Grace was born in Philadelphia in 1929. Her father was an olympic rower, the son of Irish immigrants. Her mother was of German ancestry, descended from many noble German families. She dabbled in modelling and acting in her youth. In 1947, she signed with a modelling agency and appeared on the covers of magazines.
She studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and lived at the famous Barbizon hotel for women. She appeared in a few commercials for things like bug spray and cigarettes as well as some television programmes and stage plays. Her first two movie roles were in Fourteen Hours in 1951 and High Noon in 1952, but she wasn’t taken seriously as an actress until the release of Mogambo in 1953. After that, her career took off.
She went on to star in three Hitchcock films including Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, in which she played a wealthy Manhattan socialite and fashion model who 'never wore the same dress twice'.
She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl in 1954. For the Oscar ceremony, Grace wore a beautiful silk dress in her favourite colour, green, designed by Edith Head. The dress has gone down in history as a symbol of red carpet elegance and was the inspiration for Elle Fanning’s dress at the 78th Golden Globes. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1955 wearing her Oscars dress.
She was briefly engaged to fashion designer Oleg Cassini in around this time.
In her third Hitchcock film To Catch a Thief, she again wears an outstanding wardrobe of memorable costumes designed by Edith Head.
Her final film role was in High Society in 1956, a remake of The Philadelphia Story and one of the most fashionable movies of the 1950s. The costumes were designed by Helen Rose, who went on to design Grace's wedding dress.
She married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956 wearing a wedding dress designed by Rose who worked on the gown for 6 weeks with 36 dressmakers. It had an ivory silk skirt supported by three petticoats, and a corset with a high, round neckline in Brussels rose lace embroidered with cultured pearls. It is one of the most iconic bridal gowns ever made. MGM released a documentary about the wedding.
She hadn’t planned to completely leave Hollywood behind but performing the duties of a princess, wife and mother, including much philanthropy, left little time for much else.
When she was pregnant in 1956, she was often photographed with a Hermès bag which she seemed to use to shield her belly. The images popularized the bag and it has since become known as the Kelly bag.
She was inaugurated into the International Brest Dressed List hall of Fame in 1960.
Away from the cameras, Grace opted for a minimal bourgeois style in cashmere Pringle of Scotland twinsets accessorized with strings of pearls, Hèrmes' silk scarves, round framed or cat eye sunglasses, flat Gucci moccasins, turbans and capri pants.
During her years in Monaco, Grace often turned to the timeless elegance of Marc Bohan’s pastel-pale looks, made-to-measure wool suits and classic Dior accessories, with a particular weakness for his hats. He had become her favourite designer.
She was offered lead roles in many films in the 60s and 70s but turned them down. She did however, narrate a documentary and a film in the 60s, as well as recite poetry on stage.
She became one of the first female members of the board of 20th Century Fox in 1976. She purchased her grandparents former home in Newport, Ireland in the same year. A bronze statue of Grace was unveiled by her son, the prince of Monaco, in Newport in March 2023.
She was in the process of making a film with her husband in 1982 when she tragically died after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while driving.
She is remembered as one of the most elegant women in cinema history.
The V&A museum held a retrospective of her style in 2010, which included her famous wedding dress.
The look & style of the character of Mad Men’s Betty Draper was based on Grace.
Cheryl Ladd portrayed her in a 1983 TV movie ‘Grace Kelly’ and Nicole Kidman portrayed her in ‘Grace of Monaco’ in 2014.