Today would have been Grace Kelly’s 87th birthday.
Movie star, fashion icon and princess.
Some fun facts:
America’s sweetheart retired from the movie business at the ripe age of 26 to marry Prince Rainier and concentrate on her duties as princess. As to why she rationalized leaving Tinseltown for the palace of Monaco? “I’ll tell you one of the reasons I’m ready to leave. When I first came to Hollywood five years ago, my makeup call was at eight in the morning,” she once said. “I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to stay in a business where I have to get up earlier and earlier and it takes longer and longer for me to get in front of a camera.” In celebration of her birthday, here are five things you may not have known about Grace Kelly.
1. Marilyn Monroe almost married Prince Rainier before Grace Kelly. At the time of Rainier’s succession, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis had acquired control of the Société des Bains de Mer, and is said to have suggested Rainier improve the image of Monaco by marrying an American film star, as it would increase tourism to the tiny, cash-poor destination. Although Monroe wasn’t interested, she was sure he’d fall head over heels for her: “Give me two days alone with him,” she said, “and of course, he’ll want to marry me.” Kelly became engaged to Prince Rainier after the two met at a photo shoot in the South of France while she was attending the Cannes Film Festival. On the day of the couple’s wedding, Monroe sent a telegram to Kelly that read: “I’m SO happy you found a way out of this business.”
2. Grace Kelly broke off her engagement to fashion designer Oleg Cassini to marry Prince Rainier. Before Cassini was a couturier to Jacqueline Kennedy, he made a name for himself by styling Kelly. “I created the Grace Kelly look,” he wrote in his biography. “She dressed like a schoolteacher. I put her in elegant, subdued dresses.” Creating Kelly’s enduring style, however, wasn’t enough to win over Kelly’s parents. “Do you realize if my mother hadn’t been so difficult about Oleg Cassini, I probably would have married him?” she later said. “How many wonderful roles I might have played by now? How might my life had turned out? That one decision [to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956] changed my entire future.”
3. Before Kelly could marry Prince Rainier, her family would have to fork over a $2 million dowry to help cover the cost of the wedding. The father of the bride reportedly balked at the idea at first, exclaiming: “My daughter doesn’t have to pay any man to marry her.” When he ultimately came around, the sum was diverted from Kelly’s inheritance so that her brother and two sisters would not be shortchanged, and according to multiple biographies, Kelly paid for half.
4. Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier involved two ceremonies: one civil and one religious. The former included a reception attended by approximately 3,000 citizens of Monaco and the latter, a 700-person guest list that included Conrad Hilton, Cary Grant, and Ava Gardner. As one Boston Globe writer cleverly observed at the time: “Never have so many women brought so much luggage to such a small country for so few days.” The same could be said for the bride-to-be, who sailed to Monaco from New York for the occasion with 80 pieces of luggage and her beloved poodle, Oliver, in tow. When she arrived, 1,800 photographers and reporters were waiting at the port to capture Kelly exiting the ship and, naturally, falling into her prince’s arms.
5. While pregnant with Princess Caroline, Kelly often used an oversize Hermès bag to shield her baby bump from prying paparazzi. After photographs of Kelly covering up her belly with the Sac à Dépêches were splashed all over the world, including a 1956 cover of Life magazine, the company renamed the design “the Kelly bag.” In 1959, Kelly gave new meaning to the transformative power of accessorizing again when she fashioned an Hermès scarf into a sling upon injuring her arm at one of Aristotle Onassis’s yacht parties.
By Maria Ward
With many thanks to Vogue
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