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BOOK REVIEW: Grace Kelly – Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman

| 15 March 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Grace Kelly – Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman

HarperCollins Publishers Inc
November 2017
Hardcover, $59.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction / Arts & Entertainment / Photography

9/10

Grace Kelly not only lived up to her name but she was also every bit the Hollywood dream girl that the title of a new photographic book about her suggests. The volume is dedicated to the legendary actress and her legacy, and while it briefly touches on her years living in Monaco as a princess, the focus is instead on her short and significant Hollywood career where she won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Grace Kelly-Hollywood Dream Girl is a beautiful, coffee table book that would make a wonderful gift to anyone interested in Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, or Hollywood cinema and costumes during the 1950s.

With hundreds of revealing images, this book offers a rare glimpse behind the scenes at both sides of Grace: the young woman yearning to express herself creatively and to be taken seriously, and the image she had to create in order to make her dreams come true. One purpose of this book is to illuminate all the hard work required to make Grace Kelly one of the biggest and most enduring superstars of cinema. After all, Grace was one of the few celebrities who not only attained the status of living legend in her own lifetime, but who remains an icon for the ages. Even icons have to start somewhere.

Kelly’s image is familiar to millions of people. There are Instagram and Tumblr sites devoted to photographs of this stunning, blonde goddess. But what sets apart Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman’s book is the crisp and often other-worldly quality of the photographs and the candid, behind-the-scenes approach it takes. There are over 400 colour and black and white photographs of Kelly on-set and off including some that have never been published previously, as well as promotional pictures and materials used to publicise her films. There are also test shots and wardrobe sketches showcasing the designs from Edith Head and Helen Rose. One of the former’s designs worn by Kelly in Rear Window is showcased on the cover and Kelly’s fine, patrician beauty makes her look regal at a time when she wasn’t even considered Hollywood royalty, never mind a real-life princess.

Edith Head outdid herself (in To Catch a Thief), draping the suntanned star in the finest fabrics. Head described the fancy masquerade ball at the end of the film, in which Grace wears a stunning Louis XV dress of delicate gold lamé, as the most expensive costume scene of her career. “Hitchcock told me that he wanted her to look like a princess,” said Head. “She did.” But Grace struggled to get in and out of the confining costume, causing delays. Assistant director Daniel McCauley banged on Grace’s dressing room door one day, telling her that Hitchcock was waiting. When she arrived on the set, rather than admonishing his star, Hitchcock took one look and said, “Grace there’s hills in them thar gold!”

The authors clearly have an interest in Hollywood cinema. Jorgensen has previously written books about Edith Head and costumes from Hollywood’s golden age. In this compendium, they deliver a biography of Kelly’s life in addition to the photographs. We learn that Kelly was born into a family of religious overachievers. Her father was an Olympic gold medallist and her uncle was a Pulitzer Prize winner. Kelly was not considered the beauty of the family (that role was reserved for her elder sister, Peggy). Instead, Grace was considered a shy child who had to prove herself to her family before she had to try and do the same thing with the greater world and this is something that grounds her and will make readers like her all the more as a person.

A quiet, nearsighted child in a family of beautiful, robust overachievers, Grace was never considered exceptionally good-looking by her relatives. From her earliest days she was forced to look inward and seek other ways to distinguish herself. She could never be the dazzling beauty of the Kelly family-that honor went to her older sister, Peggy. But Grace could be the most thoughtful, or the most creative, or the funniest, or the most dramatic, or the most tenacious. She aspired to attain inner qualities that would sustain her throughout her life. Flashy, fleeting glamour was never something to cling to.

The writing here plays second fiddle to the amazing photographs. Despite this, the authors do a good job of painting a picture of Kelly’s life from her early years when she learned acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to her first roles on stage and TV. There is also a significant focus on her collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock in Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and To Catch A Thief, as well as her other roles starring opposite Hollywood’s leading men (as in Country Girl, and the musical High Society). The writers don’t hold back in mentioning Kelly’s colourful love life but they are also careful not to be salacious about it either. You get the sense they are trying to be truthful and not have this volume become a pure hagiography, because style icons and legends are still human and are not perfect, even if the pictures they appear in are often flawless.

Judith Balaban Quine: “I think the thing that most people forget is that when all of this is happening to Grace, this extraordinary excitement about her career being generated and roles with the world’s most famous leading men and the world’s most respected directors, she was just a girl in her early twenties.”

The last section describes Kelly’s meeting and eventual marriage to Monaco’s Prince Rainier. The couple had three children and while Kelly’s acting career ceased, she did satisfy some of her creative impulses with poetry recitals and a book of pressed flowers. Life may have seemed like a fairy-tale but this story did not have a happy ending. Kelly’s untimely death was a sad one and this volume also includes some quotes form those who wrote about or reflected on her passing – but perhaps the best one is the following.

In his eulogy, Jimmy Stewart spoke for many in Hollywood-and around the world-when he said, “You know, I just loved Grace Kelly. Not because she was a princess. Not because she was an actress. Not because she was my friend. But because she was just about the nicest lady I ever met. Grace brought into my life, as she brought into yours, a soft, warm light every time I saw her. And every time I saw her was a holiday of its own. No question, I’ll miss her. We’ll all miss her. God bless you, princess.”

Grace Kelly-Hollywood Dream Girl is a lush and rich visual biography of the famous actress and late princess. It’s a book that is brimming with amazing photographs that showcase her luminescent and ethereal beauty and the text gives us a brief biography and some context about her life. Hollywood Dream Girl proves that there will never be another Grace Kelly and while she is gone, she will never be forgotten thanks to dazzling tributes like this one. Gorgeous.

Natalie Salvo

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at: http://nataliesalvo.wordpress.com

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