Why Grace Kelly is larger than lifeMay 16, 2014

Olivier Dahan's "Grace of Monaco" opened the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival. It's a biography film about the life of Grace Kelly, one of Hollywood's biggest stars during the 1950s, her career cut short by her marriage to Rainier III, ruler of the principality of Monaco, in 1956. Nicole Kidman played the titular role, a daunting task, as the Princess Consort of Monaco was not just an icon. The public still finds her fascinating, even if it's been more than three decades since that tragic car accident.

Born Grace Patricia Kelly, her on-screen image often showed breeding and class. She came from a prominent family, her father being John B. Kelly, Sr., winner of three Olympic gold medals in rowing. He then became the head of a construction company, the largest enterprise in the East Coast. John Jr., her brother, followed in their father's footsteps, winning a bronze medal in the 1956 Summer Olympics. Showbiz was in her blood, as Walter C. Kelly, her father's eldest brother, was a vaudeville star, while George Kelly, another older brother, was a renowned director and screenwriter during the 1920s.

Grace was oozing with glamor, as seen in her early publicity photos. John Ford noticed it, as she was casted in "Mogambo" (1953), a remake of "Red Dust" (1932), also directed by Ford. As Linda Nordley, she was the perfect foil to Ava Gardner's Honey Bear Kelly, whose sensuality was hard to ignore. She only made eleven films before marrying Prince Rainier, but it was an enviable filmography. In fact, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for "The Country Girl", but her Georgie Elgin was noticeably dowdy, far from the image that brought her fame.

Alfred Hitchcock knew, casting her in "Dial M for Murder" (1954), "Read Window" (1954), and "To Catch a Thief" (1955). In those three features, there was no mistaking that Grace Kelly was a star, even overshadowing her cast members, who were no less famous. Hitchcock was known for his penchant for blond actresses who were portrayed as troublemakers, putting his protagonists into near-death incidents. There's an irony in it, as the general image of a blond woman on the big screen is almost divine. But not Hitchcock. There was no one better than Grace.

The musical "High Society" (1956), a remake of "The Philadelphia Story", was her final movie before settling in Monaco. The celluloid princess became a real-life princess, but it wasn't a fairy-tale marriage as many believed. This was what "Grace of Monaco" depicted, which didn't please Kelly's children. But Dahan, who directed the Édith Piaf biopic "La Môme", disagreed.

"I am not a journalist or historian. I am an artist. I have not made a biopic. I hate biopics in general. I have done, in any subjectivity, a human portrait of a modern woman who wants to reconcile her family, her husband, her career. But who will give up her career and invent another role. And it will be painful," he said.

"Grace of Monaco" will be released in Europe later this month, but its showing in the US is uncertain. Business as usual.

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