In just five short years, Grace Kelly rose from being a bit player to one of the biggest Hollywood stars whose elegance, charm and yes, grace radiated off the screen in several classic movies before giving it all up to become the Princess of Monaco.
Though her film career was brief, Kelly left an indelible mark on cinema. But it was her three pictures with Alfred Hitchcock for which her film career is best remembered. Those and four others are included here.
Kelly had only one film under her belt before playing the Quaker wife of a newly retired U.S. Marshal (Gary Cooper
) in Fred Zinnemann
’s Western classic. Kelly radiated goodness and innocence as the deeply convicted Amy Kane, as she tries desperately to keep her husband from confronting a revenge-minded criminal (Ian MacDonald) due in town on the noon train. But in the end, she lets go of her pacifist beliefs in order to protect her husband. Though more noted for being filmed in real time and eschewing standard Western conventions, High Noon
marked Kelly’s emergence from unknown actress to Hollywood star.
MGM Home Entertainment
Kelly was second billed behind Clark Gable
and Ava Gardner in John Ford’s lavish remake of 1932’s Red Dust
, which depicts a big game hunter, a playgirl and a sheltered English couple on safari in Africa, where the romantic sparks naturally fly. Not the first choice of Ford’s – Gene Tierney reportedly dropped out due to health issues – Kelly delivered a powerful enough performances to win a Golden Globe and earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her only film for 1953, Kelly was poised to become a major star the following year.
In 1954, Kelly was a leading lady in five pictures, but none were better than the two she made with Alfred Hitchcock
. The first of her three collaborations with the Master, Dial M for Murder
depicted her as the wealthy wife of a British tennis pro (Ray Milland) who’s suspected by him of carrying on an affair with a handsome American. Her husband blackmails a disgraced Army man into trying to kill her and make it look like a robbery, only to be forced to scramble when she decides to fight back and kill her attacker in self defense. From there, she’s accused of first-degree murder and almost gets pinned with the crime. Despite being an above-average suspense yarn, Kelly did her best to play a woefully underwritten character.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
In what many consider to be Hitch’s finest film, Kelly was Lisa Fremont, fashion model girlfriend of L.B. Jeffries, a New York-based photojournalist (James Stewart
) confined to a wheelchair after breaking his leg while on a dangerous assignment. To wile away the time, Jeffries has taken to spying on his backyard neighbors with binoculars and suspects that one may have actually killed his wife. Kelly’s effervescent performance as Lisa was a nice contrast to Stewart’s more cynical Jeffries, while she was featured in the movie’s most suspenseful sequence, when Lisa goes to slip an accusatory note under the suspect’s door, only to make a narrow escape with the help of the police.
Kelly earned a great deal of respect for her abilities, thanks to her performance in The Country Girl
, which earned the actress the Academy Award for Best Actress. Going against her image as an elegant society woman, she was the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic actor (Bing Crosby
) who has fallen on hard times and desperate tries to revamp his career despite himself. He gets his chance with a Broadway play, but keeps his wife away, thinking that she will be the cause of his downfall if he fails. Through it all, she sticks by her man despite his recriminations and the unrequited love of the play’s director (William Holden
Her third and final picture with Hitchcock depicted the actress as Frances Stevens, a wealthy American woman who pursues John Robie, a retired jewel thief (Cary Grant
) trying to clear his name after a series of copycat burglaries pop up while living the quiet life in the French Riviera. Though resistant at first, Robie eventually falls for her after the true identity of the copycat is revealed. Though a minor addition to the Hitchcock canon at the time of release, the breezy romantic mystery has aged well with time. It does, however, make one wonder what might have been with Kelly and Hitch had she not become the Princess of Monaco.
MGM Home Entertainment
The last film she made before becoming the Princess of Monaco, this glossy musical remake of The Philadelphia Story
featured Kelly as a wealthy socialite about to marry a stuffy gentleman, only to find herself being chased by a photographer (Frank Sinatra
) covering the high-profile wedding and her jazz musician ex-husband (Bing Crosby) who crashes the party to win her back. High Society
received mixed reviews upon release, with some critics calling it inferior to the original, though the film was a big box office success and allowed Kelly to end her career on somewhat of a high note.