Sunday, January 10, 2010

High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly

Even just knowing the basics about Grace Kelly's life - that she was a movie star who became a princess - you know she had one interesting life. So when I saw High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly by Donald Spoto on display at the library, I had to pick it up.
I don't normally read biographies, although I read a few last year and discovered I enjoy them. The only Grace Kelly movie I've seen is Rear Window, which is wonderful. You can't take your eyes off her when she's onscreen, even though Jimmy Stewart is also wonderful. So, I was excited about learning more about her life, and I wasn't disappointed.
This biography had all of the details I wanted, but not a lot of fluff. It's to the point, and is shorter than a lot of biographies appear to be, at 273 pages. It covers her entire life, although it focuses primarily on her time in Hollywood.
One of the things I was most surprised by was her battle against the movie studio. She had a contract with MGM, but fought them constantly about roles they were trying to force her to do, or not allow her to do, and her salary. Initially, she actually made a lot less than she did as a model, but became a very well paid actress by the end, compared to other actresses (although not well paid when compared to the actors she was working with). She seems like a very strong, determined woman who knew what she want and didn't want the studio controlling her. There's actually a lot of information in the book about how the studios worked back then, which I also found interesting. They were really in complete control of the actors, even dictating marriages and what they could wear off the set. Grace usually managed to get her way though, which is quite impressive. Spoto has written numerous old Hollywood biographies, and he seems to have a very good grasp on how everything worked back then, and he knew Grace personally, along with others who he interviewed about her, so his story seems very believable and accurate.
I also enjoyed reading about her relationship with Prince Ranier. They met as part of a ploy by the magazines to get stories and photos to sell of the Cannes film festival in 1955. They had just a 30-minute conversation, but that led to a seven-month letter writing relationship. They fell in love through these letters, then he came to the states to propose. How romantic is that? And very not Hollywood, even in those days. She then left everything here to go to Monaco and be a princess, which isn't as easy as it sounds. She had to adjust to living in a foreign country where she didn't speak the language and was viewed as an outsider. Most citizens didn't feel like a Hollywood actress was appropriate for a princess, and she didn't like many of the traditions they had, such as all women who came to visit her having to wear a hat, which she promptly changed.
I highly recommend this book if you like biographies, this period of history in Hollywood, or if you're just interested in a quick read about an interesting woman. It made me want to go watch her other movies right away, along with some of Spoto's other books.


  1. Didn't she and one of her daughters die in an auto accident? I feel like I remember watching something about that. It was sad.

  2. Summer - She did die in a car accident. Her youngest daughter was with her, but survived. They think she had a brain aneurysm or something just prior to the crash that is what caused them to go off the road. It is sad - she was still young, only a couple of years older than my mom is now.