Marilyn Monroe breaking the ice in this promotional color photograph on the train for Some Like It Hot. She plays Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk, the ukulele player and singer in an all-women’s traveling band. Upon its release in the spring of 1959, the Billy Wilder black-and-white film became an immediate smash hit with audiences and critics alike and remains one of the all-time great comedy film classics.
Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) posed for this glamour portrait in 1940 when the legendary beauty was 27 years old. Since her first American film, Algiers, in 1938, Lamarr was considered one of the most beautiful women in the movies, if not the world.
This publicity photograph of Lamaar is for the 1940 American adventure film Boom Town. It co-stars Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Claudette Colbert. The beautiful color portrait was taken by László Willinger (1909-1989), a German-born emigré who made many glamour photographs of celebrities starting in the later 1930’s.
In Boom Town, Austrian-born Lamarr plays Karen VanMeer, a sophisticated and elegant corporate spy. She is recruited by Clark Gable who plays “Big John” McMasters, an oil speculator.
Hedy Lamarr, 1939, László Willinger.
Hedy Lamarr, 1938. Photograph by Clarence Sinclair Bull (1896-1979).
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Michèle Mercier (born New Year’s Day 1939) is a French actress perhaps best known for playing the lead role of Angélique in the mid1960s film series of the same name based on the 1956 sensational novel Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels by husband and wife writing team of Anne and Serge Golon. Their mid-17th century character was based on a real life Suzanne du Plessis-Bellière who was one of France’s most famous women from the time of Louis XIV, the Sun King. The historical Suzanne first appeared in a French novel in the mid-nineteenth century, one by Alexandre Dumas, père, called Le Vicomte de Bragelonne, ou Dix ans plus tard. Similar to these 5 films inspired by the Golons’ novel of (by 1961) six books — Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels which is the first book published in 1957 (the novel expanded to 13 books after the 1964 film’s release) — Dumas’s novel, the third of his d’Artagnan trilogy, was also serialized in popular media from 1847 to 1850.
While this post is simply about Michèle Mercier as Angélique, she is a French Italian beauty who has entered the pantheon of screen goddesses based largely on this legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968.
For the part of Angélique, many other beautiful and more famous actresses were approached before Michèle Mercier who was little known in the French cinema at the time. Seasoned French film producer Francis Cosne (1916-1984) wanted sex symbol Brigitte Bardot to play the part, but she rejected the offer. Young Catherine Deneuve was considered perhaps too naive for the lusty role. American Jane Fonda spoke French but could an American play fully a quintessentially French role? Italian beauty Virna Lisi was too busy doing Hollywood films. Not being already famous eliminated statuesque Danish actress Annette Stroyberg from the running until ultimately Michèle Mercier was decided upon after almost losing the part to French actress Marina Vlady who at the last minute didn’t sign the contract.
Michèle Mercier as Angélique.
When the opportunity of Angélique presented itself to Michèle Mercier, she was a relative newcomer to the French cinema – but this was not the case for her either in French theatre arts or Italian films where before 1964 she had acted in over 20 of them. With a father who was French and mother who was Italian, Michèle Mercier from her early teens growing up in Nice, France, was determined to be a professional ballet dancer. In 1957, at 17 years old, she moved to Paris which was a decision that changed her life. By 1960, when she was just 20 years old, she was acting in French New Wave film director François Truffaut’s second film, Shoot The Piano Player.
After Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels was released — an unlikely heroine’s role where Angélique’s singular flaming red-haired beauty is acknowledged throughout — the role became a blessing and a curse for the budding actress Michèle Mercier. It catapulted her to instant stardom so that her fame rivaled sex symbol Brigitte Bardot in celebrity and popularity, but the role in 5 popular films typecast her and effectively ended her film career almost as soon as it started. Following the first Angélique film in 1964 Michèle Mercier starred in four sequels that includes Merveilleuse Angélique in 1965, Angélique et le Roy in 1966, Indomptable Angélique in 1967 and Angélique et le Sultan in 1968. All these films in the series were directed by French film director Bernard Borderie (1924-1978) and starred Michèle Mercier which bestowed upon the stories a consistent filmic world but also encased the beautiful star in a popular role that was virtually impossible to escape from.
Following the fifth and final film of the Angélique series in 1968 the French Italian beauty went on to make six more films before her career ended in 1972. Although Michèle Mercier had always appeared in a variety of film genres – the actress played dozens of other women besides Angélique – it was for this 17th century fictional character in five memorable films in 1960’s France that has affixed her into the pantheon of screen goddesses for which she receives enduring adoration today.
Michèle Mercier in 1965.
Michèle Mercier on the cover of the April 20-26, 1968 French weekly magazine, Télé 7 Jours with Jacques Chazot. In these months, Michèle Mercier was riding high in the Angélique film series. Indomptable Angélique had been released in October 1967 and was a world-wide smash hit. In the film, Angélique discovers that her first husband is alive and she Angélique travels to the South of France not realizing he is now an infamous pirate. Angélique is captured by slave traders and taken far away to Crete where they intend to sell her. In March 1968, Angélique et le Sultan had just been released. It became the fifth and unintended final entry in the Angélique series based on the novels of Anne and Serge Golon. A planned sixth film called Angelique the Rebel was announced but never made.
Carolina Crescentini is an Italian film and television actress who has appeared in more than 20 films since 2006. Born in Rome in 1980 (April 18) Carolina grew up in the elegant Monteverde Vecchio district. Not unlike Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, Carolina wanted to become an actress from an early age and studied and worked diligently in the craft.
Carolina attended Italian acting schools including the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – or, The Center for Experimental Cinematography. This Italian institution hosts a national film archives (Cineteca Nazionale) as well as one of Italy’s most prestigious film acting schools (Scuola Nazionale di Cinema).
Soon after, Carolina began her acting career in television commercials, short films and music videos. The blonde beauty whose stage presence is similar to Kate Hudson and whose fashion savvy is like Chloë Sevigny got her first big break in films from another Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia alumni – Fausto Brizzi.
It was in the sequel to Brizzi’s 2006 film Notte prima degli esami (The Night Before The Exams). The original film was a phenomenon in Italy. It earned around 15 million euros and won the David di Donatello Award (the Italian Oscar) and several more awards.
In Brizzi’s 2007 hit Italian teen comedy Notte prima degli esami – Oggi (The Night Before The Exams – Today), Carolina Cresentini plays Azzurra, the love interest of the main character. Where Brizzi’s 2006 teen comedy is set in Rome in 1989, the 2007 sequel which featured many of the same actors in the same roles—with the addition, of course, of Carolina Crescentini— it is set in the summer 2006. This is the same summer Italy played for the World Cup which they won that year.
Brizzi’s sequel and Carolina’s first major film was an even bigger hit than the original. Even the French film industry made a version of Notte prima degli esami calling it Nos 18 ans and featuring French teenagers set in 1989.
Carolina Crescentini in a still photo from the pillow fight scene in Notte Prima degli Esami – Oggi (2007). The film gave the the Italian actress her breakout role.
Italian actors Nicolas Vaporidis and Carolina Crescentini during filming of Notte Prima Degli Esami – Oggi. About six months later they starred again together in the film thriller Cemento armato.
The pillow fight scene in Fausto Brizzi’s sequel Notte Prima degli esamei – Oggi. It is where Luca (Nicolas Vaporidis) and Azzura (Carolina Cresecentini) first meet. A box office smash in Italy, it was Carolina Crescentini’s first major film and started her on the road to stardom. In Italian. (3.22 minutes).
Within the year of her first major film Carolina immediately co-starred with Italian star Nicolas Vaporidis in Cemento armato (Concrete Romance). It is a 2007 Italian neo-noir thriller directed by Marco Martani. Crescentini’s dramatic performance as Asia, a rape victim, earned her a Best Actress nomination at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) Awards.
The next year, in 2008, Carolina was nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Benedetta, a fragile and spoiled rich beauty pursued by Silvio Muccino in Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love). The film became another smash hit in Italy that year.
The trailer for Cemento armato. In a role that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Nastro d’Argento awards in 2008, blonde beauty Carolina Crescentini wears her hair dark which matches the film’s often violent character. In Italian (1.27 minutes).
Carolina Crescentini’s performance in the Italian thriller Cemento armato (Concrete Romance) earned her a Best Actress nomination in 2008.
Before becoming an actor, Carolina Crescentini thought she would be an art or film critic. Reading about tennis star Andre Agassi.
Carolina Crescentini’s beauty has been called special. A blonde with gentle features, her beauty captivates yet does not immediately overwhelm. Her attraction is fed by details: blue eyes surrounded by sensual dark circles that give an uneasy and lived-in air.
Carolina Cresentini at the 66th annual Venice International Film festival, held in Venice, Italy, in September 2009. Maria Grazia Cucinotta served as the festival’s hostess.
A scene from Carolina Crescentini’s third film Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love) in a role which led to her being nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her co-star is Silvio Muccino. (2:34 minutes).
Carolina at the premiere of Tell me About Love (Parlami d’Amore).
Carolina made films where her roles were smaller but memorable. She played Anna in veteran Italian director Giuliano Montaldo’s I demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg). It is a bio-pic about Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. With a soundtrack by prolific Ennio Morricone, Carolina said her experience for this 2008 film on location in Russia was very beautiful.
The trailer from The Demons of St. Petersburg which was one of Carolina Crescentini’s favorite films to work on. It is a biopic of Fyodor Dostoyevsky shot on location in Russia featuring an all-star international cast. (1:41 minutes).
Playing Anna in The Demons of Saint Petersburg (2008) which Carolina described as a beautiful film work experience.
In 2010 Carolina’s body of work was again recognized by winning the Giuseppe De Santis Award for Best Female Newcomer as well as the Giffoni Award at that venerable international children’s film festival.
In 2011 Carolina won the People’s Choice Ciak D’Oro award for Best Supporting Actress playing Corinna in the 2011 Italian comedy film Boris-Il Film which was based on a popular Italian TV series of the same name.
From Boris-Il Film (58 seconds):
Carolina Crescentini as Corinna in Boris-Il Film.
Carolina Crescentini dressed in Ferragamo for a press conference in Rome for Boris-Il Film. Part of the SS2011 collection it is elegantly detailed within a warm and refined tone. Carolina chose to combine a double-breasted jacket with brown high heel boots for a delightfully easy look.
Carolina Crescentini at the D&G SS10 Fashion Show.
In 2010 Carolina Crescentini appeared in the film “Twenty Cigarette” about a survivor of the 2003 Nasiriyah bombing in Iraq. Carolina commented that the film was an authentic story told straight-forwardly, and with sensitivity and respect for the feelings of the fallen family.
Carolina Crescentini plays Angelica in the 2009 Italian comedy film “Generazione 1000 euro” written and directed by Massimo Venier. The film received two Nastro d’Argento nominations for best comedy film and for best supporting actress.
Excerpt from a trailer for the 2009 Italian comedy film Oggi sposi (Just Married) directed by Luca Lucini where Carolina plays Glada. The movie is about a reformed ladies’ man who has his heart set on marrying the daughter of the Indian ambassador. (56 seconds)
In the 2011 award-winning drama film The Entreprenuer (L’Industriale), Carolina worked again with director Giuliano Montaldo. It follows the story of a businessman facing extreme challenges to make his enterprises successful. A press event above with the director and cast (4:07 minutes) is followed by a clip below featuring Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in a scene from the Italian Golden Globes Best Film.
Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in The Entrepreneur (2011) directed by Giuliano Montaldo.
In addition to regular work in Italian TV series and movies including the series I bastardi di Pizzofalcone (2017) and movie Donne:Pucci (2016), Carolina Crescentini is a fashion icon in Italy wearing designs by prestigious fashion houses, both old and new, Italian and international.
Carolina has appeared on magazine covers including her shoot for Playboy in May 2010. Carolina said that in shots must have been “photoshopped” becausee in them she can’t recognize herself.
Tu Style Magazine, Italy (9 May 2016)
Carolina’s recent film work includes Tempo instabile con probabili schiarite (Partly Cloudy with Sunny spells), a 2015 Italian comedy about business partners who find oil on their land at the same time their furniture factory is going out of business. Carolina plays Elena, the wife of the lead.
She also appeared in the discomfiting satiric film called Pecore in erba (The Sheep in the Meadow, a.k.a. Burning Love) written and directed by Alberto Caviglia which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2015.
In 2015 Carolina worked once again with veteran Italian film directors— this time the brothers Taviani in their wry Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wonderous Boccaccio). The film is based on vignettes from the fourteenth centuryThe Decameron. Both the book and the film premiered in Florence, albeit six centuries apart.
Trailer for the wry and witty 2015 film Maraviglioso Boccaccio directed by veteran Italian film directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1:34 minutes):
Marvelous Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini in a scene where she plays a wayward nun.
A scene from Maraviglioso Boccaccio featuring Carolina Crescentini as Isabetta, a wayward novice. Featured is Paola Cortellesi as the convent’s superior. (3.02 minutes)
Carolina Crescentini, costume designer Piero Tosi and Anna Fendi.
Carolina Crescentini: red carpet.
This Hollywood glamour portrait of forty-six-year-old Marlene Dietrich (1901, Berlin – 1992, Paris) wearing a green turtleneck sweater was taken when the movie actress was starring in Golden Earrings, a romantic spy film made by Paramount Pictures. It was her comeback film following World War II.
It was also in 1947—the same year that this photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer was made— that Dietrich received what she called her life’s proudest achievement: the Medal of Freedom.
While Golden Earrings was a decent film, its main purpose was to provide the actress with a job. Further, it would lead into her next project—the 1948 American romantic comedy A Foreign Affair directed by Billy Wilder—which made Dietrich once again a top star.
Following Dietrich’s meteoric rise at Paramount Pictures starting in 1930 her acting parts later stagnated as film directors —including Josef von Sternberg and others—seemed to use her more as a piece of expensive cinematic scenery than as a serious dramatic actress.
Like other leading ladies of the time, the Hollywood glamour machine in the 1940’s transformed Dietrich into a golden-haloed blond which accentuated her magnificent cheekbones and sultry eyes under penciled-arc eyebrows and painted nails that this color portrait makes evident.
Photographer A. L. “Whitey” Schafer (1902-1951) was a still photographer who started shooting stills in 1923 and continued in that line of work at Columbia Pictures when he moved there in 1932. Personally outgoing, Schafer was appointed head of the stills photography department at Columbia three years later. In the 1940’s Shafer wrote copiously on his craft and advocated for techniques in glamour photography that are seen in this Dietrich color portrait.
Seminal book on glamour photography.
In 1941 Schafer published Portraiture Simplified, a book in which he argues that “portraiture’s purpose is the realization of character realistically.” Among his technical observations Schafer wrote elsewhere that “composing a portrait is comparable to writing a symphony. There must be a center of interest, and in all portraits this naturally must be the head, or your purpose is defeated. Therefore, the highest light should be on the head.”
It was in 1941 that Schafer replaced Eugene Richee (1896-1972) as department head of still photography at Paramount Studios. Schafer remained in that position where he photographed the stars until he died at 49 years old in an accident in 1951.
Though still a teenager, Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) in 1949 when this photograph was made, was celebrated as the new generation’s great beauty. In 1942, at 10 years old, Elizabeth had her film debut and her life and beauty blossomed over the decade in front of the cameras. This photograph captures her near the beginning of her cinematic career as an M-G-M star.
Who is Hymie Fink?
Who exactly was her photographer, Hymie Fink? His identity remains a mystery. Was Hymie Fink a studio photographer? Freelancer? Pseudonym for an unknown talent or combination of unknown talents? His name appears among the stars starting in the late 1930’s until his death was announced in the mid-1950’s by Hedda Hopper. The gossip columnist ended her newspaper column for September 28, 1956 with the epitaph: “Hymie Fink, one of the sweetest men in Hollywood, died of a heart attack on Jane Wyman’s TV set. Hymie photographed every star and every major event in (Hollywood) for twenty-five years.”
Before she became in the 1940’s the well-known Hollywood platinum sensuous blond of movie legend and fame, Lana Turner (1921-1995) was just a pretty redhead from Idaho named Julia Jean Turner.
By the time this unretouched color portrait was made, 18-year-old Lana Turner had been discovered three years earlier in a manner that has made it into the annals of show-biz mythology. The immediate result of her discovery in an iconic malt shop near Hollywood High School where she was a student, was a movie contract with producer-director Mervyn LeRoy (1900-1987).
The title of Lana Turner’s first film in 1937 for Warner Brothers was They Won’t Forget. The title proved prophetic for Lana Turner’s Hollywood career. By 1938 Lana Turner was a sex symbol who went on to make over 50 glamorous films, most of them at M-G-M. Lana Turner was only 16 years old when she played her debut five-minute part that at one point sees her strut across the screen in a tight-fitting sweater and cocked beret for about 20 seconds. Her image created such a stir among movie-going audiences that gossip columnist Walter Winchell coined the term “America’s Sweater Sweetheart” for Lana Turner because of her now-classic film appearance. Over the next 20 years, a bevy of Hollywood actresses would wear tight sweaters over specialty bras that emphasized their bust line in the hope of possibly sparking for themselves another Lana Turner movie career success story.
Lana Turner became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
Originally groomed to be a new Harlow, Lana followed this sex-bomb course in full force when in 1941 the studio dyed her hair white blonde for Ziegfeld Girl, where she co-starred with Judy Garland and Hedy Lamarr and stole the show.
Hungarian-born photographer László Willinger (1909 – 1989) started his professional career in Vienna, Austria. He left Europe for America in 1937 where he joined M-G-M that same year. Soon after, he made this lush shot of 18-year-old Lana Turner in a silky green dress seated on a red divan (or chair) with her head turned and looking to one side with slightly bloodshot eyes.
Willinger’s color portrait of red-headed Lana Turner emphasizes the sensuality of her personality manifested in her full red sensuous lips and painted nails. In 1944, László Willinger left MGM and established his own photography studio in Hollywood. For the next 40 years he successfully practiced his craft.
About her own reputedly rowdy personal life in those M-G-M years, Lana Turner later remarked: “My plan was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way…”
Lana Turner passed away on June 29, 1995. She was 74 years old.
DIETRICH – “Miss Dietrich to Receive Medal,” The New York Times, November 18, 1947;
They Had Faces Then. Annabella to Zorina: The Superstars, Stars and Starlets of the 1930’s, John D. Springer and Jack D. Hamilton, Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1974.
Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
TURNER – Hollywood Color Portraits, John Kobal, William Morrow and Company. Inc., New York, 1981.
Lana Turner interview with Phil Donahue, 1982 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhu6_V7pNL0
“Hollywood Photographer Dies,” The Hour, Associated Press, August 9, 1989 – https://news.google.com/newspapers nid=1916&dat=19890814&id=azIiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=uXQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1804,2177679
Former Miss Denmark Elsa Sørensen, known professionally as Dane Arden, was a popular glamour model in the mid-1950’s and early 1960’s. Dane Arden posed in American men’s entertainment and lifestyle publications in the nude and non-nude.
By John P. Walsh
Dane Arden (1934-2013) was an international magazine model in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She was born Elsa Sørensen on March 25, 1934 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and, after she won the title of Miss Denmark as a teenager went with her family to live in Vancouver, Canada.
Her debut in the September 1956 issue of Playboy magazine gave her much publicity and she went on to appear multiple times in that American men’s entertainment and lifestyle publication. Dane Arden also modeled for magazines such as the U.S. version of Australia’s Adam magazine.
Elsa moved to Los Angeles, married twice, and died on April 18, 2013 at 79 years old from complications following a bicycle accident in Vero Beach, Florida.
In one favorite set of non-nude color photographs of Dane Arden—this from 1956, the same time as her Playboy shoot—22-year-old Dane Arden expresses her beauty, physical dynamism and engaging personality as she poses as a carhop bringing fast food to people in their cars at drive-in restaurants.
Working carhops first appeared in the early 1920’s along expanding and popular interstate roads. In the 1920’s the carhops were mostly boys and men. During and after World War II, the service role was increasingly performed by women.
By the mid 1950’s, abundant drive-ins had to compete for customers in fast-moving automobiles and so carhop uniforms had to be eye catching. Uniforms on busy roads would often be creatively thematic with military, airline, space age, and cheerleader uniforms predominating.
In this photograph Dane Arden is an especially alluring carhop who wears a skimpy plaid-patterned matching fringed halter top and short shorts with fringed apron cut to size. Wearing the typical flat shoes and head gear worn by many female car hops at the time, Dane Arden proffers the perfect uniform to greet her customers with their cups of hot coffee.
In addition to Playboy, Elsa Sørensen appeared in the U.S. version of Adam magazine using the name Dane Arden which she used for all her non-Playboy modeling assignments.
Dane Arden displayed the blonde bombshell image that became very popular in mid-20th century American culture. Dane Arden posed both nude and non-nude for pop-culture magazines like Tempo, Adam, and Playboy in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dane Arden observed that it took longer for her to achieve an attractive “disheveled look” in a swimsuit for a beach shoot than if she prepared for a fancy dress-up photographic session, a factual insight that the viewer should appreciate as one learns about and looks at Dane Arden’s modeling work.
A short color documentary filmed at the legendary Keller’s Drive-In in Dallas, Texas, in the mid 1970’s captures the legacy of the roadside American eatery female carhop that Dane Arden’s especial glamour photograph so well captures.
Keller’s original location opened in 1950 and closed in 2000. The oldest restaurant in that American chain today is one that opened in 1955 on Northwest Highway in Dallas. Two other Keller’s restaurants are on Garland Road and Harry Hines Boulevard.
Keller’s Drive-In which is featured in this film remains a classic spot to enjoy a no-frills burger and cold beer. Founder Jack Keller —who once worked at Kirby’s Pig Stand which became the nation’s first drive-in restaurant empire—died at 88 years old in 2016.
The documentary is about carhops and the American Graffiti-style drive-in culture which once littered America’s roads from coast to coast and where Dane Arden’s photographic modeling career placed her in the midst of, among her modeling assignments.
Dane Arden biography – Lentz III, Harris M., Obituaries in the Performing Arts, McFarland, 2013 and http://www.pulpinternational.com/pulp/entry/1960-photo-of-Danish-model-Elsa-Sorensen-aka-Dane-Arden.html (retrieved Aug. 28, 2017); women carhops – Koutsky, Kathryn Strand, Koutsky, Linda, and Ostman, Eleanor, Minnesota Eats Out: An Illustrated History, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003, p. 134; carhops history – http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/last-day-for-texas-celebrated-drive-in-pig-stands (retrieved Aug. 28, 2017); story of Keller’s – http://res.dallasnews.com/interactives/kellers/ published on March 18, 2015 and http://www.dallasobserver.com/restaurants/the-man-who-brought-us-one-of-dallas-greatest-burgers-has-died-8271874 (retrieved Aug. 28, 2017).
Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) had a short but dazzling film career in Hollywood. Called the “Greatest Screen Presence in Film,”1 passionate and dramatically talented Grace Kelly was Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite actress when she starred in three of his classic films of the 1950’s: Dial M For Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). After Grace was discovered in 1951 by Gary Cooper who said that she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of”2—and subsequently cast in High Noon (1951) as Cooper’s movie wife—Grace Kelly’s incomparable charm and allure swiftly impressed Hollywood and the world. From September 1951 to March 1956 Grace Kelly’s star blazed in eleven major motion pictures for five different Hollywood studios.
On the set of Rear Window (1954). In the 1930’s costume designer Edith Head leaned liberal in her costume designs. But in the 1950’s her designs became more conservative.
Grace Kelly in a chiffon-draped gown by Edith Head for To Catch a Thief (1955). Edith Head and Grace Kelly became lifelong friends so much so that Edith Head, who was a very busy and successful costume designer in Hollywood, visited Grace in Monaco after she became princess.
Grace Kelly and her stand-in Dorothy Towne on the set of High Noon. Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Gary Cooper, Co-starred with Grace Kelly in High Noon. Gary Cooper took credit for discovering Grace for the movies. He said about Grace: she was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of.”
Grace Kelly in wardrobe by Edith Head for The Bridges of Toko-Ri. Filming began in January 1954 where Grace played a small but pivotal role as Nancy Brubaker, wife of Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden). By this time Grace was becoming as well-known as Audrey Hepburn for her fashion sense, and Edith Head found it a joy to work with her.
Edith Head’s famous eau de nil suit and matching hat for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954).
Following High Noon for United Artists, her performance for M-G-M on John Ford’s Mogambo (1953) led to Grace’s first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Grace began work in July 1953 on Dial M For Murder for Warner Brothers where she met Alfred Hitchcock who became a cinematic mentor. Soon after, The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) at Paramount Pictures began Grace’s ground-breaking multi-film collaboration with Academy-Award winning costume designer Edith Head. Grace refused other lucrative film offers to work again with Hitchcock, this time at Paramount Pictures, on Rear Window co-starring Jimmy Stewart.
For Rear Window released in the summer of 1954, Grace Kelly received equal billing with co-star Jimmy Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock.
In this landmark film which came out in summer 1954, one of Hitchcock’s dramatic emphases for Grace Kelly’s film persona was to display her natural elegance and sex appeal—he was amused by her public image as an “Ice Queen”3—by having her costumed in an array of fabulous Edith-Head-designed lingerie, dresses, and pants. Growing up in Philadelphia Grace Kelly as an adolescent and teenager had modeled in local fashion shows but, by the middle 1950’s in her mid-twenties, she became an international fashion and style icon.
Grace Kelly was a style icon for the era of the 1950’s.
Following these first phenomenal film credits, what happened for Grace Kelly next was perhaps surprising but not unexpected, and a clear and certain capstone to, and beacon for, her professional acting career that was barely five years old. Never just a pretty face, Grace Kelly insisted in her studio contract that she be allowed regular breaks to be able to act in live theater.4 Grace admired the art of the live stage and welcomed demanding theater and film roles that challenged and exhibited her acting range and abilities. This was part of her motivation to go after the hardly glamorous but dramatically impressive role of Georgie Elgin in George Seaton’s The Country Girl (1954) for Paramount Pictures.
Grace Kelly studying the script during filming of George Seaton’s The Country Girl. The 1954 film received 7 Academy Award nominations and won two. One of them was for Grace who won the Oscar for Best Actress.
With co-stars Bing Crosby and William Holden, the film featured Grace playing the long-suffering wife of an alcoholic actor struggling to resume his career (played by Crosby). At its release, the film was a hit and nominated for seven Academy Awards. On Wednesday, March 30, 1955, at the telecast of the 27th annual Academy Awards held at RKO Pantages Theatre,5 The Country Girl won two Oscars, including one for Grace Kelly for Best Actress. At just 25 years old Grace Kelly—of the ambitious and hugely competitive Philadelphia Kellys—had reached the highest echelons of the cinematic arts by way of her profession’s gold-plated statuette.
Grace Kelly backstage after the 27th annual Academy Awards on March 25, 1955 when she won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl.
The 27th Annual Academy Awards, Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly, with their Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars.
Always looking ahead, Grace’s film career had already turned international. She did Mogambo for a host of reasons not least of which was being able to see Africa with “all expenses paid.”6 In early 1954 she had flown to South America to make Green Fire (1954) for M-G-M with Stewart Granger and then in May 1954 she was at the French Riviera to make her third film with Alfred Hitchcock: To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Cary Grant for Paramount Pictures.
Grace Kelly sitting in Cary Grant’s chair while director Alfred Hitchcock serves her a beverage on the set of To Catch A Thief. The cast and crew had such a respect for the young film star that a hush would come over the set at her first appearance.
Grace liked the Riviera enough to travel there one year later, in April 1955, this time for the 8th annual Cannes Film Festival. To what degree Grace could imagine in advance how that particular journey to that most beautiful part of the world would impact her film career as well as future life as wife and mother was beyond her. It was during that early spring 1955 Mediterranean trip that Grace Kelly was first introduced to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
Twenty-six-year-old Grace Kelly and 31-year-old Prince Rainier III at their first meeting at the palace in Monaco, May 6, 1955. They would be engaged to be married by the end of the year. Photograph by Edward Quinn.
Grace Kelly stood five foot seven inches tall and weighed 118 pounds. Her dress size was two.7 She was born on November 12, 1929 into the Kelly family of Philadelphia. Grace Patricia Kelly was the third of four children and one of that Irish-German family’s three girls. Elder sister Peggy and younger sister Lizanne were athletic and shared their mother Margaret’s model looks. Margaret was also the family disciplinarian who the Kelly children liked to call “the Prussian General.”8
Grace Kelly modeling a fashionable dress for her mother in the mid 1950’s. Grace’s reflection is in the mirror.
As a child Grace was dreamy and shy while her siblings were outgoing and athletic. Yet Grace too inherited a keen awareness of her body using her arms and legs to be dramatically expressive in an actress’s rather than athlete’s way.9 By the time she was 18 years old Grace’s beautiful rectangle-shaped face with soft pear-shape dimensions displayed thick blond hair, almond-shaped blue eyes, a small high-bridge nose and ruby lips evident in many later glamour photographs.
Grace Kelly by Howell Conant, 1955. Conant was Grace Kelly’s friend and favorite photographer.
Each member of the Philadelphia Kelly family was an exuberant competitor in areas of American life such as athletics, business, politics, or high society. As an adult one of Grace’s major strengths in addition to her incredible beauty was her ability to focus on whatever goal she decided to pursue whether professionally or personally until that goal was achieved. When Grace won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1955 it was also a brick in the Kelly wall of ambition for success. Before she was a teenager Grace performed in plays so that in her teenage years a desire to be an actress grew. Since Grace was situated within a protective and affluent family as well as educated in Philadelphia Catholic and private schools she sought theater work in New York City instead of Hollywood which Grace, even after she achieved film success, considered a pitiless machine of cinematic production.10
The Kelly siblings in Philadelphia. Grace and Peggy flank Jack with Lizanne on his shoulders, c. 1946.
Grace Kelly moved to Southern California to be in motion pictures. She appeared in her first film called Fourteen Hours for 20th Century-Fox in 1951 when she was 22 years old.
It was Aristotle Onassis who suggested to Prince Rainier that he marry a beautiful American movie star to bring the glitterati back to Monaco. Onassis’s list at the time did not include Grace Kelly.11
Invited to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival after she had won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Country Girl one month before, Grace was curious enough about the prince to be introduced to him in Monaco on Friday, May 6, 1955. What is memorable from the photographs of their meeting at the palace is that the Prince looks chic and handsome and Grace is at her most beautiful in a black silk floral print dress with her blond hair pulled back into a German-style bun. That evening she returned to Cannes for the festival’s screening of The Country Girl helping to conclude a day that Grace herself called “pretty wild.”12 But Grace’s career in Hollywood wasn’t over—nor her life half begun. She was back in Paris before the festival’s winners were announced (she had won nothing there),13 and soon returned to Hollywood to make what turned out to be her final two Hollywood movies – The Swan and High Society.
Grace Kelly in High Society (1956).
Grace Kelly wears her new engagement ring from Prince Rainier on the set of High Society. One of her female co-stars observed it was the size of a “skating rink.”
Grace Kelly in a make-up test for the honeymoon scene in High Society.
Grace Kelly, The Swan.
Grace Kelly in a MGM publicity photograph for The Swan. Grace was at the height of her career when she exited Hollywood and the movie never to return for Monaco.
Grace Kelly dressed for the ball in the penultimate scene of her penultimate film, To Catch A Thief.
Grace Kelly at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz during filming of High Society (1956).
- It was actually my brother Kevin, now deceased, who when he was working in the Chicago Film Office wrote to me this apt description of Grace Kelly and Rear Window as the greatest film ever.
- Quoted in Roberts, Paul G., Style Icons Vol 4 Sirens, Fashion Industry Broadcast, p. 74.
- Dherbier, Yann-Brice and Verlhac, Pierre-Henry, Grace Kelly A Life in Pictures, Pavilion, 2006, p. 11.
- Edith-Head-designed apparel for Rear Window – Haugland, H. Kristina, Grace Kelly: Icon of style to Royal bride (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Yale University Press, 2006, p. 956; so she could act in live theater – TBA
- Date and place of 1955 Oscars- see https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1955 – retrieved April 26, 2017.
- did Mogambo for an all-expense paid visit to Kenya – TBA
- height and dress size- http://www.bodymeasurements.org/grace-kelly/ – retrieved April 28, 2017.
- Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 9.
- Conant, Howell, Grace: An intimate portrait of Princess Grace by her friend and favorite photographer, Random House, 1992, p.18.
- Preferred theater to film-TBA
- Leigh, Wendy, True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007, p.100.
- ibid., p. 112.
- Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 12.