Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Young Mr Grace writes…

I know I am a bit late on this — 50 years too late, you might argue — but what’s with the sudden ubiquity of Grace Kelly? The late Princess is, once again, everywhere about the place. She stares out …

Wed, Apr 21, 2010, 19:41

   

I know I am a bit late on this — 50 years too late, you might argue — but what’s with the sudden ubiquity of Grace Kelly? The late Princess is, once again, everywhere about the place. She stares out of Vanity Fair and, if you happen to be stranded in bleeding London for four days, you will find it hard to avoid posters advertising an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum dedicated to the blond one’s “style”. Speaking as somebody who dresses like a colour-blind geography teacher, I am in no position to comment on the deliciousness (or otherwise) of Gracie’s frocks, hats and handbags, but I never quite got her as an icon of chic.

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A rare photo of Clarke and Kelly.

I think, however, I am able to diagnose my problem. If you are my age — the same age as Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, since you ask — then your mother will have been of a similar generation to Kelly’s. If that mother also happens to have been middle-class then she will surely have dressed — or tried to dress — very like the sleek, haughty Irish-American. In other words, the Kelly style seems like everything one rebelled against as a youth. (Obviously, being a chap, I was never likely to wear the same dresses and stockings, but I’m sure you get my point.)

This argument is not entirely water-tight, of course. Audrey Hepburn was born the very same year as Kelly, but, though we now worry about her dangerous slimness, no sane person from the Depp-Clarke-Pitt generation could dispute that she radiated a unique and durable class of chic. Yet, for some reason, when I look at Grace Kelly, I still think of  ladies preparing for a serious game of bridge at the golf club. If you do know about fashion, please tell me why I am being an idiot.

As for Kelly’s films, they were a mixed bunch. She was excellent in two middle-ranking Hitchcock flicks — Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief — and incandescent in Rear Window, one of his very best. I wouldn’t say she’s the first thing you remember about High Noon, but, though no singer, she is very good fun in High Society. She also mattered, if you care about such things, as an important icon of Irish-America. Isn’t she one of those faces that look down at you when you’re waiting in the American departure lounge at Dublin Airport? Maybe, we should name a bridge after her.

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