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High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly Hardcover – November 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noted film biographer Spoto (Spellbound by Beauty) gives readers a previously unseen glimpse into the life of Grace Kelly (1929–1982), who went from Academy Award–winning actress to princess of Monaco. Drawing on hours of personal interviews with Kelly as well as with her numerous co-stars including Cary Grant and James Stewart, Spoto traces the star's life from her childhood in a wealthy Philadelphia neighborhood through her brief but noteworthy career in Hollywood to her years as the wife of Monaco's Prince Rainer. Kelly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, where she developed a love of theater, nurtured by her uncle, the actor and playwright George Kelly. Though she spent less than seven years in Hollywood, Kelly became an icon of the era. Spoto, as an expert in the films of Alfred Hitchcock and one of the late director's few confidantes, spends considerable time revisiting the trio of films Kelly made with the master of suspense: Dial M for Murder (1953), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). Though she admitted to missing acting, Kelly settled into her life as a royal, raising three children until her death in a car crash. Cinephiles will love Spoto's insider look at Hollywood in the 1950s, and even those unfamiliar with Kelly's films will be drawn to the author's warm and generous portrayal of a woman who was more than a pretty face. (Nov.)
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Review

“She was a great lady, and also great fun.”
—Ava Gardner

“She was anything but cold. Everything about Grace was appealing. She had those big warm eyes, and if you ever played a love scene with her, you knew she wasn’t cold.”
—James Stewart

“In two senses, she didn’t have a bad side–you could film her from any angle, and she was one of the most untemperamental, cooperative people in the business.”
—Cary Grant

“The subtlety of Grace’s sexuality–her elegant sexiness–appealed to me. . . . With Grace, you had to find it out–you had to discover it.”
—Alfred Hitchcock

“You couldn’t work with Grace Kelly without falling a little in love with her.”
—Fred Coe

“I thought she was the most gorgeous creature I ever met. . . . She was so entirely unaffected, completely without vanity.”
—Rita Gam

“She was a delight to have in the company–a rare kind of young person who had a hunger to learn and to improve herself.”
—Raymond Massey

“I saw the utter perfection of her nose . . . the long, elegant neck . . . the silky, diaphanous blond hair. . . . A very aristocratic-looking girl . . . not the sort you simply called for a date.”
—Oleg Cassini

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; First Edition edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395610
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Hopp VINE VOICE on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Donald Spoto's first book when it came out in 1976, to which Princess Grace generously contributed a foreword, and I have read many of his books since. I'll have to say, as someone who has also read a number of other biographical books about Grace Kelly, this one does seem like something of a labor of love (being very restrained in its speculations), which is not all that bad, I suppose, considering that some of those other books probably adopt too lurid a view of Grace Kelly's Hollywood romances. If some of the omissions are surprising (no mention of Mark Miller, of Grace turned off by Gable's false teeth, of William Holden's trip to Philadelphia to meet the Kelly family and their cold treatment of him, of Grace's quite commendable candor to Gwen Robyns about her love affairs), Mr. Spoto has other things to contribute from his many interviews with Princess Grace and others (like Hitchcock) who knew her. His analytical comments on her films are also excellent (especially on HIGH NOON). He quotes Hitchcock on the essential "anti-cinematic" nature of 3D movies (which was how DIAL M FOR MURDER was filmed) and is consistently interesting on the background topics of the mores and customs of the Fifties. His view about the canceled plans for Grace to do MARNIE are contrary to those of others, but he makes his case convincing (I would say). Mr. Spoto's book is not in the least bit gossipy, and it's smart and enjoyably written (though the word "inchoate" turns up at least three or four times, annoyingly starting to seem like a word admiring itself in the mirror).
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Wallaby on February 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm very glad I read this for free from the library. There is nothing about Grace Kelly here that we didnt' already know from the newspaper articles from her death. I would be surprised if Mr. Spoto interviewed anyone who knew the Princess.
I did not need to know every boring detail about the plots and filming of her movies. The woman was royalty, but you would never know from this book if she participated in any palace activities or even met other royalty. Did she meet Princess Diana? Prince Charles? Mountbatten? You won't hear about any other royalty in this book. I was interested in her life, her cares, children, aspirations and relationships. Don't look for any of that here, you will not find it. This is only the very superficial information.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Jenkins on November 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Celebrity biographies are one of my favorite junk foods. Genre writing often means bad prose or poor research, and celebrity bios are often the worst offenders. Donald Spoto usually has been an exception, with meticulous research and well reasoned debunking of the kind of scandal that often sells the lesser of these books. Unfortunately, "High Society" appears to be a "clip job" and an instance of Spoto being a little too close to his subject. The book seems to draw a lot on leftovers from Spoto's past research on Alfred Hitchcock and his films. Spoto admits to a great deal of closeness with Kelly and he seems over eager to give her life and talent too many benefits of the doubt. Kelly's reign as princess gets a relatively short shrift. OTOH, the book does a good job of debunking myths about Kelly and her family, who were comfortable lace curtain Irish, rather than up from the bootstraps laborers and provides depth regarding her career and her lack of love for Hollywood, as well as her usually under appreciated stage work. The book plausibly (most of the time) debunks a number of Kelly's purported affairs without assuming that she had been virginal before marrying Prince Ranier. Spoto highlights Kelly's place in the realm of "cool blonds", although he is too Hitchcock-centric in his consideration of this now forgotten kind of mid-century elegance and sophistication (in contrast to "dumb blonds" like those played by Marilyn Monroe and imitators like Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren), that Kelly helped Americanize. The "cool blonds" later included television performers like Inger Stevens (who was Clairol's pitch woman for blond hair coloring) and the persona brushed off on Doris Day's later still-virginal roles and the later years of Donna Reed's television character.Read more ›
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Phil Perry on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
According to this book Princess Grace was the virgin Queen of Hollywood!
No sex with Gary Cooper, no Clark Gable and most unbelievable no Bing Crosby!!! I think Mr. Spoto is a little too close to his subject and wants to defend her reputation! Nothing about any affairs after her marriage to Prince Rainer. The best bits in the book are the parts that deal with Hollywood and her film career (her life in Monaco only rates 40 pages!)If only he could have been more objective about her love life this book would have been great! It takes nothing away from Princess Grace that she enjoyed her time in Hollywood to the fullest!!!
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Donald Spoto's new biography of Grace Kelly is a well-written account of Kelly's life, with a special emphasis on her acting career. He bookends his solid accounts of her films, Broadway, and television work with info about her private life. I think most readers of Spoto's book will have already read other biographies of her entire life and so not mind the emphasis on her career.

Spoto's a good writer. He had a long-term friendship with Kelly and she talked to him over the years about her life and career, asking only that he wait twenty-five years to publish what she told him. The book seems restrained about her private life - particularly because other biographers have written about her supposedly voracious propensity to have affairs with her leading men. Spoto writes that most of the speculation about her sex life is just that - speculation - and was not true in most cases.

Spoto's obvious regard for his subject does not extend to fawning over her. Because he was concentrating on her career, I think it was easy for him to avoid making conjectures about her private life. I read the book in one sitting - it's not long - and came away with a very good appreciation of her career.
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