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Original photo by cineclassico/ Alamy Stock Photo
7 Facts About Hollywood Star Turned Real-Life Princess Grace Kelly
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Article image
Original photo by cineclassico/ Alamy Stock Photo

Although she appeared in just 11 feature films, Grace Kelly endures as a larger-than-life figure due to her magnetic screen presence, her impeccable fashion sense, and a fairy-tale marriage that whisked her from Tinseltown to the royal palace of a glamorous European city-state at the height of her career. Here are seven facts about a leading lady who lived a life seemingly scripted by the Hollywood machine she left behind.

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Grace Kelly Hailed From an Accomplished Family

1935 family portrait reveals film actress Grace Kelly as she appeared at the age of five.
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

The Philadelphia-based Kelly clan was a group of high achievers: Grace's father, Jack Sr., won three Olympic gold medals for rowing, earned a fortune from his construction business, and had significant political connections; her mother, Margaret, was a model and the first woman to teach physical education at the University of Pennsylvania. Two of Grace's uncles also enjoyed success in the entertainment industry: Walter Kelly was a vaudeville star whose career stretched to the advent of talking pictures, and George Kelly, who served as a valuable mentor to his niece, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

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Pre-Fame, Grace Kelly Was a Highly Paid Model

Grace Kelly as a young modeling woman.
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

Despite her parents' finances (and because they disapproved of her acting ambitions), a teenage Kelly insisted on paying her own tuition to attend New York City's American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the late 1940s. Fortunately for her, the beauty and poise that soon became familiar to theater audiences was already apparent, and Kelly quickly found work with the John Robert Powers modeling agency. According to Donald Spoto's High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly, the budding actress appeared in a series of print ads and commercials for shampoo, soap, toothpaste, beer, and cigarettes, with earnings of more than $400 per week making her one of the city’s highest-paid models at the time.

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A Failed Screen Test Fueled Her Later Success

Alfred Hitchcock, actress Grace Kelly, and actor Robert Cummings on set.
Credit: Sunset Boulevard/ Corbis Historical via Getty Images

Sometime between 1950 and 1952 (sources differ on the year), Kelly auditioned for the part of a desperate Irish woman in a New York City-based drama called Taxi (1953). She was passed over for the role, but her screen test eventually found its way to celebrated director John Ford, who lobbied for the little-known actress to be included in his high-profile adventure film Mogambo (1953). Separately, Alfred Hitchcock also saw something intriguing in the same Taxi screen test, leading to Kelly’s first true starring role, in Dial M for Murder (1954).

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She Enjoyed a Running Gag With Alec Guinness

Grace Kelly and Alec Guiness in 'The Swan', directed by Charles Vidor.
Credit: Sunset Boulevard/ Corbis Historical via Getty Images

As told in Spoto's High Society, Kelly and Alec Guinness engaged in a running gag that lasted more than two decades after their time together on the prank-filled set of The Swan (1956). After Kelly relentlessly teased her co-star about an overzealous fan, Guinness retaliated by having a concierge slip a tomahawk into her hotel bed. A few years later, Guinness was surprised to return to his London home and discover the same tomahawk nestled between his bedsheets. He later enlisted English actor John Westbrook to redeliver the item while Kelly and Westbrook toured the U.S. for a poetry reading during the 1970s, but her highness got the last laugh when Guinness again found the tomahawk in his Beverly Hills hotel bed in 1979.

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Her Romance With Prince Rainier Got Off to a Rocky Start

Prince Rainier III of Monaco and the lovely Grace Kelly.
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

Per High Society, Kelly was in France to attend the 1955 Cannes Film Festival when she agreed to travel to Monaco to meet Prince Rainier III (part of a scheme put together by the magazine Paris-Match for a photo story). However, the prince was delayed by a commitment elsewhere, and by the time he rushed back to his palace an hour late, his fed-up guest was ready to leave. When Rainier asked if she wanted to tour the palace, Kelly coolly replied that she'd already done so while waiting. They subsequently relaxed while walking through the palace garden, their brief meeting giving rise to an epistolary friendship that turned romantic, and eventually led to their "wedding of the century" in April 1956.

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As Princess Grace of Monaco, She Devoted Herself to Charity

Princess Grace of Monaco at Gala for the restoration of the Castle of Versailles.
Credit: Daniel SIMON/ Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Along with giving birth to Prince Albert and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, Kelly transitioned to life as Princess Grace by immersing herself in charitable initiatives in her adopted country. After taking over the presidency of the Monaco Red Cross in 1958, the erstwhile actress launched the World Association of Children’s Friends (AMADE) in 1963 and the Princess Grace Foundation the following year. Additionally, the princess opened the city-state's first day care in 1966, and channeled her longtime love of flowers into the formation of the Monaco Garden Club two years later.

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Princess Grace Starred in a Little-Seen Comedy Just Before Her Death

Grace Kelly circa 1980s in New York City.
Credit: Images Press/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

A glance at a standard Kelly bio gives the impression that her screen career ended with her marriage, save for the occasional documentary appearance. However, the princess did deliver one final acting performance — albeit as a fictionalized version of herself — in the early '80s mistaken-identity comedy Rearranged. Initially intended as a promotion for the Monaco Garden Club’s annual competition, the half-hour-long short was a hit, sparking plans to expand the piece into an hour-long American TV special. However, its star's untimely death following a September 1982 car accident torpedoed those plans, and the original short remains within Monaco’s royal archives, largely unavailable to viewers.