Tag Archives: 1950s

Ray Kroc’s very first McDonald’s franchise restaurant started in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois, is slated to meet the wrecking ball.

First McDonald's franchise restaurant, 1955, May 2018.

McDonald’s very first franchise restaurant on its original site, 1955 (replica, 1985). It is slated to be razed by McDonald’s Corporation immediately. Photograph by author, May 6, 2018.

By John P. Walsh

A closed-down weather-beaten replica of the very first McDonald’s franchise restaurant started by Ray Kroc (1902-1984) on April 15, 1955 standing on its original site in Des Plaines, Illinois, is slated to be demolished by McDonald’s Corporation with its land donated or possibly sold.

It was not long ago that McDonald’s touted that approximately one in every eight American workers had been employed by the company (Source: McDonald’s estimate in 1996) and that even today McDonald’s hires around 1 million workers in the U.S. every year. By 1961 there were 230 McDonald’s franchises in the United States. In 2017 there was 37, 241 McDonald’s restaurants worldwide. Not only historians and historic preservationists decry the imminent demolition of the first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, just west of Chicago, but others impressed by its direct significance to the growth and impact to U.S. labor history as well as the American restaurant industry and American automotive culture in the post-World War II era. Further, McDonald’s restaurants today reach into 121 other countries around the world influencing and being influenced by global cuisine. That all of this cultural and business import was born on a now-threatened patch of land on Lee Street in Des Plaines, Illinois, is impressive.

It appears that if and when McDonald’s follows through on its November 2017 decision to raze the building and give up the site, this originally-designed McDonald’s restaurant on Ray Kroc’s original site in Des Plaines will be forever lost. The story of how that planned demolition of this unique piece of Americana came to be began 35 years ago. It was on March 3, 1984 that after 29 years of continual operation the original franchise restaurant on the original site was permanently closed and demolished. Founder and former McDonald’s Corporation chairman Ray Kroc had died less than six weeks before in January 1984 at 81 years old in San Diego, California.

The McDonald’s restaurant brand opened its first burger bar called McDonald’s Bar-B-Q in California in 1940 – and, by 1953, brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald started a small franchise business in Phoenix, Arizona and Downey, California. Today’s nationwide and global franchise empire that serves 75 burgers every second (Source: McDonald’s Operations and Training Manual) began when Oak Park, Illinois-born Ray Kroc, a paper-cup-turned-milkshake-machine salesman, convinced the McDonald brothers to let him franchise their business nationwide. Kroc offered to manage the franchises in the U.S., excepting the brothers’ first franchises in Arizona and California, and the pair were to receive a tiny percentage of gross sales nationwide in return.

Kroc’s first walk-up franchise McDonald’s restaurant at the “Five Corners” intersection in Des Plaines, Illinois, served an assembly-line format menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries and a selection of drinks. In 1955, he founded McDonald’s System, Inc., a predecessor of the McDonald’s Corporation, and six years later bought the exclusive rights to the McDonald’s name and operating system. By 1961, Ray Kroc’s vision had clearly paid off for the now 59-year-old former paper cup salesman. That same year, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million and launched his strict training program, later called “Hamburger University, ” in nearby Elk Grove Village, Illinois, at another of his 230 new McDonald’s restaurants. Ray Kroc’s original vision was that there should be 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States. When Kroc died in January 1984, his goal had been exceeded six fold — there were 6,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. and internationally in 1980.

The Des Plaines suburban location of Ray Kroc’s very first McDonald’s franchise retains its relatively humble setting even as the McDonald’s Corporation it spawned earns $27 billion in annual sales making it the 90th-largest economy in the world (Source: SEC). Kroc, the milkshake machine salesman who convinced the McDonald brothers to let him franchise their fast-food operation nationwide, saw his original McDonald’s franchise at 400 Lee St. in Des Plaines open for business until, shortly after his death, it closed on Saturday, March 3, 1984.

47-ray-kroc-quotes

Ray Kroc (1902-1984) photographed with an artist’s rendering of his highly successful McDonald’s franchise restaurant. The franchise started in Des Plaines, Illinois, in April 1955 and has had a significant impact on U.S. labor history and the American restaurant industry and automotive culture in the post-World war II era. 

In 1984 there were no plans to preserve the site – its golden arches and road sign had been carted away –  but a public outcry prompted McDonald’s in 1985 to return the restaurant’s restored original sign designed by Andrew Bork and Joe Sicuro of Laco Signs of Libertyville, Illinois, and dedicate a restaurant replica that still exists today on the original site though it is now slated for demolition. The historic red neon-lettered sign turned on for the opening of Kroc’s first store on April 15, 1955 – there is one similar to it preserved in The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan dating from 1960 – proclaimed “McDonald’s Hamburgers” and “We Have Sold Over 1 Million” and, intersecting with an iconic golden arch displayed a neon-animated “Speedee” chef, the fast food chain’s original mascot. (The clown figure of Ronald McDonald first appeared in 1963).

Newspaper advertisement

Newspaper advertisement announcing the opening of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955. It featured the franchise’s first mascot, Speedee, who was significant to the assembly-line format menu and prevailing automobile culture.

Ray Kroc_s first McDonald_s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois April 15, 1955.

Historic photograph of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, on opening day, April 15, 1955.

McDonald's first franchise Des Plaines IL.

The replica of McDonald’s first franchise restaurant is missing its golden arches, “McDonald’s” sign over the entrance and its original 1955 Speedee neon lettered sign. They were dismantled and removed in January 2018 by McDonald’s to an undisclosed location out of public view. Photo by author, May 6, 2018.

The day after the original restaurant closed –  Sunday, March 4, 1984 – a McDonald’s restaurant franchise moved across the street into a state-of-the-art new building on a site that once accommodated a Howard Johnson’s and, after that, a Ground Round. The full-service McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois, today continues to operate out of that 1984 building. It may confuse the visitor which exactly is the original site of the first McDonald’s as the newer 1984 building not on the first site displays inside a high-relief metal sign that reads: “The national chain of McDonald’s was born on this spot with the opening of this restaurant.” Though undated, it is signed by Ray Kroc which points to it being brought over from the original restaurant when it was closed. At the replica restaurant on the original site two metal plaques (dated April 15, 1985) properly proclaim: “Ray A. Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corporation, opened his first McDonald’s franchise (the ninth McDonald’s drive-in in the U.S.) on this site, April 15, 1955.”

A few months after the first franchise restaurant was closed and demolished in 1984, the parcel of land on which it sat – it had only always been leased since 1955 – was purchased by McDonald’s at the same time they announced plans for the replica landmark restaurant.

The original architectural plans by architect Robert Stauber from the mid1950’s were lost, so 1980’s planners applied architectural drawings of McDonald’s restaurants built in the late 1950’s for the replica. Its kitchen included refurbished equipment brought out of storage, including the restaurant’s original six-foot grill. It also displayed one of Ray Kroc’s original multimixers like the ones he sold to Maurice and Richard McDonald that started a fast-food partnership in the 1950’s which by the mid-1960’s inspired many well-known copy cats of McDonald’s model, including Burger King, Burger Chef, Arbys, KFC, and Hardee’s.

Soda_fountain_Multimixer_5-head_malt machine_mfgd_by Sterling_Multiproducts (1)

Soda fountain multimixer.

The original restaurant had been remodeled several times during its almost 30 years of operation but never had much in the way of indoor seating or a drive-through. It did feature a basement and furnace built for Chicago’s four seasons and was used by the replica museum to exhibit items. The McDonald’s Museum was open for tours until September 2008 when the site experienced record-setting flooding from the nearby Des Plaines River. In April 2013 another record flood in Des Plaines submerged the McDonald’s Museum and produced serious speculation that the site would be moved or permanently closed.

Aerial 2013 Des Plaines

An aerial view during the April 2013 Des Plaines River flood shows the partially submerged replica first McDonald’s franchise restaurant (at right) with its original Speedee neon sign. Thesign was first lit on April 15, 1955, a Friday Night. Photo: Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2013.

In mid-July 2017, only four years since the last significant flood, the area experienced its worst flooding on record. In November 2017 McDonald’s announced it would raze the replica restaurant structure and by May 2018 the site had had its utilities disconnected and its golden arches, Speedee sign, and main entrance McDonald’s sign dismantled and removed. These historically valuable items were taken by McDonald’s out of public view to an undisclosed location. Once again, and this time more seriously it appears, the prospect of pleas by Des Plaines municipal authorities, historic preservationists, social media and others for McDonald’s Corporation to preserve the site intact is murky at best.

first night Des Plaines

Historic photograph from 1955 of the original Des Plaines McDonald’s restaurant which was demolished in 1984. A replica restaurant was built in 1985 based on architectural plans of later McDonald’s restaurants. That replica on the historic site is awaiting immediate demolition announced by McDonald’s in late 2017.  

Notes:

number of franchises in U.S. 1961 – http://sterlingmulti.com/multimixer_history.html# – retrieved May 8, 2018

number of restaurants 2017- https://www.statista.com/statistics/219454/mcdonalds-restaurants-worldwide/ -retrieved May 8, 2018.

121 countries – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_with_McDonald%27s_restaurants – retrieved May 8, 2018.

McDonald’s System, Inc; McDonald brothers for $2.7 million; Hamburger University; Kroc’s 1,000 restaurant vision – https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/about-us/our-history.html – retrieved May 8, 2018.

6,000 McDonald’s restaurants by 1980- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_McDonald%27s#1980s – retrieved May 8, 2018

original architectural plans lost – http://www.dailyherald.com/news/20171120/mcdonalds-plans-to-tear-down-des-plaines-replica-retrieved May 6, 2018.

2008 Des Plaines River flood- http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-18/news/chi-des-plaines-roads-flooded-after-storm-20130418_1_des-plaines-river-big-bend-lake-water-levels- retrieved May 8, 2018.

2013 Des Plaines River flood – https://patch.com/illinois/desplaines/bp–des-plaines-river-flood-information-03bfa82b– retrieved May 8, 2018.

2017 Des Plaines River flood

©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

Hollywood Princess: Grace Kelly’s Modeling and Acting Career, 1946-1956.

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 Grace was “different from all these actresses we’ve been seeing so much of”2—and 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 across the silver screen in eleven major motion pictures for five different Hollywood studios.

Grace on the set of Rear Window

On the set of Rear Window (1954). In the 1930’s, costume designer Edith Head leaned liberal in her costume designs. By the 1950’s her fashion designs became more conservative.

Grace Kelly in a chiffon-draped gown by Edith Head in To Catch a Thief (1955). Edith Head and Grace Kelly became lifelong friends. Edith Head, who was a very busy and successful costume designer in Hollywood, visited Grace in Monaco after Grace became princess.

Grace and Dorothy Towne High Noon

Grace Kelly and her stand-in Dorothy Towne on the set of High Noon.

Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, and Gary Cooper co-starred with Grace Kelly in High Noon. Gary Cooper took credit for discovering Grace for the movies. Cooper was impressed with her acting talent, good looks, work ethic, and professionalism.

AFTER ONLY TWO FILMS, GRACE’S FIRST OSCAR NOMINATION IS FOR MOGAMBO

Following High Noon for United Artists, Grace’s performance for M-G-M on John Ford’s Mogambo (1953) led to her first Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. This was a coup for Grace Kelly who had only made two films and was one of many actresses considered for the role. Neither was Grace the studio’s first choice which was Deborah Kerr. It was mostly thanks to fellow Irish-American John Ford that Kelly who was, of course, half Irish and half German in origin, got the role.

Location filming in Africa began in November 1952 and continued until the end of January 1953. 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.” It was a major production, and out of the nervous excitement that seemed to imbue the project for the actors and crew, there shortly developed a sense of cameraderie and confidence. Grace contributed to that professionally exciting spirit and a major outcome was a film which proved successful at the box office and for the careers of its principals—namely, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, John Ford, and newcomer Grace Kelly.3

Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly in Africa during the filming of M-G-M’s 1953 Technicolor adventure/romantic film, Mogambo, directed by John Ford. While Clark Gable repeated the role of big game hunter Victor Marswell from M-G-M’s 1932 film Red Dust co-starring Jean Harlow and Mary Astor, Marswell’s competing love interests were now played by Ava Gardner as Eloise Kelly and Grace Kelly as Linda Nordley.

IN 1953 GRACE BEGINS HER FASHION COLLABORATION WITH ACADEMY-AWARD-WINNING COSTUME DESIGNER EDITH HEAD. GRACE IS A FASHION ICON AND SHE AND HEAD STAYED FRIENDS FOR THE NEXT ALMOST 30 YEARS

In July 1953 Grace began work 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 and Edith Head To Catch A Thief

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.

When filming started in January 1954 for The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Grace Kelly had just turned 24 years old. Kelly had already made memorable films. She played Amy Fowler Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon released in 1952.

In 1953 Kelly appeared with Clark Gable and Ava Gardner in John Ford’s Mogambo in 1953 and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her perforamnce as Linda Nordley, the third side in a love triangle.

5 GRACE KELLY FILMS RELEASED IN 1954 INCLUDING HER ACADEMY-AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE IN THE COUNTRY GIRL

The year 1954 proved to be a banner year for Grace Kelly’s scintillating Hollywood career. In January 1954 Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window was released. The part of Lisa Carol Fremont solidified Kelly’s image as a fashion icon. A second Hitchcock film, Dial M for Murder, was released in May 1954 which starred Kelly as Margot Mary Wendice.

Other films released in 1954 starring Grace Kelly were Green Fire with Stewart Granger, The Bridges at Toko-Ri with William Holden and The Country Girl with Bing Crosby. In the dressed-down role of Georgie Elgin Grace Kelly’s performance brought her that year’s Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Kelly had been working constantly since 1951. She made the entertaining color action feature The Bridges at Toko-Ri for Paramount Pictures. The film is significant for at least the fact that it started the collaboration of Grace Kelly with costume designer Edith Head. After Grace Kelly left Hollywood, she and Edith Head remained great friends and Head would visit Kelly in Monaco right up to the time of Kelly’s untimely death in mid-September 1982 at 52 years old.

Before meeting Prince Rainier III in May 1955 upon leading the American delegation that year to the Cannes Film Festival and making the Hitchcock thriller, To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant, Grace had her share of romantic false starts, including during the making of The Bridges at Toko-Ri.

Grace Kelly and William Holden play the leads in Paramount Pictures’ 1954 war film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri. During filming, Grace Kelly fell madly in love with her co-star who was 11 years her senior and married.

Off screen Grace Kelly had fallen madly in love with co-star William Holden. Holden was 11 years older than Grace Kelly—and married. But they had an affair throughout the making of the picture. The electricity of that affair is evident in the love scenes where they played movie husband and wife.

In The Bridges at Toko-Ri Grace Kelly is Nancy Brubaker, the young wife of Navy pilot Lieutenant Harry Brubaker (Holden). A husband and father, Brubaker never wanted to be a flyer in the Navy and still wants out. Yet he accepts a very risky and dangerous mission during the Korean War and is killed in action. The commander asks—is it really a good mission if lives of good men are lost? The film is based on a novel by James Michener who recounted actual missions he covered as a correspondent on U.S. air craft carriers that were flying bombing missions on railroad bridges in North Korea in 1951 and 1952.

In The Bridges at Toko-Ri Grace played Nancy Brubaker, the wife of Navy pilot (William Holden) who is killed in action in the Korean War. In every scene she appears, she is radiant.

Though Kelly has a relatively small part in the war film, she is radiant in every scene. This is the first film where Grace Kelly appears in bed. Directed by prolific Marc Robson, The Bridges at Toko-Ri was one of the biggest hits of his career. Lyn Murray composed the musical score. Murray started in Hollywood in 1950 doing vocal arrangements for Walt Disney but soon was writing music for feature films throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s.

The film is a noisy and straightforward tale of one small American family in war-time. It combines humor notably provided by Mickey Rooney as CPO NAP Mike Forney that soon collides with war’s high-stakes mortal danger whose scenes look to presage Vietnam. The film’s cooperation with the U.S. Navy led to realistic and spectacular aerial and carrier action scenes that, in 1956, won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects.

Holden as Airman Brubaker tenderly expresses his sense of loss when his fellow airmen Mike Forney and Nestor Gamidge (Earl Holliman) are whisked off to other navy assignments. Their entire job was to save the lives of airmen in battle—and had saved Brubaker’s – so that their sudden professional absence is personally and deeply felt.

This is a film of the mid 1950s with caring commanders who look and talk remarkably like Ike, then President of the United States and who had just ended the Korean action in July 1953. Chain smoking by nearly everyone in the cast appears to be de rigueur. Listening to navy radio Lieutenant Harry Brubaker is riveted hearing a broadcast from Chicago’s famous Chez Paree nightclub showcasing jazz trumpeter Henry Busse. The local flair and period cultural items add interest to the fine acting and timeless beauty of Grace Kelly along with the film’s fact-based war story and blockbuster action. Almost 70 years after its initial release, The Bridges at Toko-Ri continues to be a worthwhile entertainment.

FIXED rear window 001

For Rear Window released in the summer of 1954, Grace Kelly received equal billing with co-star Jimmy Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock.

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 mystery thriller 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”4—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. 

famous eau de nil suit work in Rear window

Above and below: Edith Head’s famous eau de nil suit and matching hat for Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954).

Grace Kelly portrait from the film “Rear Window” photographed by Virgil Apger, 1954.

Grace Kelly was a style icon for the era of the 1950’s.

In a phenomenal film career barely 5 years old what happened next for Grace Kelly was unusual but not entirely surprising.  

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.5 From childhood, 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 love of the theater was a big part of her motivation to seek 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 drama film received 7 Academy Award nominations. It won two Oscars–including Best Actress for Grace Kelly.

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,6 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 Kellys of Philadelphia—had reached the highest echelon of cinema arts holding her profession’s gold-plated statuette.

gk with oscar

Grace Kelly backstage after the 27th annual Academy Awards on March 25, 1955. Earlier that evening Grace won the Oscar for Best Actress for her dressed-down and dramatic role in The Country Girl.

27th Annual Academy Awards Bette Davis presenter, Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly

At the 27th Annual Academy Awards, presenter Bette Davis is with Marlon Brando and Grace Kelly, with their Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars. 

In early 1954 Grace had flown to South America to make Green Fire (1954) for M-G-M with Stewart Granger. 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.

HITCH &GK

Sitting in a director’s chair with her co-star Cary Grant’s name emblazoned on it, Academy-Award-winning Best Actress Grace Kelly is served a beverage by director Alfred Hitchcock on the set of To Catch A Thief. Hitchcock had found his blonde muse and aided mightily to reveal the star qualities in Grace Kelly. When Grace was filming To Catch A Thief, her final film for Hitchcock, the cast and crew felt such great respect for the young film star that whenever she appeared on the set a hush would fall over it. Like Edith Head and many others in Hollywood, Cary Grant was Grace’s lifelong admirer and friend.

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant
La Victorine studios 1954 Hitch directs GK on To Catch a Thief grace kelly

Grace liked the Riviera. In April 1955 she traveled there again for the 8th annual Cannes Film Festival. It was during this early spring 1955 Mediterranean trip that Grace Kelly was first introduced to Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

FIXED May 5 1956 001

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 the family disciplinarian who the Kelly children liked to call “the Prussian General.”8 

GK with MOm

Grace Kelly models a fashionable dress for her mother in the mid1950’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 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 At 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 later glamour photographs. 

Grace Kelly in red by Howell Conant, 1955.

Grace Kelly by Howell Conant, 1955. Conant was Grace Kelly’s friend and favorite photographer.

Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly MGM portrait

Each member of the Philadelphia Kelly family was an exuberant competitor in areas of American life such as athletics, business, politics, or high society.  

in addition to her remarkable beauty, one of Grace’s major strengths was her ability to focus on the 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 a brick in the Kelly family wall of ambition for success.  

Before she was a teenager Grace performed in plays so that during her teenage years a desire to be a professional actress grew. Since Grace was situated within a protective and affluent family as well as educated in Philadelphia Catholic and other private schools she sought theater work in New York City instead of Hollywood. Even when she had achieved the pinnacle of film success Grace still considered New York Theater a worthwhile aspiration and Hollywood as a pitiless machine of cinematic production.10

Kellys 1945

Kelly siblings in Philadelphia. Grace and Peggy flank Jack with Lizanne on his shoulders, c. 1946.

GK 1951

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

Grace 1955

Grace Kelly in a glamour photograph in 1955.

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 Grace 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 High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in High Society (1956).

Grace Kelly wears her engagement ring from Prince Rainier on the set of High Society.

One of her female co-stars observed that the gem was the size of a “skating rink.”

Grace Kelly make up test High Society 1956

Grace Kelly in a make-up test for the honeymoon scene in High Society.

The Swan Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly, The Swan.

Grace Kelly MGM publicity photo The Swan

Grace Kelly in a M-G-M publicity photograph for The Swan.

Grace was at the height of her career just as she exited Hollywood. Leaving “Tinsel Town” forever, the 26-year-old movie star sailed for Monaco (after the Kellys paid a $2 million dowry) in April 1956 to marry her prince, and become a wife, mother, and royal princess of a small European country on the Mediterranean Sea.

Grace Kelly behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz during filming of High Society (1956).

Grace Kelly in Ball Gown To Catch A Thief

Grace Kelly dressed for the ball in the penultimate scene of her penultimate film, To Catch A Thief.

Grace Kelly in 1956.

TEXT NOTES:

  1. 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.
  2. Quoted in Roberts, Paul G., Style Icons Vol 4 Sirens, Fashion Industry Broadcast, p. 74.
  3. Scott Eyman, Print The Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, Simon & Schuster, 1999, p. 419-21; Kenda Bean and Anthony Uzarowski, Ava: A Life in Movies, Philadelphia: Running Press, 2017, p. 118
  4. Dherbier, Yann-Brice and Verlhac, Pierre-Henry, Grace Kelly A Life in Pictures, Pavilion, 2006, p. 11.
  5. 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
  6. Date and place of 1955 Oscars- see https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/1955 – retrieved April 26, 2017.
  7. height and dress size- http://www.bodymeasurements.org/grace-kelly/ – retrieved April 28, 2017.
  8. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 9.
  9. Conant, Howell, Grace: An intimate portrait of Princess Grace by her friend and favorite photographer, Random House, 1992, p.18.
  10. Preferred theater to film-TBA
  11. Leigh, Wendy, True Grace: The Life and Times of an American Princess, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007, p.100.
  12. ibid., p. 112.
  13. Dherbier and Verlhac, p. 12.

Grace Kelly, Andy Warhol, 1984.

Jennifer Jones is Miss Dove in Twentieth Century-Fox’s “Good Morning, Miss Dove!”

good-morning-miss-dove-movie-poster-1955-1020210172

Movie poster for Henry Koster’s Good Morning, Miss Dove! Starring Jennifer Jones, it was released by 20th Century-Fox the day before Thanksgiving in 1955.

Jennifer Jones

Jennifer Jones in Good Morning, Miss Dove! (1955). The 36-year-old actress plays an elderly teacher taken ill at school who, in flashbacks reviewing her life, as a young woman had been about to marry the man she loved when her father died unexpectedly and was secretly heavily in debt. Miss Dove decides not to marry but to repay the debt by becoming the town’s teacher.

movie poster

The film stars Jennifer Jones, Robert Stack, Kipp Hamilton, Robert Douglas, Peggy Knudsen, Marshall Thompson, Chuck Connors, and Mary Wickes. The film opened to good reviews and was popular at the box office. A New York Times review observed: “Since it is unashamedly sentimental without being excessively maudlin about its heroine, ‘Good Morning, Miss Dove’ deserves credit for being honest and entertaining.”

By John P. Walsh

        Good Morning, Miss Dove! is Frances Gray Patton’s contemporary tale of a middle-aged spinster elementary school geography teacher in Liberty Hill who, when suddenly taken ill, sees the entire small town rally to her side.

It is a mythical period piece from the mid-1950’s. It depicts an unchanging town whose students obey their beloved teacher. Though directed by Henry Koster in a stagey way, the film boasts progressive casting. One year after the milestone 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education establishing racial segregation in public schools as unconstitutional, Good Morning, Miss Dove! presents a newly-integrated public school classroom in Cinemascope and De Luxe color.

Film-going audiences in 1955 loved the film.

Awaiting a risky operation, Miss Dove (Jennifer Jones) thinks back on her life and those of her prized grown-up former students. They included Robert Stack (a surgeon), Chuck Connors (a policeman), and Jerry Paris (a playwright). All of these students overcame difficult childhoods and found worldly achievement with the help of Miss Dove.

Based on popular Book of the Month Club novel.

Patton’s novel had enjoyed success in 1954 as a Book of the Month Club and Reader’s Digest selection. Its release as a major motion picture by 20th Century-Fox continued the novel heroine’s popularity.

Release of the film during the Thanksgiving weekend 1955 was in the same year that Jennifer Jones starred in another Deluxe color film, the American drama-romance Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.

For the Academy-Award winning actress to play an elderly spinster (many early scenes feature the naturally dark-haired Miss Jones without her older character’s make-up), she moves beyond type. In the mid-1950’s as America settled into the Eisenhower years, Good Morning, Miss Dove! showed a lead film character -– the “terrible” Miss Dove played by Jennifer Jones — as an unflinching and beloved disciplinarian. Yet in the 1950’s the American public education system was undergoing copious and difficult change. In that way, the character of Miss Dove is further complicated by becoming a popular icon in the American culture by being mostly a nostalgic figure.

Good Morning Miss Dove!

A flashback scene from Good Morning, Miss Dove! Jennifer Jones as young Miss Dove with her father, Alonso Dove (Leslie Bradley). When he dies unexpectedly and in debt, Miss Dove resolves to pay it back and upends her own life’s plans to do so. Costumes by Mary Wills.

Jennifer Jones in make up for Good Morning Miss Dove

In 1955 Jennifer Jones was a 36-year-old beauty. Through the magic of Hollywood make-up (Ben Nye) and hair styling (Helen Turpin), she was transformed into the elderly Miss Dove for Good Morning, Miss Dove! In 1954 after Grace Kelly wore make-up for The Country Girl that hid her good looks and went against her youthful image (Kelly was 24 years old), she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for that year.

Good Morning Miss Dove

Young Miss Dove played by Jennifer Jones gives up marriage to the man she loves for a future as a spinster teacher so to pay back her late father’s debt. The story is based on a book by Frances Gray Patton that was itself based on her short stories. When 20th-Century Fox bought the rights for $52,000, it was the equivalent of about half a million dollars today.

Good Morning Miss Dove

Jennifer Jones as the elderly teacher in Good Morning, Miss Dove! set in the fictional Midwest town of Liberty Hill. Before filming began in July 1955, director Henry Koster wanted Olivia deHavilland for the role and have it set in England. Though set in contemporary America, critics saw Miss Dove as a character out of Charles Dickens.

The audience meets the elder Miss Dove at the movie’s start—make-up and hair-styling artists Ben Nye and Helen Turpin transformed the 35-year-old Jennifer Jones into the 55-year-old Miss Dove—and by flashbacks.

The film dramatizes her youth as she is about to marry. But she receives the unexpected news that her father has died suddenly and that he has debts. To pay them back, she steels herself to remain single and take a teaching post. Her chilly veneer is part of her honor to do the proper thing along with the sober accommodation to life’s necessary sacrifices.

While those who did not know Miss Dove mock her behind her back and say she couldn’t have had much of a life—never married, no family, no kids, never traveled anywhere—her army of students judge her differently.

Beyond any possibly wider cultural meaning, the film presents a unique person who by the logic of her experience or the experience of her logic enters into a series of social interactions that are amusing and honest. These include the film’s penultimate scene. Miss Dove is on her sick bed when she tells her pastor, Reverend Burnham (Biff Elliot): “Life, whatever others may think, has been for me…I have been happy. I have made many mistakes. Perhaps even sinned. I admit my human limitations but I do not in all honesty find the burden of my sins intolerable. Nor have I strayed like a sheep. I have never been AWOL. I have never spoken hypocrisy to my Maker and now is scarcely a propitious moment to begin.”

While these thoughts may be judged from different perspectives, they are expressive of a woman’s life completely dedicated to her profession and students at Cedar Grove Elementary School. The film’s denouement starting at around 1:39:00 is  powerful. Accompanied by Leigh Harline’s memorable soundtrack, it is a sentimental tribute to Miss Dove’s life which benefited through the years many different people because of nothing less than her good character. (1:47:16).

THE MOVIE:

Mary Wills: Oscar-winning costume designer.

The costume designer for Good Morning, Miss Dove! (1955) is Mary Wills (1914-1997). She worked mainly for Samuel Goldwyn productions and Twentieth Century-Fox, breaking into the movie business as a sketch artist for Gone With The Wind (1939). In her nearly 40-year career Mary Wills was nominated for an Oscar seven times and won the Academy Award in 1962 for her colorful designs for The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

First woman admitted to Yale Art and Drama program. “The Fabulous Miss Wills.”

Born in Prescott, Arizona, Wills moved to Los Angeles after receiving her Master’s degree from the Yale Art and Drama School. She was the first woman admitted into that program.

Wills started designing costumes in 1944 at RKO with Belle of the Yukon and soon after designed costumes for Disney’s Song of the South (1946). She started working for Samuel Goldwyn in 1948 where she designed costumes for Enchantment. For the next six years at Goldwyn Studio the costume designer was referred to as “The Fabulous Miss Wills.”

She was regularly nominated for her costume design in the 1950’s when she designed the costumes for Good Morning, Miss Dove! including Hans Christian Anderson (1952), The Virgin Queen (1954), Teenage Rebel (1956), A Certain Smile (1958), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), The Passover Plot (1976) and the film for which she won the Academy Award in 1962. Mary Wills also designed the Rogers and Hammerstein musical film Carousel in 1956.

Ice Follies. Camelot and Funny Girl.

Mary Wills demonstrated a special talent for designing historical costumes, especially after she moved to 20th-Century Fox in 1954 to make The Virgin Queen starring Bette Davis. Later she showed great aptitude for designing dance and folk costumes. A collection of her original sketches are online at the Los Angeles County Museum for live productions including the Shipstad & Johnson Ice Follies, now known as the Ice Follies. Mary Wills worked on two major films that she did not get film credit for — namely, Camelot (1967) and Funny Girl (1968). For Funny Girl, she designed the Ziegfeld show-girl brides costumes as well as the costumes for Omar Sharif.

Mary Wills at Samuel Goldwyn Studio

Academy-Award winning costume designer Mary Wills at the Samuel Goldwyn Studio (c. 1948). The Oscar-winning costume designer worked mainly for Samuel Goldwyn Productions and Twentieth Century-Fox.

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Miss Dove (Jennifer Jones) in a costume by Mary Wills. In the 1950’s Mary Wills was nominated for an Academy Award four times.

Good morning Miss Dove

Jincey Baker ( Kipp Hamilton), Miss Dove ( Jennifer Jones), and Dr. Tom Baker (Robert Stack). Promotion for the film included advertising that encouraged moviegoers to see it for its portrayal of the state of education in the country at the time. Costumes by Mary Wills.

Good Morning Miss Dove.

A 1955 drama that is both contemporary and nostalgic. Mary Wickes plays Miss Ellwood (second from left). Costumes by Mary Wills.

Good Morning Miss Dove!

Jennifer Jones as a small town spinster teacher who falls ill in the film Good Morning, Miss Dove! Her stern and upright demeanor masks her personal sacrifices and devotion to her students. Tha world is thrown into chaos when Miss Dove experiences an acute pain and grows numb in her leg. It is while she is in her hospital bed awaiting risky surgery that she relates her life in flashbacks.

Good Morning Miss Dove

In Good Morning, Miss Dove! Jennifer Jones is a beautiful young woman who rejects a marriage proposal to become the town’s grade school teacher to repay her late father’s debts. Costumes by Academy Award nominated costume designer Mary Wills.

Peggy Knudsen and Jennifer Jones

In the hospital Miss Dove is cared for by Nurse Billie Jean Green (Peggy Knudsen). Billie Jean is one of Miss Dove’s former student who left Liberty Hill and had a child out of wedlock. Back in her hometown, Billie Jean is infatuated with the local policeman, Bill Holloway (Chuck Connors). Bill is another of Miss Dove’s former students and one of her best pupils. Later, in the 1970’s, when actress Peggy Knudsen was suffering from a debilitating illness (she died in 1980 at 57 years old), she was in real life cared for by her close friend, Jennifer Jones.

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Miss Dove with former student and Liberty Hill policeman Bill Holloway (Chuck Connors). Miss Dove tells nurse Billie Jean Green how Bill first arrived to her classroom– a poor, unkempt boy being raised by his alcoholic grandmother. Over the years, Miss Dove gave Bill odd jobs and bought him a suit for his grammar school graduation. After Bill entered the Marines, he wrote to Miss Dove often, and when he returned to Liberty Hill, she was the first person he came to for career advice.

Good Morning Miss Dove

On the day of Miss Dove’s surgery, classes are dismissed and the townspeople of Liberty Hill wait outside the hospital for news of the operation’s outcome. The film provides a sentimental picture of mid-20th century America that is of Norman Rockwell proportions. Yet the film’s crisp dialogue and sharp character development by Jennifer Jones and the supporting cast engages the moviegoer. By the end of the film the outcome of Miss Dove’s surgery is as affecting to the audience as it is the fictional townspeople of Liberty Hill.

SOURCES:

https://www.academia.edu/1848534/_John_Dewey_vs._The_Terrible_Miss_Dove_Frances_Gray_Pattons_Postwar_Schoolmarm_and_the_Cultural_Work_of_Nostalgia

Green, Paul, The Life and Films of Jennifer Jones, McFarland & Co. Inc. Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina and London, 2011.

http://www.nytimes.com/movies/movie/93588/Good-Morning-Miss-Dove/overview

http://www.popmatters.com/review/182178-good-morning-miss-dove/

http://www.themakeupgallery.info/age/1950s/dove.htm