Grace Kelly got to live every little girl’s dream by transforming from a glamorous actress into a beloved princess. When Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, she traded in her scandalous Hollywood career for a golden crown—but her fairy tale romance came at a heartbreakingly high cost.
Born into a wealthy but strict family, Grace Kelly was, surprisingly, not the star of the show. Compared to her three robust siblings, she seemed the weakest of them all: skinny, sickly, and terribly shy. Shrinking in her family's shadow, Grace retreated inward and used her imagination to escape the feeling of being the odd one out.
In her childhood fantasies, Grace was the princess of her own story. Of course, she had no idea that these dreams would become her twisted fate.
Grace grew up in a massive home, decked out with luxuries every little princess could want. Her parents raised her as a devout Catholic and sent her to the best schools. But for any privileged child, the pressure of perfection often breeds rebellion—and Grace was no exception. Going against the grain, she bent the rules in a startlingly unholy way.
There was always a war within Grace. On one hand, she wanted to please her parents, but on the other, she wasn't averse to being a downright hellraiser. She dated the bad boys and preferred acting over sports. However, her dreams of becoming an actress elicited a disturbing reaction from her father who, at the time, considered the profession "a slim cut above streetwalker".
But did this barrage of disapproval stop Grace Kelly? Not a chance.
Although Grace Kelly is considered one of the most stunning Hollywood actresses, she wasn't always considered the belle of the ball. Growing up, her friends always saw her wearing headscarves and glasses, her slim figure hidden away by bulky sweaters. In fact, they never considered her to be a great beauty. Of course, once they began to see Grace Kelly appear on screen, they couldn't believe their eyes.
You see, after moving to New York to attend drama school, Grace Kelly underwent a serious transformation. She worked hard on her elocution, nailing her signature accent: slightly British and softly rounded. But her voice wasn't her only bargaining chip. Grace took control over her image—and when she stepped behind the camera, she had the power to make jaws drop.
In no time at all, 20-year-old Grace Kelly morphed from a timid schoolgirl into a gorgeous leading lady. She became a sought-after model and began acting in commercials. She was refined and glamorous, and one of her old friends admitted to seeing her in action and thinking, "My heavens, that's our Grace"? It was a Cinderella story in the making—but sadly, it did not promise a fairytale ending.
At her father's insistence, Grace Kelly stayed at the Barbizon Hotel for Women in Manhattan—and for one sobering reason. Her parents believed this female-only residence would help keep Grace out of trouble. But they were sorely mistaken. Most scandalously, Grace was reportedly "fond of dancing to Hawaiian music down the hallways...and given to shocking her fellow residents by performing topless".
Oh, but that was only the beginning.
Along with her reckless antics at the Barbizon, Grace also took on an unsuitable lover. Theater director Don Richardson taught Grace at the college and knew that she was destined for greatness: "The camera did more than love her. It was insane about her—just like I was". Unfortunately, Richardson's devotion to Grace wasn't enough to win her parents over.
When she brought her beau home to meet her family, it ended in disaster.
When it came to her relationships, Grace's family was usually the nail in the coffin. Don Richardson was simply the first boyfriend in a long line of disappointments. You see, no matter who she fell for, her parents staunchly refused to give her their blessing unless the match was exactly what they envisioned for her. But although she felt stifled in her love life, she could take consolation in one thing...
Her career was about to catapult sky-high.
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Although Grace had no trouble bagging parts in television, she truly believed that theater was the nobler pursuit. In 1951, the 22-year-old traveled to Denver to perform in summer stock and this is where Hollywood came knocking. Her first big break? High Noon—a Western where she played opposite one of Hollywood's most notorious leading men, Gary Cooper.
Of course, Grace couldn't resist the charms of her love interest. Behind closed doors, her libido raged out of control and sparked the first of many scandalous affairs.
Gary Cooper set the stage for Grace Kelly's turbulent love life. He was exactly her type: decades older than her and married. She tended to go for strapping, authoritative men that were reminiscent of her father. What's more? Cooper certainly had no problem kissing and telling. Later, he revealed, "She looked like a cold dish with a man until you got her pants down, then she'd explode".
Grace Kelly's red-hot beginnings in Hollywood unleashed her naughty side—and it would only spill over into her next project.
Although Grace didn't receive rave reviews for her performance in High Noon, she still managed to catch the eye of director John Ford who described her as having "breeding, quality, and class". So, when Gene Tierney dropped her role in his upcoming production, Mogambo, Ford turned to Grace Kelly as her replacement. And so began another scandalous production.
Mogambo's hot Nairobi setting promised a slick adventure for the Hollywood newcomer. Coming from wealth, Grace could afford to be picky about her roles. After all, she had options. However, she really wanted to be in this particular production. She later said, “Mogambo had three things that interested me: John Ford, Clark Gable, and a trip to Africa with expenses paid".
Again, Grace had her head turned by the picture's suave leading man—and boy, did things get heated.
Rumors about an on-set affair began to swirl and when Grace's mother caught wind of them, she sprang into action. She wasn't about to let her daughter be debauched by Gable—and flew to Africa to chaperone her. Of course, this didn't do much to quash the passion brewing between Grace and Gable. Although she never outrightly admitted to the affair, the actress later made an infamous statement about their relationship.
Grace Kelly certainly knew her way around a star-studded cast. Regarding Clark Gable, she said, "What else is there to do if you're alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable"? However, although Grace mooned over her mustachioed lover, Gable didn't reciprocate the intensity of her feelings. Naive and head over heels, Grace simply assumed that their romance would continue after filming wrapped. She was so, so wrong.
Once the actors returned to the hustle and bustle of LA, the heady, dreamworld of Mogambo faded. Supposedly, Gable found Grace too clingy—and unceremoniously dumped her. At that moment, the young actress's heart shattered. But it wasn't long before she dried her eyes and forged onward. After all, she had even bigger fish to fry.
While nursing her disappointment over Gable, Grace Kelly had one of the most fateful encounters of her life. Enter: Alfred Hitchcock. Although not initially impressed with the actress, Hitchcok sensed something smoldered beneath Grace's icy persona. "She's a volcano covered with snow," he stated. But disturbingly, there was a chilling side to his adoration.
Hitchcock wanted Grace for his next picture, Dial M for Murder. Although he didn't intimately pursue her, as he did some of his other leading ladies, Hitchcok relished in his control over her. Moreover, the production itself threw some painful curveballs her way. Most notably, it took five days to film a particularly aggressive scene where Grace's character is handled brutally.
The consequences were startling.
By the time Hitchock got the shots he needed, Grace Kelly was black and blue—covered in bruises. Still, this wasn't enough to taint the actress's experience on set. After all, she had a very warm place to rest her tired head at the end of the day. Unsurprisingly, Grace took up with her dashing leading man. This time, it was married actor, Ray Milland—and their romance was, by far, the messiest yet.
Grace Kelly may have truly fallen for Milland, but he'd been married to the same woman for more than 20 years. This spicy slice of infidelity caused some serious backlash for the actors. Apparently, when his betrayed wife discovered the affair, she threw Milland out of their home. Some reports even claimed that Milland was ready to leave his life for Grace, that is, until he came to a chilling realization.
Milland quickly backtracked on his divorce plans once he realized just how much one would cost. Consequently, Grace watched as another lover slipped through her fingers. Even worse? The press had gotten wind of her affair and decided to crucify her for it. Most infamously, gossip columnist Hedda Hopper dug into Grace Kelly in the worst way imaginable.
Hopper was extra vindictive when writing about Grace's affair with Milland, characterizing the actress as a nymphomaniac. With the press out for blood, the elegant actress became a homewrecker in the eyes of the public—and it almost destroyed her career. And yet, despite the whispers, Grace was able to rise above her sordid reputation.
Even more impressive? She did not give up her penchant for scandal.
By the time she waltzed onto the set of her next Hitchock film, Rear Window, Grace Kelly's reputation preceded her. This time, her handsome leading man was none other than the beloved 46-year-old Jimmy Stewart. It seemed like just the kind of match Grace would warm to—but although she found Stewart wildly attractive, she never got a chance to lay a finger on him.
Jimmy Stewart's wife, Gloria, was paranoid about her husband working with the gorgeous blonde—now well known for seducing married men. Of course, it didn't help that Stewart himself admitted a soft spot for his co-star. He later said, "Everybody just sat around and waited for her to come in the morning, so we could just look at her".
Gloria, wary of Grace Kelly's powers of seduction, made sure to keep a close eye on her.
Yup, Gloria wasn't taking any chances. To ensure that her husband stayed on the straight and narrow, Gloria drove Stewart to work every day, stayed to watch the day's takes, and then drove him home. With eagle eyes like those on set, it's no wonder that Jimmy Stewart was one of the only actors she failed to ensnare. But no matter. It wouldn't be long before Grace was back to her maneating ways.
By the time she'd finished Rear Window, Grace Kelly had certainly cemented her name as one of the most glamorous stars in Hollywood. But she wasn't satisfied with being just a pretty face. When she read the script for 1954's The Country Girl, she knew that this was her chance to prove that she had actual talent. The role was gritty and opposite to the demure parts she usually played.
However, there was one thing standing in her way.
Grace's studio did not want to loan her to Paramount for The Country Girl. Her response was downright brilliant. She reportedly said, "Well I'm terribly sorry to hear that. I'll tell you what I will do, I'll give you my address so you'll know where to send your Christmas cards". The threat worked perfectly and only minutes later, she had the part.
Not only did Grace Kelly nail the difficult role, but behind closed doors, she also entertained the affections of two different men.
The rumored affair that Grace had with William Holden was more serious than it seemed. Some say he even considered leaving his wife to be with Grace. However, it was never meant to be—and for good reason, as she was also wooing her other co-star, Bing Crosby. This particular dalliance led to one of the juiciest pieces of gossip in Hollywood.
Reportedly, on the night Grace Kelly won an Oscar for her performance in The Country Girl, Bing Crosby traipsed his way to the front of her hotel room door. He had hoped to spend the night wrapped in her passionate embrace. Little did he know, he was in for a rude awakening. He found more than just Grace in her bed; he discovered her sleeping with none other than the notorious ladies' man, Marlon Brando.
Grace Kelly juggled her affairs like no other and presented herself to the public as a wholesome figure. In fact, her ability to maintain a good reputation baffled some of her peers. Zsa Zsa Gabor, a maneater herself, stated, "She had more boyfriends in a month than I had in a lifetime. She went to bed with anyone she fancied at the time".
Still, when it finally came time for Grace Kelly to truly fall in love, it ended horrifically.
Fashion designer Oleg Cassini had fallen for Grace Kelly after seeing her in Mogambo. And, while in California, he struck up a friendship with her—but it was destined to be so much more. When Grace traveled to the south of France to begin filming one of her most famous films, To Catch a Thief, she left a heartstopping note for the distinguished designer.
According to Cassini, Grace's note read: "Those who love me follow me". And yes, you guessed it, Cassini rushed to France to be with her. In remembering his relationship with Grace, Cassini later commented, "I must say they were the most enchanting days that I've ever had at any time in my life". In fact, he loved her so much—he proposed.
Sadly, Grace and Cassini had no clue that their heady bliss was about to take a chilling turn.
No matter how famous she became, Grace Kelly still yearned to impress her parents. Unfortunately, when she presented them with Oleg Cassini, they were far from impressed: They disapproved of his previous marriages and Russian background. As a result, their vicious criticism of her fiancé dealt the fatal blow to her engagement. But the heartbreak didn't end there.
Although her parents might not have known it at the time, there were even darker rumors surrounding their daughter and Oleg Cassini. According to Hollywood gossip, Grace had become pregnant with Cassini's baby and then had an abortion. On the heels of her broken dreams, the actress smiled through the pain and attended the Cannes film festival in 1955.
It was a trip that changed the course of her life forever.
While at the Cannes film festival, Grace Kelly received an invitation to nearby Monaco. There, she would come face to face with its prince, enjoy a tour of the palace, and smile for the cameras. Prince Rainier III, then 32 and single, welcomed Grace into the palace gardens and showed her his private zoo. By the time she'd finished her visit, a sizzling connection had sparked between the two of them.
This time, however, was different from all the rest.
Grace Kelly left the splendor of Monaco thoroughly impressed with its prince. Following their happy interlude, the two of them started a secret correspondence—and they grew closer and closer. Then it was time for the moment of truth. At Christmas, Grace invited Rainier to her parents' place. This is where she made the impression of a lifetime.
Grace Kelly wowed Rainier with her down-to-earth personality. Beneath her sparkly exterior, she was humble and refined. He, in turn, was intelligent and charismatic, and, of course, a royal. If any man was going to impress her parents, Rainier was the golden ticket. After spending less than a full day with one another, the prince asked the eager actress for her hand in marriage.
After a string of disappointing romances, Grace had finally brought home a man that delighted her social-climbing family. Rainer was Roman Catholic, had never been married before, and was only six years older than Grace. It was a tailor-made fairy tale—but it came at a high price. Prince Rainier did not want his future wife to be entrenched in Hollywood.
And so, Grace had no choice but to make a huge sacrifice.
News of the impending royal wedding rocked the headlines, but Grace had one more obligation to MGM before waving goodbye to her old life. She certainly went out with a bang. Grace Kelly's final film was High Society, and her role was eerily appropriate. She played a high-class debutante on the verge of marriage, and, throughout filming, donned her 10.47-carat engagement ring.
Many were disappointed when the prince announced that High Society would be Grace's last moment on screen. But rest assured, her greatest acting role was surely the one she took on as Princess Grace of Monaco.
Although Grace Kelly adored being an actress, she later admitted that she didn't enjoy the movie star publicity. That said, the press she endured in Hollywood was nothing compared with the royal attention she received leading up to her wedding, and beyond. Nervous and with every eye upon her, Grace entered into this strange new world—blind to the dangers that lurked in the distance.
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.
Sadly, not even a beautiful dress could save this day from turning into an actual disaster.
The day of Grace's wedding was a nightmare. The paparazzi was out in full force and voracious mobs of people overwhelmed the couple on their special day. In fact, they loathed the memory so much—they refused to even look at their wedding photographs for a year. After the frantic nature of their nuptials, the newlyweds escaped to their honeymoon.
Her new life was meant to be her "happily ever after"—but, as Grace quickly learned, it was more like a horror story.
Rainier knew his people wouldn't accept a movie star princess, so, almost immediately after the wedding, he banned all screenings of her films. This was a brutal order for a woman so passionate about acting. Not performing took a terrible toll on Grace, eventually causing her to suffer from depression. But this wasn't her only source of melancholy.
While you'd hope that Grace 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 Grace's creative pursuits. For instance, when Grace hosted an annual poetry reading, her husband didn't attend for years in a row.
And then, to make matters worse, there were her nasty in-laws. Rainier's family was just as apathetic as the prince himself.
To become a princess, Grace had to leave behind her family, friends, and successful career. Completely isolated for the first time in her life, she had no clue just how lonely she'd become. Not only did she find it difficult to adapt to her new home, but her husband's family also gave her the cold shoulder. Then, nine months after this new adventure began, things got a lot more complicated.
Before marrying Rainier, Grace had to undergo a fertility test because producing an heir would be a huge part of her new role. Well, she certainly came through in that department. Less than a year after marrying, she and Rainier welcomed their first daughter, Caroline. Then, a year later, she made her prince's dreams come true by giving birth to a son, Albert.
Sadly, no amount of parental bliss could fill the chasm rapidly growing between Grace and Rainier.
To her dismay, Grace began to realize that she and her husband had very little in common. While Rainier was often sour-faced and wrapped up in business affairs, Grace became the face of the royal family—and the people of Monaco adored her. Her star power transformed the nation into a magnet for tourism. Property values soared sky-high and its dwindling power began to climb once again.
But although Grace certainly revived Monaco, it did not return the favor.
By 1960, Grace had hit an all-time low. Grappling with the death of her father, the princess had only more loss on the horizon. Over the next couple of years, she suffered multiple miscarriages. But that wasn't all. After having her children, the princess wanted nothing more than to return to acting. But her controlling husband kept her trapped in Monaco.
Six years into her marriage, it seemed like Grace Kelly's dream of returning to the screen was about to come true. The palace made a stunning announcement: The princess would be starring in a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Grace looked forward to playing a role in Marnie—but only months later, her hopes came crashing down.
In the end, Grace Kelly did not make a triumphant return to Hollywood. She claimed that due to scheduling conflicts and the need to be with her children, she'd have to turn down the role. Hitchcock, on the other hand, was not convinced. He stubbornly believed that it was "the conservative element in Monaco" that had foiled the princess's plans.
And when it came to disappointments, the princess's royal life wasn't done twisting the knife in.
The press did not back off from Princess Grace and her family, and it was a hard reality that she never really got used to. They went after her children. And even worse? They fueled the heartbreaking rumors that Prince Rainier had many mistresses on the side. Of course, Grace had her fair share of scandalous whispers to contend with. In fact, there was a rumored affair that continued to rear its head.
No matter how far from Hollywood she got, it would never be finished with her. Many believed that she'd had an illicit dalliance with To Catch a Thief co-star Cary Grant. Some even suppose that she continued to see Grant after she'd entered the royal family. Still, while these bombshell rumors have never been confirmed, Grant had no qualms about outwardly expressing his undying adoration for Grace.
As one of Hollywood's most sought-after actors, Cary Grant acted alongside beauties like Audrey Hepburn and Deborah Kerr. But no matter how many women he met, Grace Kelly was by far his favorite leading lady. He once said, "With all due respect to Ingrid Bergman, I much preferred Grace. She had serenity". He also called her, "The most extraordinary actress ever".
However, the rumors of her scandalous past couldn't invite old lovers back into her life. As she aged, Grace Kelly was still as unfulfilled as ever.
In 1981, Grace had the chance to meet Prince Charles' fiancé, Princess Diana. Even then, 19-year-old Diana sensed that there was trouble afoot. She later wrote, "I remember meeting Princess Grace and how wonderful and serene she was—but there was troubled water under her, I saw that". But that wasn't the most shocking part of their introduction.
During the royal event, Grace had a chance to catch up with Diana in the lady's restroom. Here, away from prying eyes, Diana opened up to the veteran princess, explaining how terribly alone she felt. In confidence, Grace confessed something so chilling—it's unforgettable. She told Diana, "Don't worry dear, it'll only get worse".
Well, considering both of their tragic fates, Grace was absolutely right.
On September 13, 1982, a terrifying car accident caused Grace Kelly's life to end far too soon. She and her daughter Stephanie were driving home along the hilly Monaco streets when Grace reportedly had a stroke. She lost control of the car, which plunged over 50 feet down the mountainside, landing on its roof. Paramedics rushed Grace and Stephanie to the hospital, but sadly the damage was done.
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. Incidentally, this stroke also explained the frequent headaches that the princess had been complaining of before the accident.
But this was only one piece of the puzzle.
Grace's second brain injury occurred after the crash when she fighting for her life in the hospital—most likely because of the trauma her body had endured. The princess slipped into a comatose state 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 passed at just 52 years old.
Grace 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.
But despite the end of her legendary life, the repercussions of that unspeakable day continued to cause problems.
Grace Kelly's daughter Stephanie thankfully escaped the crash with a hairline fracture and a slight concussion, but the impact on her was immense. Because of her injuries, she could not attend her own mother's funeral. In fact, the entire ordeal was so distressing that Stephanie refused to talk about it for decades. When she finally addressed her loss, her confession was downright heartbreaking.
In remembering her mother's brutal end, Stephanie 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." Sadly, there was another reason why that fateful day continued to haunt Stephanie.
After Grace perished in the car crash, rumors began to swirl about exactly how the tragedy came to be. People thought it was strange for Grace 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.
Despite their less-than-perfect marriage and Grace's prevailing unhappiness, Prince Rainier seemed completely broken after his wife's passing. He never truly recovered from the loss. He never remarried or loved another, and when he passed away in 2005, he was buried alongside her.
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 Grace's tragic death, the sequence took on an entirely different meaning.
Today, viewers can watch Grace Kelly zip around the same area where she would perish in a car crash. But that wasn't the most disturbing part. To make matters worse, it turned out that Grace had to perform her own stunt driving during filming...even though she was very uncomfortable with traversing the dangerous roads.
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."
Oh, but when it came to Monaco's royal family, Monroe still managed to have the last word.
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 Grace 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."
Despite her controversial passing and scandalous Hollywood career, many still wonder why Grace Kelly felt the need to have so many affairs throughout her lifetime. According to one of her friends, the answer won't make fans feel good. Grace's parents were incredibly strict and demanding. She grew up craving love and attention and felt that romance was an easy shortcut 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."
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