Grace Kelly, a daughter of Philadelphia, will be the subject of an exhibition at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown this fall.

 

The actress who lived up to her name on screen and as the Princess of Monaco grew up in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia.

"She was seen as very different from the typical star of the time, who was showy and very publicity-hungry," said Kristina Haughland, associate curator of costmes and textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the author of 'Grace Kelly Style.' "She was reserved. She was the epitome of the classic, all-American college girl look, but she had such good grooming and such a way of wearing clothes well that she was seen to make good taste glamorous."

Select pieces of her life - including jewelry, dresses, letters, and home movies - have been assembled into a traveling exhibition by the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. It is now on display in Montreal. On October 28th it opens at the Michener, a museum best known for its deep collection of works by Bucks County artists, particularly landscape paintings and furniture.

Museum director Lisa Tremper Hanover says the Michener landed the show because - like Kelly herself - it is modest and lean.

"We have the kind of infrastructure that is streamlined," Hanover said of the 25 year-old museum. "That is what's needed for this exhibition. Not a whole lot of layers of bureaucracy. We were able to efficiently working with the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco and Montreal."

The wedding of Grace Kelly and the Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956 was one of the most memorable of the 20th century. Afterward, she immediately donated her bridal dress, designed by Helen Rose of MGM Studios, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The crowd-pleasing artifact was on permanent display for years.

Haughland said that dress is now too fragile to go on display in Doylestown, but the Philadelphia Art Museum has loaned several other items to the Michener for the exhibition.

Grace Kelly is the daughter of Olympic rower and contractor Jack Kelly who is memorialized by a statue along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia, and the sister of John Kelly, Jr., another Olympian who later served on Philadelphia's City Council.

Grace's acting career started early and ended early. She began on the stage of the Old Academy Players in East Falls at age 11, pursuing it professionally in New York City at 20. At 23 she starred in movies, at 24 won an Oscar, and ended it all at 26 when she became Princess of Monaco, a role she served admirably (creating the Princess Grace Foundation for artists) until her death in a car accident at 52.

Her nephew, Christopher Le Vine, owner of Grace Winery in Glen Mills, Pa., remembers when his aunt came back for a visit:

"When she was here I remember we went to the grocery store and she wanted to make sure she had some Philadelphia scrapple. She was going to pack it into her suitcase and take it back to Monaco. She said she wanted to give the palace chef and understanding of it, so she was going to tell him it's a special kind of pate from Philadelphia, seared for le petit dejeuner."

"From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly, Beyond the Icon," opens October 28th. Concurrently, the Michener Art Museum will stage an exhibition at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa., where Kelly performed several times.