High Society: Grace Kelly and Hollywood by Donald Spoto - review by Frank McLynn

Frank McLynn

‘Gracie, Of Course!’

High Society: Grace Kelly and Hollywood


Hutchinson 236pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Grace Kelly makes an interesting entry in any encyclopaedia of Hollywood. Born into a family of wealthy Philadelphia Catholics, she went her own way, was a top model at twenty and a movie star shortly afterwards. What makes her interesting as an icon is that she was one of those rare celluloid women (Catherine Deneuve is another) who bridged the divide between beauty and sex appeal. Actresses who are beautiful (Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, etc) tend not to be sexy, and the sexy ones (Angie Dickinson, Inger Stevens, etc) often fall short of real beauty. This partly explains why Grace Kelly was always popular with both men and women. Never much of an actress, she had the good fortune to be a Hollywood ‘pet’ and to work with directors of the calibre of Ford, Hitchcock and Fred Zinnemann. She was Hitchcock’s favourite actress, and he rated her even above Ingrid Bergman – though Ingrid undoubtedly has the edge when it comes to filmography. All three of her Hitchcock films (Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn) are masterpieces but only one of the Kelly movies is (Rear Window). Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief are mere ‘entertainments’, to use the Graham Greene term. 

There are times in this book, indeed, when Donald Spoto, known as a Hitchcock buff, seems more interested in revisiting the old master than in concentrating on Kelly. Hitchcock’s well-known preference for ice-cool blondes was based on his theory that an icy feminine demeanour concealed a raging furnace

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