streets when Kelly reportedly had a stroke. She lost control of the car, which plunged over 50 feet down the mountainside. Paramedics rushed Kelly and Stephanie to the hospital, but sadly the damage was done.
Kelly was comatose and all signs suggested that she would not wake up. Prince Rainier made the tragic decision to take his wife off of life support. She died at just 52 years old.
43. She Had Two Hemorrhages
While Kelly was at the hospital, French doctors made a startling discovery. Their patient had suffered not one but two brain hemorrhages. The CAT scan showed that the first happened before the car crash and likely caused the accident. The second happened after, when Kelly was fighting for her life in the hospital. It likely occurred because of all of the trauma her body endured from the accident.
44. An Important Guest Missed Her Funeral
Kelly’s daughter Stephanie thankfully escaped the crash with a hairline fracture and a light concussion, but the impact on her was immense. Because of her injuries, she could not attend her own mother’s funeral. The entire ordeal was so traumatic that Stephanie refused to talk about it for decades. When she finally addressed her loss, she said “Not only did I go through the horrible trauma of losing my mother at a very young age, but I was beside her at the moment of the accident. Nobody can imagine how much I’ve suffered, and still suffer.”
45. She Was Gone But Never Forgotten
Kelly was buried in the royal family’s vault following the funeral, which featured a eulogy by fellow actor James Stewart. “I just love Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess, not because she was an actress, not because she was my friend, but because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met.” Among those who attended her funeral were Cary Grant, Nancy Reagan and Princess Diana.
46. Her Husband Never Stopped Grieving Her
After Grace Kelly died, Prince Rainier never recovered from the loss of his wife. He never remarried and when he passed away in 2005, he was buried alongside her.
47. She Left a Heartbreaking Legacy
Interestingly, before her death, Kelly and Prince Rainier had been working on an independent film, Rearranged, which they started in 1979. It was only 33 minutes long when they had some interest from executives at ABC who asked if it could be lengthened to an hour instead. Unfortunately, Kelly’s death halted the production before any other scenes were filmed. To this day, it has never been released.
48. She Couldn’t Be Tamed
Many of Kelly’s friends remember her enjoying a unique hobby when she was in her wild 20s. Apparently, Kelly loved to dance the hula…while in the nude. Multiple guests at the Barbizon Hotel where Kelly stayed as a young woman remember the future princess jumping out of her bedroom door and performing wild dance routines with little more than underpants on.
49. No One Could Resist Her
Kelly loved romance, so when the handsome actor David Niven came calling, the duo immediately began a fiery fling. Years later, after Kelly had become the Princess of Monaco, she and Niven were still good friends, so Kelly invited him and his wife to visit the palace. Apparently, while there, Prince Rainier asked Niven what his favorite Hollywood romance had been. Niven immediately said “Grace.” Seeing Rainier’s look of shock, Niven quickly backtracked, spluttering out “Gracie…Gracie Fields!”
50. She Lived Up to her Name
Though she missed acting, Kelly found ways to occupy her time in her new role as a princess. She founded AMADE Mondiale, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on children and is still active today, with Kelly’s daughter Caroline at the head as president. UNESCO describes the organization as protecting the moral, physical and spiritual well-being of children the world over without the influence of things like race, religion or nationality.
51. A Classic Film Darkened After Her Death
The classic Alfred Hitchcock film To Catch A Thief features a famous scene where Grace Kelly’s character Frances drives Cary Grant’s John Robie around the French Riviera and escapes a dangerous pursuit. When the film premiered, viewers celebrated the scene for its tension and beauty. But after Kelly’s tragic death, the sequence took on an entirely different meaning. Viewers could watch Kelly zip around the same area where she would perish of a car crash.
To make matters worse, it turned out that Kelly had to perform her own stunt driving during filming…even though she was very uncomfortable with traversing the dangerous roads.
52. She Almost Won Two Oscars
In 1955, Kelly won the Best Actress Oscar her role in The Country Girl. But if stars had aligned, she could have won Best Supporting Actress as well. You see, she was about to star alongside Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront when Alfred Hitchcock called. He wanted her for his film Rear Window. So she went! Eva Marie Saint took over her spot in the Brando film, and went on to win the Supporting Actress Award that same year.
53. She Had a High-Profile Rival
Before Grace Kelly wed Prince Rainier, another starlet had her eye on the handsome royal. Marilyn Monroe heard that Rainier was looking for a bride from her friend Aristotle Onassis. Though the blonde beauty wasn’t seriously interested in pursuing him, she felt confident that she could wrap the prince around her little finger. Monroe reportedly quipped, “Give me two days alone with him.”
54. She Received a Heartbreaking Letter
Of course, in the end, Rainier ended up meeting and marrying Grace Kelly, not Marilyn Monroe. For her part, Monroe wasn’t at all put out by not landing the royal. On the day of Kelly and Rainier’s wedding, Monroe sent Kelly a heartbreaking telegram. It simply read “I’m SO happy you found a way out of this business.” Both Monroe and Kelly had struggled with the pressures of Hollywood.
55. Dark Rumors Swirled About the Crash
After Kelly perished in the car crash, rumors began to swirl about exactly how the tragedy came to be. People thought it was strange for Kelly to be driving at all, since she was well known to dislike it and always used a chauffeur. When they learned that Stephanie had been pulled out of the driver’s seat, rather than the passenger’s side, they immediately wondered: Was she the one driving on that fateful day?
Stephanie has always denied it, but the rumors persist.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16