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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November 12, 1929

Well, it's the day after Remembrance/Veterans/Armistice Day, and you know what that means? It means Christmas carols playing at the mall, holiday displays being set up in store windows, and seeing those guys and gals in the Santa hats standing next to those kettles ringing a bell, asking for donations for charity.

Yes, it seems that November 12 (coolly this year, it can be written as 11/12/13) is that official date in which we all drop everything and start focusing on all things Christmas. The “Merry Christmas” signs at my workplace have actually been up since November first or second!

Some say it's too early, and I admit to being one of those people. But others like the fact that we're arriving closer to the holidays. One of my friends actually has her living room completely filled with Christmas decorations already! But, you know, I have to say, the photos she showed everyone on her social media page were fantastic.

And, this year, November 12 falls on a Tuesday – which means that it's time to go back through time once more. As far as today's topic goes, there's not a whole lot of reference to Christmas, but the subject is about someone who could be considered a class act.

We'll get to that a little later.

For now, let's see what happened in the world on this date in history, shall we?

1439 – Plymouth, England becomes the first town incorporated by the English parliament

1602 – San Diego, California is discovered and named by Sebastian Viscaino

1793 – The first mayor of Paris, France – Jean Sylvain Bailly – is guillotined

1892 – William “Pudge” Heffelfinger becomes the first professional American football player on record

1912 – The frozen body of Robert Scott and his men are found on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica

1918 – Austria becomes a republic

1927 – Joseph Stalin is left with the undisputed control of the Soviet Union following the expulsion of Leon Trotsky

1933 – Hugh Gray takes the first known photos of the Loch Ness Monster

1936 – The bridge spanning between San Francisco and Oakland opens up to the public

1941 – The Soviet Union launches ski troops for the first time against the German forces following a dip in the temperature to -12 degrees Celsius in Moscow

1942 – The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal between the United States and Japan commences during World War II

1956 – A trio of countries join the United Nations; Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia

1958 – Warren Harding leads a team of rock climbers in the first ascent of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley

1969 – Independent investigative reporter Seymour Hersh breaks the story of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War

1971 – President Richard Nixon sets a date of February 1, 1972 as the date in which he would like the United States to pull all troops out of Vietnam

1981 – Actor William Holden dies following injuries sustained in a fall at the age of 63

1990 – Tim Berners-Lee publishes a formal proposal for the World Wide Web

1993 – The first Ultimate Fighting Championship match is held in Denver, Colorado

2001 – American Airlines Flight 587 crashes minutes after take-off, killing everybody on board plus five on the ground

2011 – Silvio Berlusconi tenders his resignation as Prime Minister of Italy

November 12 has a lot of celebrity birthdays too, and blowing out candles on 11/12/13 are Marjorie W. Sharmat, Ann Flood, Jack Betts, Brian Hyland, Booker T. Jones, Al Michaels, Neil Young, Buck Dharma, Errol Brown, Katharine Weber, Megan Mullally, Vincent Irizarry, Nadia Comaneci, Sammy Sosa, Craig Parker, Mayte Garcia, Radha Mitchell, Ethan Zohn, Angela Watson, Tevin Campbell, Ashley Williams, Ryan Gosling, Anne Hathaway, and Omarion.

(Oh yeah...Charles Manson and Tonya Harding were born today too...but I don't consider them to be celebrities. More like a psychopath and a jealous figure skating queen bee. And yes, I did go there.)

And, today's blog subject would have turned 84 years old today had she lived...which would make her birthday November 12, 1929.

Have you guessed who it is yet? Here...maybe this song will give you a hint.

Thanks, Mika...for introducing our blog subject for today.  

Today we'll be looking at the life and times of Grace Kelly...the actress turned royal.

Today we'll be talking about Grace Kelly's rise to stardom, how she became one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the silver screen, and how the man she fell in love with introduced her to a life of luxury and royalty.

It just seems hard to believe that the lady who would eventually become the Princess of Monaco began her life in the city of Philadelphia eighty-four years ago today.  Grace Patricia Kelly was born to John Brendan "Jack" Kelly and Margaret Katherine Majer.  And, here's a little bit of trivia for you.  Did you know that Grace was named after her aunt Grace, who died when she was a little girl?  It was because of a promise that Grace's father made to his mother, saying that after the birth of his first daughter in 1925, the next daughter would be given the name.  I suppose it was fate that made sure that another daughter was added to the Kelly family, ensuring that the promise was kept.

Anyway, Grace was the third of four children, and she was born into a family who were very athletically gifted.  After all, her father won gold medals in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games for rowing.  Her brother John Brendan "Kell" Kelly Jr. was also an Olympic athlete, competing in three Olympic games, winning a bronze medal for swimming in 1956.  As for what he did with the bronze medal...well, we'll get to that a little later.

Of course, Grace didn't follow in the footsteps of her father and brother.  Oh, sure, she might have had the athletic abilities passed down to her.  But rather than swim and row, she decided to go into acting and modelling.  When she was a little girl, she modelled fashions at social events all over Philadelphia, and I suppose you could say that her first part ever was in a production of the play "Don't Feed The Animals", when she was just twelve.  She graduated from high school in 1947, and interestingly enough, if you were to look through the pages of the 1947 Stevens School Yearbook, you might come across the following prediction on the page marked "Stevens' Prophecy".

"Miss Grace P. Kelly - a famous star of stage and screen".

Who knew that prophecy would come true?

Of course, Grace's decision to study acting was not initially well-received.  It was bad enough that she had been rejected from a prestigious school because her math grades were poor.  But when she made the decision to enroll at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, her father wasn't exactly the most supportive.  In fact, he actually compared the profession of acting to streetwalking!

Once she was admitted into the acting program, Grace proved to be a very ambitious student - even using a tape recorder to practice and perfect her speech.  She was more than determined to show everyone that she could be a great actress, and more importantly, she wanted to achieve success on her own.  Fortunately, her acting career got off to a great start, acting in a couple of Broadway musicals including "The Father" and "The Philadelphia Story".

Shortly after that, producer Delbert Mann cast Kelly in the role of Bethel Merriday, which ended up being the first of SIXTY live television appearances...and that success on television made Grace Kelly a sought after actress in the world of motion pictures.

But do you know what her very first movie role was?  I see some of you saying "High Noon" here, which was a very prominent film role for her.  But it actually wasn't her first.  Her very first film appearance was in the 1951 film "Fourteen Hours".  It was actually kind of one of those "blink and you'll miss her" type performances, as she only had a small part.  And unfortunately, it wasn't really noticed by film critics, nor did it lead to instant acting roles.  However, one person who did notice her was her future "High Noon" co-star Gary Cooper, who had met her while visiting the set of "Fourteen Hours".  And after their first meeting, Cooper was heard to remark that Kelly was "different from all these actresses we've been seeing so much of."

And not long after Cooper's first meeting with Kelly, Grace Kelly received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her the part in "High Noon".  It's unknown as to whether Gary Cooper had any influence or sway in Kelly getting the part...but I'd like to think that he did pass along the suggestion.

And from there, the rest is history.

I could go on and on about the number of films that she did over the next few years for MGM, but I'd be here all day.  Instead, I'll show you a few highlights.

1953's "Mogambo" was actually a role that Grace Kelly got after another actress - Gene Tierney - dropped out of the project for personal reasons.  Not that it mattered for Grace Kelly.  She was more than happy to take over the part.  After all, the film had three irresistible components that made it hard for Grace to turn down.  The film was directed by legendary director John Ford.  Her co-star was Clark Gable.  And the film was shot on location in Nairobi, Kenya.  The fact that the movie was filmed in Africa was the selling point for Kelly, who later claimed in an interview that she would have turned the part down had the film been shot in Arizona!

"Dial M For Murder" was the first time that Kelly would work with director Alfred Hitchcock, and after Hitchcock watched her screen test, he was very impressed - so impressed that he became a mentor of sorts to Kelly.  And the film did extremely well at the box office, largely because of scenes like the one below.  

And, of course this lead to the second project that Kelly would work on with Alfred Hitchcock, "Rear Window" (which coincidentally happens to be my favourite film starring Grace Kelly).  The success of the film was largely attributed to the chemistry between Kelly and co-star James Stewart.  Of course, it helped that James was extremely enthusiastic about working with her.  Have a look at the trailer below.

There's an interesting story about Grace Kelly's performance in "The Country Girl", which she starred in alongside Bing Crosby.  She was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, but the odds on favourite to win was Judy Garland for her role in "A Star Is Born".  At the 1955 ceremony, Garland was unable to attend the actual ceremony because she had just given birth to her son.  Because everyone expected her to win, a television crew was set to film her from her hospital bed when the award was announced.  When Grace Kelly ended up winning the award instead, the television crew dispersed without saying one word to Garland!

Can you say...awkward?

And then there was 1955's "To Catch A Thief" - arguably Grace Kelly's signature role and the third and final film in which she would work with Alfred Hitchcock.  She starred in the movie alongside Cary Grant, and rather than talk about the movie, why not show you a clip from the film featuring Grant and Kelly?

In April 1955, Grace Kelly was invited to the Cannes Film Festival to head the United States delegation, and while she was there, she met with Prince Rainier of Monaco for a photo session.

Upon returning to America to film "The Swan" (ironically enough playing the part of a princess), it was discovered that Grace had been secretly sending messages and telegrams to Prince Rainier, and there was speculation that when Prince Rainier visited America on a trip that he was there to look for a wife.  After all, there was a treaty drafted up in 1918 that stated that if Rainier had not produced an heir, Monaco would revert to France as a result of the Monaco Succession Crisis of 1918.

Luckily for Prince Rainier, it seemed as though he and Grace Kelly were meant to be together.  Three days after meeting Grace's family, Rainier proposed marriage, and Grace accepted, leading to what some Hollywood insiders at the time would call "The Wedding of the Century".

(I dunno...I think Charles and Diana's 1981 wedding holds that title.)

But whatever the case, the wedding took place in April 1956, and the ceremony was broadcast all throughout Europe.  Some thirty million people watched the wedding on television, and the couple had a honeymoon aboard Rainier's own personal yacht Deo Juvante II that lasted seven weeks!

(And, remember how I told you that Grace's brother had won a bronze medal for swimming in the Olympics?  He actually presented Grace with the medal seven months after her wedding as a present to her!  Isn't that sweet?)

So, that was how Grace Kelly became Princess of Monaco.  She gave birth to three children, Caroline, Albert, and Stephanie between 1957 and 1965, and although she was tempted to return to the silver screen after her wedding, she never did act in any film after 1956.  Instead, she spent the rest of her life preserving the art institutes of Monaco, and even establishing the Princess Grace Foundation as a way to help artisans get started with their careers.  She also planned a yearly Christmas party for local orphans, as well as promoted La Leche League - an organization that promoted breastfeeding.

Sadly, on September 13, 1982, the life of Princess Grace met a tragic end.  She was driving to her country home with her daughter Stephanie in the passenger seat when she suffered a stroke behind the wheel.  The car steered off the road and down the side of a mountain.  Although both Stephanie and Grace survived the accident, Grace was unconscious and unresponsive.  One day later, on September 14, Princess Grace was declared dead.

At her funeral four days later, several of Grace's co-stars and world leaders arrived to pay their final respects which included Diana, Princess of Wales, Nancy Reagan, and James Stewart, who eulogized her with these words.

"You know, I just love 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."

And, to end this entry off...a duet she sang with Bing Crosby on what would become her final film...1956's "High Society".

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