Grace Patricia Kelly, the aristocratic blond beauty and the uncrowned princess of Hollywood, whose real life surpassed every male fantasy imaginable during the 1950s, was born on 12 November 1929. She was a sophisticated, ultra-British-mannered lady, Hollywood's best attempt at cinematic royalty, who looked untouchable and stratospherically above reproach, but had enigmatic flashes in her magnificent arctic blue-grey eyes, which spoke of fire beneath the ice. Although she appeared only in 11 feature films between 1951 and 1956, she had no shortage of admirers, as she caught everyone’s attention in films like To Catch a Thief, High Society, Mogambo, Dial M for Murder and The Country Girl and her legacy remains one of the most enduring of all Old Hollywood actresses.
But that legacy does not give much insight into the ambitious, opportunistic, slightly rebellious romantic Grace Kelly, who is much more interesting, even though it is also that her raging libido almost ruined her Hollywood career.
Grace Kelley; the legendary Hollywood screen siren, had spent years cultivating her image of a classic, white-gloved perfection in public life and her iconic beauty, aristocratic style and cool elegance gave her the image of a chaste young actress, often referred to as the Ice Queen. However, despite being an instantly recognizable movie star of her time, she was constantly seeking love in her private life and was seemingly hunting for men’s hearts to prove her femininity beyond doubt.
It may sound pathetic and miserable for a dignified woman like Grace, but after going through her biographies, it is difficult not to realize how lonely she was throughout her entire life, for which probably her personality was responsible and possibly she was acting too well to feel herself like really in love. However, although she is said to have had a very steamy love life and certainly had some shocking scandals and although she often behaved like a sex-starved reckless young woman, having slept with many of her co-stars, most of whom were married and considerably older than she was, her scandals were largely covered up, ignored and forgotten, because of her royal status.
According to James Spada, her biographer and the author of The Secret Lives of a Princess, one day Grace called upon a close friend and although the friend was away, her husband was home and by the end of that rainy afternoon, Grace, aged 18, had lost her chastity. He also stated that Grace was fond of dancing to Hawaiian music in the nude and once she shockingly entertained her fellow young women residents at New York's Barbizon Hotel by performing wildly appealing dances in the hallway while clad only in panties.
Her legion of liaisons included her classmates and at least one faculty member of the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, New York, where Grace went to study in the late 1940s in her desperate and successful attempt to break away from her fearsomely strict family. They even included Prince Aly Khan, a Pakistani diplomat of Iranian and Italian descent, the son of Aga Khan III and the third husband of Rita Hayworth, who gifted her an emerald bracelet as a returning gift for her sexual favours.
Grace Kelley was a catholic, which did not prevent her from being promiscuous and she would jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, wearing nothing but the cross dangling from her neck, visit the church to come back in an hour and jump into bed again. She had her first major affair with her co-star Gary Cooper, on the set of her first major film, High Noon (1952), who was married and 28 years her senior. During that time, Gary Cooper was having several problems, relating to his worsening health and his divorce and if he was attracted to young Grace Kelly, the feelings would be more like a father-advisor, someone who could take care of her and help her to master her acting skills. But later, he described her as a cold dish with a man until you got her pants down and then she would explode. Nevertheless, the affair ended with the end of the filming, but affairs with older married men continued to be the theme in her love life, as she was basically seeking a father substitute to compensate for her own father’s aloofness. She was starved for affection and was afflicted with a horrible sense of emptiness, terrible loneliness and sex was her way of alleviating it.
The image of Grace Kelly as the Serene Princess Grace is completely misleading and in 1953, when Grace starred in Mogambo alongside Ava Gardner and the 52-year-old Clark Gable, it seemed that an affair between Grace and gable was almost destined. It is said that Ava Gardner warned her about Gable by saying that he likes to conquer and once he succeeds, he deserts. However, Grace stated that three things in Mogambo interested her: John Ford, Clark Gable and a trip to Africa with all expenses paid and she would not have done the film, if it was scheduled to be made in Arizona. In reality, Kelly and Gable got hot and heavy in Africa and later, supporting actor Donald Sinden recalled accidentally walking in to find them having sex in Gable’s tent. Later, although gable casually stated that nothing happened between them in Africa, Grace famously said that there was nothing else to do when you were alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable. Interestingly, during the London shoot, Clark arranged for a room in an out of the way hotel where they could continue their secret rendezvous. Their affair lasted several months and ended abruptly, when Grace’s mother rolled in and started making noises about her daughter and the King of Hollywood tying the knot.
While making Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 1953, Grace was involved in an affair with Ray Milland, married to Muriel Frances Weber for more than 20 years. However, the fact that he was married did little to dampen the twenty-three-year-old Grace’s ardent interest. On the other side of the coin, Millard had the habit of appreciating women other than his wife and often succumbed to temptation. But this time, he became particularly susceptible to the charm of Grace and fell hard. Soon they began to see each other, making little effort to conceal their romance and it became a piece of common knowledge in Hollywood that Millard has taken an apartment in Hollywood where Grace spends most of her time. Ultimately, it all came down to money, when Ray’s wife calmly informed her husband that before he takes his decision in the matter, he should remember that everything the Millands owned, was in her name. The story ended there and Ray Milland ended up staying married to his wife until he died in 1986.
However, Grace’s affair with Milland almost cost her career, as she was branded a nymphomaniac, a homewrecker. It was the 1950s, a time in which America reverted to its puritanical, almost Victorian roots and even Ingrid Bergman was not spared, when she left her husband for the Italian director Roberto Rossellini. While discussing about Grace Kelley with her biographer James Spada, Mrs Hathaway, widow of Grace’s first director Henry Hathaway, bitterly stated that Grace always wore those white gloves, but she was no saint and she had an illicit relationship with her best friend, Muriel Frances Weber’s husband, Ray Milland. When Spada asked her with whom else in Hollywood she may have had affairs, she blatantly replied, with everybody.
Grace supposedly had an affair with her co-star, Bing Crosby, while filming The Country Girl (1954), for which she won an Oscar. After attending the Oscar ceremony, Crosby reportedly visited Grace’s hotel room, intending to spend the night with her, only to find Marlon Brando in her bed, who had beaten him for an Oscar earlier that night. It has also been rumoured that Kelly had an affair with Cary Grant, her co-star in To Catch a Thief (1955), which is said to have lasted several years, perhaps even while Kelly was married to Prince Rainie. Apart from that, she had a brief and very discreet affair with David Niven. Later, they became close and lifelong friends and he and his wife frequently visited the palace at Monaco once Grace became a princess.
While talking about Grace, Zsa Zsa Gabor, who racked up nine husbands during her lifetime, famously stated that Grace went to bed with anyone she fancied at the time and had more boyfriends in a month than she had in a lifetime. As a matter of fact, there were many more lovers in her life, besides those mentioned above. She was briefly involved with French star Jean-Pierre Aumont in 1955 and even as late as 1981, she was secretly seeing Austrian director Roger Dornhelm. But before becoming a princess, Grace was engaged to the famed fashion designer Oleg Cassini, credited with the signature look of Jackie Kennedy, but she called off the engagement, as her parents disapproved the relationship, because of Cassini’s Russian roots and his previous divorces. It was even rumoured that during that time, Kelly was pregnant with Cassini’s child, but she terminated the pregnancy.
However, it was a story right out of every little girl’s fairy tale, but it came as a shocking surprise to many, when news came out that Grace Kelley, the Icy Queen of Hollywood, was getting married to a foreign royalty, Prince Rainier III of Monaco. It all started with a chance encounter on a French train that had several big names on it, along with Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco, who met and fell in love. They were married on 18 April 1956, but before that, Grace reportedly pretended to be a virgin, claiming that she broke her hymen, while playing field hockey in high school.