By Tom Gillespie
Last Tuesday (April 19) marked the 66th anniversary of American actress Grace Kelly’s marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The religious ceremony followed the required civil ceremony the day before, Wednesday.
At the time of her tragic death on September 14, 1982, Princess Grace was planning to build a holiday home in Drimurla, two miles from Newport.
Princess Grace’s grandfather, John Bernard Kelly, was born in the two-room cottage overlooking the Leg of Mutton Lake where he earned his living before emigrating to the United States.
In 1976 the Princess bought the ruined cottage and surrounding 35 acres of land for £7,800. During a visit that year, she spoke of plans to build a “simple little cottage” on the ruins, located close to the main road from Castlebar to Newport.
However, a car accident in 1982 put an end to these plans when the princess was killed at the age of 54.
Princess Grace had previously visited the cottage with her husband Prince Rainier in 1961. At the time it was owned by Mrs Ellen Mulchrone who later sold it to the Princess.
In 1995, plans to restore the chalet and to create a memorial park were approved by the Grimaldi family in Monaco. The cottage was supposed to contain photographs and keepsakes of the princess, but those plans never materialized.
After embarking on an acting career in 1950, when she was 20, Kelly appeared in theater productions in New York and more than 40 episodes of live-action drama productions that aired in the early 1950s in the golden age of television.
In October 1953, she rose to fame with her performance in director John Ford’s film “Mogambo”, starring Clark Gable and Ava Gardner, which earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination in 1954. Subsequently, she had leading roles in five films. , including “The Country Girl” (1954) with Bing Crosby, which won her the Oscar for best actress.
Other films include “High Noon” (1952) with Cary Cooper, “Dial M for Murder” (1954) with Ray Milland, “Rear Window” (1954) with James Stewart, “To Catch a Thief” (1955) with Cary Grant, and ‘High Society’ (1956) with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Kelly retired from acting at the age of 26 to marry Rainier and began her duties as Princess of Monaco. They had three children: Carolina, Albert II and Stephanie.
Kelly has retained her connection to America through her dual American and Monegasque nationality.
She suffered a stroke on her way home to Monaco on September 13, 1982, and had a traffic accident which resulted in her death the following day.
Grace Kelly was born on November 12, 1929 at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia to a wealthy and influential family. His father, Irish-American John B. Kelly Sr., had won three Olympic gold medals in sculling and owned a well-known successful masonry business on the East Coast.
A registered Democrat, he was nominated mayor of Philadelphia for the 1935 election, but lost by the closest margin in the city’s history.
Kelly’s mother, Margaret Katherine Majer, had German parents. Margaret had taught physical education at the University of Pennsylvania and was the first woman to coach women’s athletics at that institution. She also modeled for a time in her youth.
After marrying John B. Kelly in 1924, Margaret concentrated on being a homemaker until all her children were of school age, after which she began to be actively involved in various organizations civics.
Kelly had two older siblings, Margaret and John Jr., and a younger sister, Elizabeth.
Despite initial disapproval from her parents, Kelly decided to pursue her dream of being an actress. John was particularly unhappy with his decision. He considered acting “a slim cut above the streetwalker.”
To begin her career, she auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Kelly worked diligently and practiced her speech using a tape recorder. Her early acting activities brought her to the stage, including her Broadway debut in Strindberg’s “The Father” alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was that of Tracy Lord in “The Philadelphia Story.”
Director John Ford had first noticed Kelly during a screen test in 1950. The studio flew her to Los Angeles for an audition in September 1952, and he said she showed ” breeding, quality and class”.
She was hired for the role of Linda Nordley in the movie ‘Mogambo’ and was offered a seven-year contract with MGM with a salary of $850 a week. She signed the agreement with two conditions: that every two years she could have time off to do theatrical performances and that she could live in New York in the now famous Manhattan House.
Two months after signing her contract, Kelly and the cast arrived in Nairobi to begin production on the film. Gene Tierney was initially cast in the role, but she had to drop out at the last minute due to personal issues.
Upon landing the role, Kelly told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper that “Mogambo” had three things that interested her: John Ford, Clark Gable, and a trip to Africa with expenses paid.
She admitted, “If Mogambo had been made in Arizona, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Following the success of ‘Mogambo’, Kelly starred in a TV play, ‘The Way of an Eagle’, with Jean-Pierre Aumont, before being cast in the film adaptation of Frederick Knott’s Broadway hit ‘Dial M for Murder’. Director Alfred Hitchcock also saw the 1950 screen test and took full advantage of its beauty on camera. He was one of his last mentors in the film industry.