Friday, September 14, 2007


Twenty-five years ago today, Princess Grace of Monaco, just as Diana of Wales would 15 years later, died in a car crash, another victim of a Cinderella marriage that ended with shattered glass slippers.

Born Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, she was glowingly beautiful, as movies on TCM still show, and talented enough to win an Academy Award at the age of 25. Yet she gave it all up to marry a man she hardly knew and become the Princess of a financially distressed country the size of an American park.

As a magazine editor then, amid all the hoopla of the fairy-tale wedding, I wanted to know why and sent a reporter to interview her mother and three sisters, who pictured her as a quiet middle child who failed to fit into an extroverted, hyperactive rich family like the Kennedys and withdrew into her own fantasy world.

They persuaded Grace to talk about it. "You get beyond the point of anger,” she said. “If you try to fight back, it takes too much out of you. I can be stubborn, but I can't quarrel. I'd rather give up. I don't like fighting, all the loud voices and the angry words. When it's finished, I feel as though a steamroller had gone over me."

She escaped all that by marrying a Prince with whom she had only spent a few hours, in a virtual arranged marriage that would bring new life to the main industry of his domain, the casinos of Monte Carlo.

On their twentieth wedding anniversary, Grace and Prince Rainier did another interview for me. Looking back, he admitted, "It was not love at first sight ... We were both ready for marriage." On their first weekend, Rainier was impressed by the Kelly family "with the father absolutely the boss. I liked that. It's the way I wanted my marriage to be." He went on enthusiastically endorsing male dominance as "natural and right” based on his experience training wild animals.

Grace tactfully agreed. "I was a star, but I wasn't happy.
I wanted to marry, but it had to be someone who wouldn't become Mr. Kelly. It was important that he be a man and remain one."

When Rainier was out of the room, she added, “He’s a Gemini, two people in one. Light and darkness. When it's dark, I avoid it or make light of it. You know, turn a quarrel into a laugh.”

In the following years, throughout her older daughter's disastrous marriage and divorce, Princess Grace kept her silence, but friends were troubled to see her drinking heavily and gaining weight.

Then, on a morning in September, 1982, driving back from a shopping trip to Nice, her younger daughter sitting beside her, 53-year-old Princess Grace of Monaco, nee Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, approached a hairpin curve at high speed and went off the road without, as a driver behind her testified, touching her brakes.

The official explanation for the accident was that she may have suffered a stroke, but those who knew Grace Kelly believe that the repressed anger of a lifetime had finally exploded. So ended the fairy tale.


Shaun Mullen said...

You nailed it, Robert.

Karen said...

This made me cry.

Dan Leo said...

So sad -- we tend always to forget that these glamorous, godlike creatures on the screen are creations, and that behind these creations are troubled, flawed little people just like us.

Case in point: the talented and successful Vince Vaughn.

Dan Leo said...

Woops! I got my popular young actors mixed up -- I meant to say, case in point: Owen Wilson.