PHILADELPHIA — The world thinks of Grace Kelly as a fashion icon, movie star, princess, wife and mother, but in Philadelphia she’s first and foremost remembered as a hometown girl who never forgot her roots.
So it seems fitting that an exhibit on Kelly’s upbringing, Hollywood career and storybook ascent to royalty will make its only U.S. stop in the area where she spent her early years, organizers said at a news conference unveiling details of “Grace Kelly: Beyond the Icon” at an event Thursday that was held, aptly, in the Hotel Monaco in downtown Philadelphia.
“She never lost touch with her family and the Philadelphians that she grew up with,” said Kelly’s nephew Christopher Le Vine, who recalled his aunt packing up some Philadelphia scrapple — a love-it-or-hate-it loaf of pork scraps and cornmeal — to bring back to Monaco so the palace chef could re-create the humble dish.
“She was going to tell him that it was a certain special pate from Philadelphia … for petit dejeuner (breakfast),” Le Vine told the laughing crowd. “She had her Philadelphia roots with her wherever she went.”
The exhibit opens Oct. 28 at the Michener Art Museum in suburban Doylestown, not far from where Kelly made her professional stage debut at the Bucks County Playhouse in 1949. On view will be personal photos, love letters from her husband Prince Rainier of Monaco, her 1954 best actress Academy Award for “The Country Girl,” film clips and home movies, as well as iconic fashions from gowns and the Yves Saint Laurent “Mondrian” dress to the Hermes “Kelly” bag she made famous.
Monaco’s ruling sovereign, Prince Albert II, said in video-recorded remarks his mother “was indeed a talented woman who became an international fashion icon but that is just the surface of her life.”
“Those of us who were fortunate enough to know my mother, her family and friends, knew her to be a genuine, warm and loving woman — a woman who always put her family first,” he said. “I hope that through experiencing this exhibition you will be able to get a glimpse of the real Grace Kelly, the woman behind the icon, my mother.”
Monegasques appreciate their late princess, who died in 1982 in a car crash in Monaco, less as a screen legend and more as a humanitarian and philanthropist responsible for making Monaco a vibrant arts center and protecting the rights of vulnerable children, said Maguy Maccario Doyle, consul general of Monaco in New York.
“There are many places in Monaco that today remind us of her presence,” she said.
“Her memory endures, and certainly the principality of Monaco will forever bear the imprint of her presence and the heartache of her absence.”