The Grace Kelly Collection (DVD)

[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B00JF81XBS”]Though her career only spanned six years and eleven films, Grace Kelly is considered one of the most iconic, fashionable stars in cinematic history. Just shy of what would have been Grace Kelly’s 85th birthday, Warner Brothers has released The Grace Kelly Collection, a DVD compilation of six of her most notable and memorable films: High Society, Dial M for Murder, The Country Girl, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, To Catch a Thief, and Mogambo. Two obvious omissions are High Noon and Rear Window, but given that they are owned by other studios, rights would appear to be an issue.

Released in 1953, Mogambo made Grace Kelly a star. It had all happened quite by accident; Grace took the role only after Gene Tierney was forced to bow out due to ill health. Directed by the legendary John Ford, the film is a remake of 1932’s Red Dust. Victor Marswell (Clark Gable, who also starred in Red Dust), owns a big game company in Africa. Eloise Y. “Honey Bear” Kelly (Ava Gardner) arrives via riverboat expecting to meet a rich acquaintance, only to find she’s been dumped. Despite constant sparring between Eloise and Victor, it’s quickly apparently there’s an attraction between the two. The boat returns, delivering Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his wife Linda (Grace Kelly), who want to go on safari to film gorillas. Linda, no longer attracted to her husband, takes an immediate liking to Victor, putting him at the center of a love triangle.

Based on the James A. Michener novel of the same name, The Bridges at Toko-Ri is, for the time, a surprisingly effective look at the psychological effects of the Korean War. The always dependable William Holden stars as Lt. Harry Brubaker, a family man called back to active duty as a bomber pilot. Feeling he did enough for his country during World War II, he resents that the war’s interference on his life with his wife Nancy (Kelly) and their two young children. Nonetheless, Brubaker is a dedicated military man; following the orders of Rear Adm. George Tarrant (Fredric March), Harry steadfastly does his job, spending long hours aboard a battleship. All of this leads to a stunning bombing of the five bridges of Toko-Ri, which span a strategic pass in Korea’s interior. Earl Holliman and Mickey Rooney co-star in the film directed by Mark Robson from a screenplay by Valentine Davies. The film won the Oscar for Best Special Effects and was nominated for Best Film Editing.

Alfred Hitchcock would cast Grace in three pictures over two years—Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief. Each one a box office hit, Kelly appearing to be a prim, proper woman, only to slowly reveal a much stronger, formidable woman underneath. In Dial M for Murder, former tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) decides to murder his wife Margot (Kelly) after learning she had an affair. To provide himself with an ironclad alibi, Tony decides to blackmail a former school mate (Anthony Dawson) with a shady past into committing the murder for him. However, Margot successfully defends herself, killing Tony’s school mate in the process. As a result of her husband’s maneuverings, Margot finds herself in prison facing the gallows. It’s up to her lover, and sympathetic law enforcement to uncover Margot’s husband’s involvement.

I won’t say much about To Catch a Thief because I’ve reviewed it more than once on this site. Suffice to say, Grace Kelly and Cary Grant crackle with chemistry, and the French Rivera makes for a beautiful background for the two beautiful people to gallivant about. You can read a full review here, and it’s interesting to note, years after completing To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant would call Grace Kelly, “The finest actress I ever worked with—forgive me, Ingrid, Kate, Audrey and all the others.” High praise, indeed.

While Alfred Hitchcock always made Grace Kelly look stunning, it was in the less glamorous, darker The Country Girl that she gave the performance that won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Directed by George Seaton and based on the play by Clifford Odets, Kelly is cast as the rather dowdy wife of Bing Crosby, an alcoholic entertainer. Looking nothing like the epitome of glamour she was, Kelly showed she was truly a talented actress, playing a complex woman. The viewer is never quite sure if her character is a passive aggressive villain or a martyr.

Having filmed To Catch a Thief in Monte Carlo, 1955, Grace Kelly fell in love with the area. Later that year, she returned to Europe to represent the U.S. at Cannes, and met 32-year-old Prince Rainier of Monaco. By the time Grace made her last film, High Society, she was sporting a 10.5-carat engagement ring. The film co-starring Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Celeste Holm and Louis Armstrong is a musical comedy featuring several well known songs by Cole Porter. The rather simple plot revolves around socialite Tracy Lord (Kelly), about to marry a second time when first husband C.K. Dexter-Haven (Crosby) shows up for the pre-wedding festivities. Spy magazine reporter Mike Connor (Sinatra) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Holm) are there to cover the wedding, as Tracy finds herself between her fiancé, Dexter-Haven, and Connor. While Tracy ultimately must make a choice between these three very dissimilar men, in the end, true love wins out.

When High Society finished filming, Grace Kelly returned Europe for the wedding. MGM paid for the glamorous wedding dress, comprised of 25 yards of silk taffeta, 100 yards of silk net, and thousands of pearls. With that, Grace Kelly ended her film career and began her reign as Princess Grace, Her Serene Highness.

In her last interview, conducted just before her death in 1982 (and included on this DVD set), Princess Grace says of her film career: “I was very lucky in my career and I loved it but I don’t think I was accomplished enough as an actress to be remembered.” In June 1999, the American Film Institute ranked her number 13 in its list of top female stars of American cinema and her films continue to be appreciated by fans, young and old.

A seventh disc contains Kelly’s last televised interview in the documentary, “Princess Grace de Monaco: A Moment in Time.” Other extras include art cards and previously released featurettes on three of the films.

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