Where History Meets Art - Stories Behind the Stuff

Grace Kelly's Sensuous Appeal

LiveAuctionTalk.com:  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Profiles in History.

Even though he was 21-years older, Jimmy Stewart was happy to sign on for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film “Rear Window” when he learned Grace Kelly would be his co-star.  He had new toupees made and hired the best cosmetologists to beef up his appearance for the suspense film.

I found it unreal—unreal and full of men and women whose lives were confused and full of pain.  To outsiders, it looked like a glamorous life, but it really was not.
— Grace Kelly

In the film Stewart played a wheelchair bound photographer who spies on his neighbors from his apartment window.  He’s convinced one of them committed murder.

Hitch had exact ideas about how he wanted Grace Kelly to show up in the film.  Costume designer Edith Head said every color and style Grace wore in “Rear Window” from pale green to white chiffon was carefully orchestrated.  No costumes were approved without his ok. 

The director was constructing a subtle, sensuous illusion of Grace on screen and he knew exactly what he wanted.  

“Hitch wanted her to appear like a piece of Dresden china, something slightly untouchable,” Head said.

Without makeup Grace Kelly didn’t look much like Grace Kelly or a Dresden doll for that matter.  The crew said she wore dark glasses, was sweet, quiet, down-to-earth and very much the lady.

Hitch had a schoolboy crush on the starlet.  Professionally he acted like he owned her.  People working on “Rear Window” could see Hitch’s fascination with the young actress. 

“I think that Grace conveyed much more sex than the average movie sexpot,” he said.  “With Grace you had to find it—you had to discover it.”

And Hitch showed enormous patience with the actress Grace said he taught her what she needed to know about acting and moviemaking. 

Grace said she never really felt pretty, bright or all that socially adept.  Her time in Hollywood was brief and she didn’t think she accomplished much to be proud of either.

On screen it was a different story.  She was made to look like a goddess in the face of mere mortals.   From a movie studio perspective Grace was a product, a carefully molded image, someone who was skillfully presented and advertised. 

“Other women looked on me as a rival. And it pained me a great deal,” she said.

Underneath all the hype Grace was unpretentious and not so different than anyone else.  Life for her in Hollywood was hollow.   

“I found it unreal—unreal and full of men and women whose lives were confused and full of pain,” she said.  “To outsiders, it looked like a glamorous life, but it really was not.”

Grace made three films with Hitchcock: “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “To Catch a Thief.”   She made a total of 11 films in her brief career. 

In April 1956, she married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco and retired from acting.  She died after suffering a stroke on Sept. 14, 1982, when she lost control of her automobile and crashed. 

On July 30-31 Profiles in History in Calabasas, Calif., featured a selection of Grace Kelly photos in its Hollywood Auction.  Here are some current values.

Grace Kelly

Publicity Photo; signed; from The Country Girl; glossy silver-gelatin; Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby; 8 inches by 10 inches;  $330.

Photo; signed; gelatin silver semi-gloss; Grace Kelly formally dressed and seated; 6 inches by 4 inches;  $420.

Illustration; signed; commercially printed headshot of Kelly; together with Aaron Copland signed note card; 8 ½ inches by 10 ½ inches;  $450.

Photograph; signed; gelatin silver semi-gloss; Grace Kelly in nature; 8 inches by 10 inches;  $780.

Photograph; signed; from Rear Window; glossy gelatin silver; pictures couple in scene from movie; signed by James Stewart and Grace Kelly;  8 inches by 10 inches;  $1,440. 

 

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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