Grace Kelly was an American actress and fashion icon renowned for her flawless beauty and stylish elegance. She is still recognized today as one of the most beautiful women in the world.
Born on November 12, 1929 in Philadelphia, Kelly expressed a deep love of performing at a young age. In addition to participating in school plays and community productions, she occasionally modeled with her mother and sister. As soon as she graduated high school in 1947, she moved to New York City to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. However, while perfecting her acting craft, she continued to work as a fashion model and appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan and other magazines.
Before her Hollywood career began, television producer Delbert Mann noticed Grace and cast her in a live TV production adapted from a Sinclair Lewis novel. She was a great success and went on to appear in almost 60 live TV programs.
Grace’s television success brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers. Her first movie role was in 1951 in Fourteen Hours, but her first major movie role came the following year in High Noon with Gary Cooper. Following the success of High Noon, MGM gave Grace a seven-year contract.
Grace’s cool blonde looks appealed to director Alfred Hitchcock and in 1954 she appeared in two of his movies, Dial M for Murder with Ray Milland and Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart. The same year, she also appeared in The Bridges at Toko-Ri with William Holden. In 1955, she appeared in her third film for Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant, followed by The Country Girl with Bing Crosby. It was for The Country Girl that Grace won an Oscar as Best Actress.
Grace only acted in eleven movies in five years, the last one being High Society, a musical remake of The Philadelphia Story, with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. She earned a gold record for her duet with Crosby singing True Love and that same year was voted the Golden Globe’s Favorite World Film Actress. By this time, she was one of the highest-paid and most respected actresses in the world.
But Grace’s love life was another story entirely. Grace was romantically linked to all her leading men except the happily married Jimmy Stewart. She reportedly was involved with, among others, Gary Cooper, John Kennedy, Bing Crosby, Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, The Shah of Iran, and fashion designer Oleg Cassini whom she had come close to marrying. Her taste horrified her father, Jack, an Irish-American bricklayer turned millionaire builder. By the time Grace met her future husband, it may have required nothing less than a prince to equal Kelly’s celebrity.
While in Monaco in 1955 for the Cannes Film Festival, Grace met Prince Rainier III of Monaco during a photo shoot. Catholic, unmarried and fertile, Grace appeared to be the perfect bride for Rainier to ensure he would not have to cede to France if they married and produced children. Fortunately, Rainier was smitten with Grace. Upon her return to America, they began corresponding and Rainier traveled to America in December to propose to her. The unreal world of a Hollywood actress was about to join with the equally unreal world of European Royalty.
The press depicted their courtship and wedding as a fairytale romance. Grace abandoned her acting career after their marriage on April 19, 1956 and became Princess Consort of Monaco. She was also required to give up her American citizenship and Prince Rainier banned her films in Monaco feeling that the Monegasque people would not want to see their Princess portrayed that way. The marriage produced three children: Princess Caroline, Prince Albert, and Princess Stéphanie.
Sadly, tragedy struck on September 13, 1982, when Princess Grace and her younger daughter, Stéphanie, were driving along the steep cliffs of the Côte d’Azur region of southern France when the car went out of control and plunged down a 45-foot embankment. The issue of who was driving the car that fatal day is still controversial. The common belief is that Grace was driving and suffered a stroke, but, perhaps because Princess Stéphanie survived with minor injuries, there was a great deal of conjecture and accusations that Stéphanie was driving and was under the influence of alcohol. The mystery remains unsolved. Princess Grace passed away the next day at the age of 52 without ever regaining consciousness.
Almost 100 million people around the world watched Princess Grace’s funeral on television. Prince Rainier did not remarry after her death, and following his own death in 2005 was buried beside her in the royal family vault.
Eartha Kitt was an international star who gave new meaning to the word versatile. She distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music, and on television. With the ability to speak in four languages and sing in seven, she was known for her highly distinctive singing style and her hits C’est Si Bon and Santa Baby. Perhaps, though, she is most often remembered for her role of Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series. She was also an activist for numerous social causes in the 1950s and 1960s.
Born on January 17, 1927 in South Carolina, Eartha was of mixed race and never knew the identity of her white father. It was conjectured that Eartha was the product of a rape by the son of the plantation, but it was never proven. When her mother’s lover refused to accept Eartha because of her light skin, she was sent to live with a relative, an aunt who turned out to be abusive. Kitt was only eight years old when her mother died and she was sent to live with an aunt in Harlem. In New York, her distinct individuality and flair for show business manifested itself.
On a dare from a friend, the teenage Kitt auditioned for the first black modern dance company, the famed “Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe.” She toured worldwide with the company as a featured dancer and vocalist until she decided to go solo. She became popular in Paris as a nightclub singer, then returned to the U.S. to appear in films and on Broadway. Broadway stardom led to a recording contract and a succession of best-selling records, as well as performances in over 100 countries.
Known for being blunt, Eartha’s career suffered a significant setback in 1968 after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. When Kitt was asked by the First Lady about the Vietnam War. She replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” Later, during a question and answer session, Kitt stated:
“The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don’t have what we have on Sunset Boulevard for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons—and I know what it’s like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson—we raise children and send them to war.”
Her statements put Kitt in the middle of a media firestorm. The public’s reaction, both pro and con, to her statements was extreme, resulting in her being publicly ostracized in the U.S. Kitt then turned her energies to performing in Europe and Asia, where her star status was undiminished.
Eartha finally returned to the United States in 1974 with a triumphant Carnegie Hall concert. Live theater, however, was her passion and she remained devoted to performing in front of live audiences, from intimate cabarets to concert halls with local symphonies. She starred in national tours of The Wizard Of Oz and Rogers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and dazzled Broadway audiences.
Over the years of her career, Miss Kitt garnered numerous Tony, Grammy and Emmy nominations, but the only rewards she ever won were for her voice work in animated films. She won an Annie in 2001 for The Emperor’s New Groove, two Annies and two Daytime Emmys (2007 and 2008) for The Emperor’s New School. In 2010 she was posthumously awarded a Daytime Emmy for her voice work in Wonder Pets.
Throughout her life, Eartha had a tremendous work ethic. She kept up a busy work schedule well into her 70s. For many years, she performed her cabaret act at New York’s Cafe Carlyle, continuing to wow audiences as she had many decades before when she was the toast of Paris. With her voice, charm and sex appeal, Kitt knew how to win over a crowd.
Eartha Kitt died on December 25, 2008 after a two-year battle with colon cancer.