Hedy Lamarr, M-G-M, 1940. Photograph by László Willinger (1909-1989).
Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) posed for this glamour portrait in 1940. The legendary Austrian 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. This 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, Lamarr plays Karen VanMeer, a sophisticated and elegant corporate spy. She is recruited by Clark Gable who plays “Big John” McMasters, an oil speculator.
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.
But this post is not simply about Michèle Mercier as Angélique, but a modern French Italian beauty who entered the pantheon of screen goddesses out of that legendary five-film role that stretched from 1964 to 1968. Michèle Mercier
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 any American really play well this 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, IndomptableAngélique 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.
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 and 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) which was a film phenomenon in Italy making around 15 million euros and winning a David di Donatello Award (the Italian Oscar) and several other 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 as 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 the pillow fight scene from Notte Prima degli Esami – Oggi (2007). The film was the Italian actress’s 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.
This is the pillow fight scene in Fausto Brizzi’s sequel Notte Prima degli esamei – Oggi where Nicolas Vaporidis as Luca and Carolina Cresecentini as Azzura 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).
Carolina Crescentini at the Taormina (Sicily) Film Festival.
Carolina Crescentini wears Italian and international contemporary fashion with elegance and flair.
Within the year of her first major film Carolina immediately co-starred with Italian star Nicolas Vaporidis to make Cemento armato (Concrete Romance), 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. In 2008, Carolina was nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress 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.
This is the trailer for Cemento armato. In a role that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Nastro d’Argento awards in 2008, the blonde beauty Carolina Crescentini wears her hair dark which matches this film’s often violent character. In Italian (1.27 minutes).
Carolina Crescentini with hat.
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. Here she reads about tennis star Andre Agassi.
Carolina Crescentini’s beauty has been called special. A blonde with gentle features her beauty captivates but 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 Crescentini’s smile radiates kindness and beauty that might offer Botticelli a worthwhile subject.
The graceful figure of Carolina Crescentini.
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 such as playing Anna in veteran Italian director Giuliano Montaldo’s I demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg) 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 is 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.
I demoni di San Pietroburgo – Carolina Crescentini, Miki Manojlovic, Anita Caprioli, Giuliano Montaldo (director)
Carolina Crescentini at an event in Rome for The Demons of St. Petersburg.
In 2010 Carolina’s body of work was further recognized by winning the Giuseppe De Santis Award for Best Female Newcomer and 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 based on the popular Italian TV series of the same name.
From Boris-Il Film (58 seconds):
Carolina Crescentini, the star of Boris – Il Film.
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 in Ferragamo.
Italian film actress Carolina Crescentini in a still from Boris-Il Film.
Carolina Crescentini next appeared in the 2010 film “Twenty Cigarette” about a survivor of the 2003 Nasiriyah bombing in Iraq. Carolina commented that the film was an authentic story without rhetoric, fully respectful of the feelings of the fallen family.
At the 73rd Venice Film Festival in 2016.
73rd Venice Film Festival.
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. Carolina plays Glada in a movie 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 with the director and cast (4:07 minutes) is followed by a clip featuring Carolina Crescentiti and Pierfrancesco Favino in a scene from the Italian Golden Globes Best Film (:31 minutes):
Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in The Entrepreneur (2011) directed by Giuliano Montaldo.
In addition to regular work in many 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 many designs by prestigious fashion houses, both old and new, Italian and international. Carolina has appeared on many magazine covers including rather famously, her shoot for Playboy in May 2010, Carolina said that in some shots she can’t recognize herself and chalking it up to “Photoshop.”
Carolina Crescentini posing in Playboy in 2010.
Carolina Crescentini in Playboy in 2010.
F Magazine, Italy (8 February 2017)
Io Donna Magazine (24 January 2015)
Grazia Magazine, Italy (24 August 2016)
Tu Style Magazine, Italy (9 May 2016)
Carolina’s most 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. Also in 2015 Carolina worked once again with veteran Italian film directors— this time it was the brothers Taviani in their wry Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wonderous Boccaccio) based on vignettes from the fourteenth centuryThe Decameron. Both the book and the film premiered in Florence – although by different authors six centuries apart.
Trailer for the witty and wry 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.
Maraviglioso Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini plays a wayward nun who brings her lover into the cloister.
A humorous scene from Maraviglioso Boccaccio featuring Carolina Crescentini as Isabetta, a wayward novice. Also featured is Paola Cortellesi as the convent’s hypocritical superior. (3.02 minutes):
Carolina Crescentini in a leather jacket.
Carolina Crescentini at Christmas.
Carolina Crescentini, costume designer Piero Tosi and Anna Fendi.
Marlene Dietrich. Paramount, 1947. Photograph by A.L. “Whitey” Schafer.
MARLENE DIETRICH: 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 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 longtime 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, he 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. In 1941 he published Portraiture Simplified, a book in which he argues that “portraiture’s purpose is the realization of character realistically.” Among his technical observations Shafer 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. Shafer remained in that position where he photographed the stars until he died at 49 years old in an accident in 1951.
Elizabeth Taylor. MGM, 1949. Photograph by Hymie Fink.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Though still a teenager, by 1949 when this photograph was made Elizabeth Taylor (1932, London-2011, Los Angeles) was celebrated as her up-and-coming generation’s great beauty. Elizabeth debuted in films in 1942 at ten years old and it seemed her life and beauty blossomed in front of the cameras. This photograph captures her near the beginning of her cinematic career as an MGM star and later two-time Oscar winner. Who exactly was her photographer Hymie Fink? His identity remains a small mystery. Was Hymie Fink a studio photographer? Freelancer? Pseudonym for an unknown talent or combination of unknown talents? His name appears from time to time among the stars starting in the late 1930’s until his death was announced by Hedda Hopper in the mid-1950’s. The gossip columnist ended her newspaper column for September 28, 1956 with this 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.”
Lana Turner. 1939, photograph by László Willinger.
LANA TURNER: 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 color portrait was made (it is not retouched) a 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 a Hollywood malt shop was a movie contract with producer-director Mervyn LeRoy (1900-1987). The title of Lana’s first film in 1937 for Warner Brothers proved prescient for her career: They Won’t Forget. In her debut in this courtroom drama, pretty 16-year-old Lana Turner played a five-minute part where her appearance on screen strutting in a tight-fitting sweater and cocked beret created such a stir among audiences that Hollywood began to figure it had a full-budding sex symbol on its hands. Walter Winchell coined the term “America’s Sweater sweetheart” for Lana Turner because of her appearance in about twenty seconds of celluloid flickering onto movie screens in dark theaters throughout America that year. Over the next two decades there would be a long line of Hollywood actresses who throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s wore tight sweaters over specialty bras to emphasize their bust line for appreciating admirers. In 1938 Lana moved with LeRoy to MGM where she stayed to make 44 mostly glamorous films until the early 1960’s. She 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, but left Europe for America in 1937. He joined MGM that same year and soon 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 slightly bloodshot eyes looking to one side. 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. László Willinger left MGM in 1944 and established his own photography studio in Hollywood where for the next 40 years he successfully practiced his craft. About her own reputedly rowdy personal life in those MGM years Lana Turner later remarked: “My plan was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out the other way…”
DIETRICH – “Miss Dietrich to Receive Medal,” The New York Times, November 18, 1947;
http://vintagemoviestarphotos.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-l-whitey-schafer.html; 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.
http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1956/09/29/page/22/article/diana-dors-isnt-homesick-shes-set-for-film-in-britain; 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 was a popular glamour model in the mid-1950’s and early 1960’s.
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 age 79 years following complications from a bicycle accident in Vero Beach, Florida.
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.
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 and were mostly boys and men. But during and after World War II the 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 were eye catching. Uniforms on busy roads would be often 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.
Dane Arden (Elsa Sørensen) in 1956 in her carhop uniform. In the mid 1950’s drive-ins competed for customers in fast-moving automobiles using eye-catching carhop uniforms.
There’s a fifteen-minute color documentary filmed in the mid 1970’s at the legendary Keller’s Drive-In in Dallas, Texas. Their original location opened in 1950 but closed in 2000. Today the oldest restaurant in the chain is the one that opened on Northwest Highway in Dallas in 1955. There are two more Keller’s restaurants are on Garland Road and Harry Hines Boulevard. Keller’s Drive-In remains a classic spot to enjoy their no-frills burger and a cold beer. Founder Jack Keller —who once worked at Kirby’s Pig Stand which became the nation’s first drive-in restaurant empire—died in 2016 at 88 years old. The documentary is about carhops and the American Graffiti-style drive-in culture which once littered America’s roads from coast to coast.
MORE GLAMOUR COLOR PHOTOGRAPHS OF DANE ARDEN/ELSA SØRENSEN:
Elsa Sørensen enjoys a waterfall.
Elsa Sørensen by the fireplace.
Elsa Sørensen in orange Capri pants.
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.
Dane Arden displayed the blonde bombshell image that became very popular in mid-20th century American popular culture.
Elsa Mattingly (Elsa Sorensen) (Dane Arden).
Elsa Sørensen was Playboy‘s Miss September 1956.
Dane Arden, Escapade magazine, 1956.
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).
Here are some famous and rarely seen photographs of Philadelphia-born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) before and during her 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. 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. 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. 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. 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,5The 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. 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 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.
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 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. 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
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 Girlhelping 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.
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
LADY IN RED: Grace Kelly by Howell Conant, 1955. For more than 25 years Conant was Grace Kelly’s friend and favorite photographer.
Grace Kelly by Apger Virgil, c. 1954. In 1929—the year Grace was born—Apger was hired in the portrait gallery at Paramount. In 1931 he went to work at M-G-M doing what he did at Paramount: developing negatives, working with the dryers, and making prints. Apger was an assistant to Clarence Sinclair Bull, but Jean Harlow gave Apger his start as a production still photographer on China Seas in 1935. After that, Apger shot M-G-M publicity stills for the stars.
Grace Kelly Headshot for The Country Girl (1954).
Grace Kelly had many reasons to do John Ford’s Mogambo which started filming in Africa in November 1952. Two of those reasons were to co-star with legendary Clark Gable and sultry Ava Gardner at the height of her fame.
Photographer Howell Conant observed that every movement of Grace’s body was a telling gesture. Jamaica, 1955.
Grace Kelly arrives with Edith Head at the 1955 Academy Awards wearing the ice blue gown that Edith designed for her.
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.
Grace Kelly with her Oscar for Best Actress in hand backstage at the 1955 Academy Awards.
The 27th Annual Academy Awards, Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly, with their Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars.
Edith Head’s wardrobe for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954). Chic and modern, Grace’s memorable film entrance is in this black-fitted bodice with off-the-shoulder V-neckline on top of a full bunched and layered chiffron tulle skirt to mid calf marked by a pattern at the hip. Grace’s high fashion is cinched by a thin black patent leather belt and elbow-length white gloves.
In the 1930’s Edith Head leaned liberal in her costume designs. But in the 1950’s her designs became more conservative. Grace Kelly for Rear Window.
For Rear Window released in the summer of 1954 Grace Kelly received equal billings with co-star Jimmy Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock.
Edith Head’s famous eau de nil suit and matching hat for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954).
In Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955) Grace is radiant in each scene she’s in. She plays Nancy Brubaker, the wife of Navy pilot William Holden who is killed in action in the Korean War. A story of an American family in war-time, the film’s cooperation with the U.S. Navy led to realistic aerial and carrier action scenes that won it the Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1956.
Grace Kelly in almost complete profile, 1954.
The Kelly siblings in Philadelphia. Grace and Peggy flank Jack with Lizanne on his shoulders, c. 1946.
Grace Kelly (center) with school chums. Grace had already started amateur modeling and acting by this time.
Kelly family in Philadelphia, 1935. From left: son Jack and father Jack, Lizanne, mother Margaret. Back: Grace and Peggy.
Grace on on a family vacation at Ocean City, New Jersey, c. 1946.
Grace Kelly in New York City as a young model and actress, late 1940’s.
Grace 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.
Grace takes a comb to her hair, early 1950’s.
Portrait of Grace Kelly by theater and film photographer Marcus Blechman (1922-2010).
Grace Kelly and her stand-in Dorothy Towne on the set of High Noon.
Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Gary Cooper, and 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 1954 in Philippe Halsman’s “Jump” series which featured celebrities jumping for the camera.
Grace Kelly eating cotton candy on the 4th of July 1955 in Philadelphia.
Grace Kelly in wardrobe tests for The Country Girl. Edith Head dressed Grace’s character of Georgie Elgin in brown wool clothes, cardigan sweaters and low-heel Capezio shoes.
At the end of The Country Girl, Georgie Elgin is dressed by Edith Head in a dark dress with a low V-cut neckline and jeweled accent at the waist and in a strand of pearls. It allowed the movie audience to see how lovely Georgie Elgin really was.
Grace Kelly, Jamaica, 1955. After making six films in 1954, Grace went on vacation with her sister Peggy and took along Howell Conant to be official photographer. Grace would return to Jamaica for family vacations as Princess of Monaco.
Grace in 1954 on Corsica with her sister Peggy and Oliver the dog.
Grace Kelly modeling a fashionable dress for her mother in the mid 1950’s. Look at Grace’s reflection in the mirror.
Grace Kelly in New York City by Milton H. Greene, 1955.
Grace Kelly, 1955.
Grace Kelly is dressed for St. Patrick’s Day in 1954. She has a copy of the MGM studio news on her lap. Photograph by Gene Lester.
Coffee or tea? Grace Kelly sitting in Cary Grant’s chair and Alfred Hitchcock on the set of To Catch A Thief.
Grace Kelly and Edith Head working on costume designs. The pair had a close working relationship and remained good friends. After Grace left Hollywood, Edith traveled to Monaco many times to visit her.
26-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 and Prince Rainier III on May 6, 1955 in Monaco. He told her, “This is Europe, not America. We think differently here, and you will have to get used to it.”
First Visit: Grace Kelly in Monaco, May 6, 1955.
Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954) slow motion kiss close-up.
James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window.
Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart in a Paramount publicity photograph for Rear Window. (1954).
Grace on the set of Rear Window.
Grace at Paramount.
Grace Kelly wearing the outfit for the final scene of Rear Window.
Grace Kelly in an outfit by Helen Rose for the film High Society in January 1956.
Grace Kelly in a MGM publicity photograph.
Grace Kelly in a MGM publicity photograph for The Swan.
Grace Kelly, The Swan.
Grace Kelly in a Paramount publicity photo by Bud Fraker.
Grace Kelly in earrings by Joseff.
Grace Kelly in a make-up test for the honeymoon scene in High Society.
Grace Kelly in High Society (1956).
A spring 1956 bridal show at the Ambassador Hotel in New York City featured a Cartier replica of Grace’s engagement ring on the center model. The other rings replicate Rita Gam’s and Margaret Truman’s.
Grace as Lisa in Rear window.
Oscars 1955, Grace Kelly with Best Actress Academy Award as emcee Bob Hope looks on.
Grace Kelly in a chiffon-draped gown by Edith Head for To Catch a Thief (1955).
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.
Next in CORRIDORS: Grace Kelly, Famous and Rare Photographs. Part II: Hollywood ends, Monaco begins (1956-1982).