The Cannes film festival opens today with Grace of Monaco, a film that has generated far more controversy than is warranted by its subject matter. Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly, or the Princess of Monaco as Kelly is at this point in her life. The film focuses on a period of tension between France and Monaco which boiled down to tax collection – not the most exciting topic for a movie. However, the controversy surrounding the film all relates to players off the screen.
First of all, there has been on-going tensions between the director, Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) and the producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam on one side, and Harvey Weinstein, the US distributor on the other. Le Pogam told Le Parisien magazine: “We want to show a real crisis situation between Grace and her husband and he wants to tell a fairytale, give Americans a lesson on Monaco and Grace Kelly.”
Secondly, Grace Kelly’s children have strongly criticized the film, claiming several scenes are entirely made up. A statement released by the house of Grimaldi said: “The royal family wishes to stress that this film in no way constitutes a biopic. It recounts one rewritten and needlessly glamorised page in the history of Monaco and its family with both major historical inaccuracies and a series of purely fictional scenes.”
It was also during this time that Kelly made her final decision to retire from Hollywood. Her husband, Prince Rainier, allegedly put pressure on her to withdraw from acting, implying that it would be unseemly for one of the royal family to appear on film. Their royal wedding had been filmed and released in cinemas in a deal that freed Kelly from a seven-film contract, but Alfred Hitchcock had been trying to persuade her to start in his new film, Marnie. Ultimately, Tippi Hedren would get the role, and replace Kelly as Hitchcock’s muse.
Despite her short film career, Grace Kelly has continued to fascinate people. She was portrayed on film as the archetypal cool blonde, an image that was only solidified when she became the Princess of Monaco. However, legend has it that she was in fact far wilder than her public persona, and that she had affairs with Cary Grant, Clarke Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and many more of her co-stars and directors.
This wild side makes it even more surprising that Kelly would have enjoyed visiting Ireland so much in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Catholic Church reigned supreme and society was extremely conservative – particularly concerning ‘appropriate’ behaviour for women. Though perhaps Ireland allowed a certain degree of escape from the press that would not have been possible in Monaco or in the US.
Whichever Grace Kelly was the true Grace – the ice maiden or the fun-loving siren – the Irish were always proud that she was of Irish heritage, and that she cared enough about this heritage to visit our country on many occasions. Her untimely death in 1982 shocked the nation, but the nation’s affection for Grace has never wavered.
If you want to remind yourself of how often Princess Grave visited Ireland, why not visit our website: www.irishphotoarchive.ie.