“Getting angry doesn’t solve anything.” Grace Kelly
At age 26 Grace Kelly married Prince Rainer of Monaco and retired from the movie making business. She had made just 11 films so in theory she should have faded from our memories; consigned to a quiz question about the identity of a long forgotten movie star who robbed poor Judy Garland of her oh-so deserved Oscar for A Star is Born. Instead she is ranked 13th by the American Film Institute’s list of top female stars of American cinema, and her star shines ever brightly even today, almost seventy years after her final film.
The 11 movies she did make garnered her accolades aplenty and multiple awards, including a most unexpected Oscar for The Country Girl. So yes she played her roles well but that doesn’t explain why she is such an icon, why despite her short career she is seared into our collective consciousness. Of the few characters she did portray, none of them are particularly significant or history changing, something else must be at play here. It’s her, the woman Grace Kelly we remember. It’s Grace Kelly who resonated with us, Grace and her “sexual elegance”, Grace and her fresh, ladylike virtue that makes her so memorable. Director John Ford claimed she exuded breeding, quality and class, and it would appear we agreed. Descriptions of her always refer to her aristocratic bearing, her elegance, her ladylike demeanor. She was the ‘elegant glamour girl’, the virginal ice-queen with an underlying sex appeal who in High Society is desired by both Crosby and Sinatra, and of course the chap she was about to marry.
The lady in the white gloves was apparently, along with everything else, very likable. It’s hard to find anyone who worked with her pay her anything but compliments. Jimmy Stewart said she was just about the nicest lady he had ever met and Cary Grant admitted she was his all-time favourite actress to work with, which given the sheer volume of stars he worked with, is a huge endorsement. And rumor has it most of her male co-stars were smitten and despite her reputation, or perhaps because of it, our Grace was anything but virginal. “What else is there to do if you’re alone in a tent in Africa with Clark Gable?” No, I can’t think of anything else either.
Grant claimed that what made Kelly so appealing was that she possessed “serenity” and this is perhaps what we can learn from her. Getting angry, shouting or screaming or being rude doesn’t solve anything and simply reduces women to the hysterical, harridan stereotype we have long fought to destroy. You can still feel angry, but how you convey it will determine not only the outcome, but also the way you are perceived and treated in the future.If you think Kelly was a pushover, a meek, mild mannered dear who kept her cool , a sort of subservient ‘lady’ who always did as she was told, think again. Kelly, was a very determined , focused young woman who, unlike many of her peers, was able to handle Hitchcock and never stooped to allowing herself to be sold cheaply just to satisfy his sometimes rather lascivious demands.
Kelly the ‘ice-queen’ thawed many a male co-star with her subtle sex appeal, her calm demeanor and just an overall sense of her in-chargeness. There have been many times where upon reflection of an incident I would love to press rewind, lose my out-of-control voice and replace it with Kelly’s cool clipped tones. I think once I raised my voice, my position of strength and authority fell. I can still be angry, and hey every day life throws many reasons to be, but how and what I do with it will determine whether a solution is found or not. Now if only I could look as good as her whilst remaining cool, calm and collected I’d be on a winner.