I just finished reading the Grace Kelly biography, True Grace by Wendy Leigh, and find myself wholly disappointed. I can’t remember what led me to Grace Kelly. It might be the “royal” hoopla that has been happening over the past year, and it’s not coincidental that I read True Grace, after reading Marilyn Monroe’s autobiography, My Story.
Anyway, what stuck out the most about both women, was their contrasting images and how they all turned out to mean nothing in the end. Monroe was the sexpot and over-the-top sex symbol, whose ex-husband, Arthur Miller, described her as the “merry whore,” while Grace was the pure and proper princess. Yet, reading Grace’s biography, it turns out that Grace and Marilyn had more in common than their iconic images. They were not that different when it came to their sexual lives; although, you’d never guess it. It turned out, Grace was just as sexually promiscuous as Marilyn, and in many cases, Grace’s dalliances were even worse, since she had a penchant for sleeping with married men, twice her age, and usually on the first date. Monroe, at least, tried to avoid married men, and bedding men on the first date.
Kelly, according to Zsa Zsa Gabor, who had issues with both Kelly and Monroe, “slept with everybody,” a sentiment echoed by Kelly’s mentor, Alfred Hitchcock in his late life. Grace had a habit of going into the bathroom and coming out naked, usually on the first date. The late actor, Tony Curtis, described Grace as a “Horny Philadelphia girl.” Grace slept with all her leading men, except for Jimmy Stewart, who refused her offer.
Many of Kelly’s die-hard fans do not take too kindly to this new light on Kelly’s promiscuity,or rather, would prefer not to hear it, for the simple fact that it contrasts her reputation of the frigid, pure, virginal princess, that which they (myself included) fell in love with. How can someone whose images suggests class, grace, beauty and dignity behave in the manner Kelly did? (Many biographers and sympathizers blame it on Kelly’s obsession with pleasing her father.)
I can say, at least in Monroe’s case, her image matched her lifestyle. Kelly’s case seems almost hypocritical, if not manipulative, as if she misled you; although, to be fair, Kelly, at least in later life, disputed that she was cold and pure, and took issues with the media’s portrayal of her as an ice princess.
On the other hand, feminists, of the sex-happy variety anyway, have embraced Kelly, essentially because she serves as evidence of a “traditional” empowered woman in control of her sexuality in an era when being so was a professional death-sentence. Yet, I can’t help but feel let down.
Every time I listen to women today talk about the “grace” and “class” of Kelly, I think of all the married older men she’d slept with. I wonder how many of these fans ignore the reality of Kelly’s existence, simply because it spoils Kelly’s fairytale image. Then I realize, Kelly, like Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe, are not iconic because of the way they lived their lives, but rather because of the image they projected to the world: glamor, beauty, and in the cases of Kelly and Diana, princess-status.
Kelly’s perfect, prim and proper ice princess image is just a facade or mirage of something that wasn’t really there. She was too perfect to be real, and so it really was, she was not her image. Yet, it’s her image that endures through time.
Maybe I shouldn’t have read any Grace Kelly biographies and just focused on her image?
Read More: Grace Kelly: Madonna or Whore
Vanity Fair Profile
Grace Kelly Exposed
True Grace available here.