Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Grace Kelly remains an icon, although she died almost thirty years ago.  The citizens of Monaco revere her for dedicating herself to their small country.  Film buffs remember the Oscar-winning actress, and some people still recall the fairy-tale wedding of the American film star and the European prince.

Taraborrelli portrays Grace Kelly’s growing up in Philadelphia as a millionaire’s daughter whose role in the family was that of the least successful child—fragile, nearsighted, and expected to have an uneventful future.  Even when Grace won the Oscar, her father said, “Anything that Grace could do, Peggy (Grace’s sister) could always do better.  I simply can’t believe Grace won.“   Grace studied acting mainly because the family was so enthralled with her brother’s athletic exploits that no one remembered that it was time for Grace to apply for college, making her too late to carry out her first plans.

Although her persona was that of a ladylike, dignified actress, she had a number of romances, including some with married men, which would have shocked the 1950s world if they had been publicized.

And then, while in Europe for the Cannes film festival, Grace agreed to visit Monaco for a photo shoot with the prince.  When the time arrived, she regretted her decision.  In addition, a power outage forced her to leave for Monaco with wet hair (no electricity for the hair dryer), wearing her only dress that didn’t need ironing, even though she hated it.  And, on arrival, she learned that the prince would be late.  Nevertheless, when Rainier arrived, he and she reacted favorably to one another.  In his search for a bride (Monaco would revert to French rule if Rainier did not produce an heir), he placed Grace at the top of the list, and eventually Grace became Monaco’s princess.  She wasn’t very happy there – she hated the sunny climate, missed her American friends, and found it hard to relate to the people of Monaco, especially since her French wasn’t very good.  She very much wanted to return to acting, an idea that was not popular with Rainier or with the people of Monaco.

Once Upon A Time tells how Grace made her role as princess and her marriage work, winning the devotion of a prince and his people, despite her struggles with her rebellious daughters, and how, as a still-lovely middle-aged woman, she met her death in a terrible car accident.  Taraborrelli shows us real people facing real problems and keeps the reader fascinated from beginning to end.

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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