Saturday, November 12, 2011
BORN ON THIS DAY: GRACE KELLY
Grace Kelly, a true Hollywood princess, was born on this day - November 12, 1929. Grace Kelly was born in Philadelphia to John Brendan "Jack" Kelly, and his wife, Margaret Katherine Majer. The newborn was named after her father's sister, who had died at a young age. She was raised Catholic, and was of Irish and German descent. Before her marriage, Majer studied physical education at Temple University and later became the first woman to head the Physical Education Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Jack Kelly was a local hero as a triple Olympic-gold-medal-winning sculler, and became wealthy as his construction company became the largest such enterprise on the East Coast. Registering as a Democrat, he obtained the party's nomination for mayor in the 1935 election and lost by the closest margin for any Democrat in the city's history. In later years, he served on the Fairmount Park Commission and, during World War II, was appointed by President Roosevelt as National Director of Physical Fitness.
When Grace was born, the Kellys already had two children, Margaret Katherine, known as Peggy (June 13, 1925 – November 23, 1991) and John Brendan, Jr., known as Kell (May 24, 1927 – May 2, 1985). Another daughter, Elizabeth Anne, known as Lizanne (June 25, 1933 – November 24, 2009), was born three and a half years after Grace.
At Margaret's baptism in 1925, Jack Kelly's mother, Mary Costello Kelly, expressed her disappointment that the baby was not named Grace in memory of her last daughter, who had died young. Upon his mother's death the following year, Jack Kelly resolved that his next daughter would bear the name and, three years later, with the arrival of Grace Patricia in November 1929, his late mother's wish was honored.
Following in his father's athletic footsteps, John Jr. won in 1947 the James E. Sullivan Award as the country's top amateur athlete. Also, similar to his father's gold medals in rowing at the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics, he competed in the sport at the 1948, 1952 and the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne where, on November 27, seven months after his sister's Monaco wedding, he won a bronze medal, which he gave to her as a gift of the occasion. He also served as a city councilman, and Philadelphia's Kelly Drive is named for him.
Two of Grace Kelly's uncles were prominent in the arts; her father's eldest brother, Walter C. Kelly (1873–1939), was a vaudeville star whose nationally known act The Virginia Judge was filmed as a 1930 MGM short and a 1935 Paramount feature, and another older brother, George Kelly (1887–1974), estranged from the family due to his homosexuality, became renowned in the 1920s as a dramatist, screenwriter and director with a hit comedy-drama, The Show Off in 1924–25, and was awarded the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his next play, Craig's Wife.
Living in Manhattan's Barbizon Hotel for Women, a prestigious establishment which barred men from entering after 10 pm, and working as a model to support her studies, Kelly began her first term the following October. A diligent student, she would use a tape recorder to practice and perfect her speech. Her early acting pursuits led her to the stage, most notably a Broadway debut in Strindberg's The Father alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story.
Television producer Delbert Mann cast Kelly as Bethel Merriday, an adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel of the same name, in her first of nearly sixty live television programs. Success on television eventually brought her a role in a major motion picture. Kelly made her film debut in a small role in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours. She was noticed during a visit to the set by Gary Cooper, who subsequently starred with her in High Noon. Cooper was charmed by Kelly and said that she was "different from all these actresses we've been seeing so much of." However, her performance in Fourteen Hours was not noticed by critics, and did not lead to her receiving other film acting roles. She continued her work in the theater and on television, although she lacked "vocal horsepower" and would likely not have had a lengthy stage career. Kelly was performing in Colorado’s Elitch Gardens when she received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her a co-starring role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon.
And the rest they say is Hollywood history...