Friday, August 1, 2008

Grace Kelly

at the Hotel de Ville

I think it was the hottest day (so far) this summer, and I was feeling anything but graceful... all sweaty and exhausted from Wednesday's running around. But I had been meaning for weeks to visit the much publicized Grace Kelly exhibit at the Hotel de Ville, so I took a break from my errands and joined the cue in the afternoon shadow of the impressive building. The wait was about 45 minutes followed by a quick pass though the metal detector, my small purse through the x-ray machine.

Now I don't pretend to be a great fan... Until Wednesday, all I knew about the princess was that she was one--and that Madonna names her in "Vogue." Since visiting the exhibit, I know only a little more, but enough... for now. These photos come from the Taschen book I bought on my way out. Admission to the exhibit is free, so the book seemed requisite, especially since no photos are allowed.

As an American film star, she made 10 movies in the 3 1/2 years (before she met His Serene Highness Prince Albert Rainier III of Monaco in 1956,) three of which were Alfred Hitchcock films. The exhibit had letters and telegrams on display spanning the length of her whirlwind career, many from Hitchcock himself who seems to have been one of her biggest fans. These photos come from her work on Dial M for Murder in which her character's husband hires someone to kill her.

What I find most fascinating about these photos is Francois Truffaut's observation that "Hitchcock filmed scenes of love as if they were scenes of murder and scenes of murder as if they were scenes of love." Though fascinating, this is not exactly groundbreaking art... I observed the same thing at the Musee D'Orsay and wrote a poem about it, "An Hour with Madame Sabatier:" "How death can look like pleasure/on a woman..."

Film footage projected on the walls of the salon shows segments from her movies and her life. But my favorite aspect of the exhibit was the generous spattering of costumes and dresses placed around the rooms. This one is platinum colored satin with a matching shawl. She wore it to the Oscars in 1955 where she won Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama for her roll in The Country Girl. Of course, there's nothing country girl about the dress!

She wore another gorgeous dress on screen in a film I might have seen while channel surfing back in California--Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. I love to see the designers' sketches... what a production to dress such an icon!

At the far end of the salon is her royal wedding dress, silk, I think. I have no pictures of her in that lovely gown, but I love this pre-wedding photo of her with Louis Armstrong, taken more to show off her giant rock-of-a-ring than to prove her interest in jazz!

After seeing her invitations, seating plans, and photographs from the big event, you climb a few steps to a long corridor lined with some of the ball gowns she wore as Her Serene Highness, Princess of Monaco. I wonder if my mother and grandmother thought of Princess Grace as I did/do Princess Di... My grandma even shared her name, though she always used her middle name instead.

The couple were married twenty-six years before she died after a car crash due to a stroke. She was almost fifty-three. She lived a charmed life which ended tragically as do so many charmed lives... Reportedly, Princess Di was the only funeral attendee from the English Royal Palace.

Grace Kelly once said that her success came too easily for her to truly appreciate it. Isn't this the case for so many beauties? She has been remembered as a vixen dressed as an angel... at once expressive and repressed... but these easy juxtapositions are too typically feminine.

In any case, I think that her legacy is her passionate spirit outfitted in pure grace.

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