There has been endless speculation about the dynamics within the marriage of screen goddess Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco, and now a new book by packaging designer Marc Rosen says the prince flat-out vetoed her desire to participate in a retail business. Less than a year later, she drove a car off a cliff.
In a hard-cover collection of anecdotes called Rubbing Shoulders: My Life with Popes, Princes, Moguls, and Movie Stars, Rosen writes that he met Grace through his then-fiancée, now-wife, Arlene Dahl, who had been a fellow movie star with her at MGM in the early 1950s. Here is his recollection of what happened:
“I came upon the idea of asking Princess Grace to collaborate with me on the creation of a porcelain collection based in Monaco. I had noticed there was nothing for a tourist to purchase as a memento there, other than a white china plate with badly drawn profiles of the prince and princess. I knew how to design and have annual porcelain collections produced, and this would be something I would take on myself.”
“When I approached Grace with the idea, she loved it, and was especially delighted because there was a porcelain factory in Monaco that could produce it,” Rosen continues. “She was bursting with ideas based upon the botanical and Japanese gardens she had helped create, their famous aquarium, and naturally her beautiful pink palace. We began working in earnest. She was a pleasure to work with and loved my sketches.”
“As we needed to put together the business aspect, I was told to contact a gentleman who was the head of the Société des Bains de Mer, which the prince headed and which controlled all the hotels, casinos, and clubs. We made a date to meet at the townhouse where the royal family lived when in Paris. Grace welcomed me graciously but nervously, and after introducing me to the executive, she left us alone.”
“It was awkward but became even more so when the executive confided that the prince was ‘not amused’ and, in fact, did not want the princess engaged in commercial projects. I tried to explain how this would promote tourism and create jobs, but it was to no avail. He was unpleasant and dismissive. l sadly realized the trade-off Grace Kelly had made to become a princess. I hoped it was worth it.”
Rosen’s account has the ring of truth. Biographers, including the widely respected Robert Lacey, have suggested Grace felt trapped in a gilded cage once she realized that at age 26 she had forsaken a blazing career in Hollywood for the role of a figurehead in a dot on the map. (And her father had paid a dowry of $ 2 million for the privilege of doing so.)
Remember, this was an actress who in 1954 alone starred in Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and The Country Girl, where her performance won the Academy Award for Best Actress (defeating the indelible Vicki Lester, I mean Judy Garland, in A Star Is Born.) She followed that up with To Catch a Thief. Six years into the marriage, Alfred Hitchcock, for whom Grace had already done three films, offered her the lead in Marnie. She wanted to play it, but the character was a kleptomaniac, and the Monegasque matrons rose in protest.
In 1977, Herbert Ross offered her a great role in The Turning Point, a ballet movie, but Rainier quashed the idea. Ironically, later that year, Grace narrated a documentary about ballet called The Children of Theater Street for producer Earle Mack. Other than that, her life consisted of raising three children, organizing the Red Cross Ball and hosting cocktail parties. Her frustration over the parameters imposed upon her was apparent. Rosen’s revelation of Princess Grace’s disappointment about the porcelain business, which would have given her an artistic outlet and whose profits would have benefited her foundation, adds a poignant footnote to history.
The book also has fleeting glimpses of other divas, monstres sacrés as it were, he encountered along the way:
Elaine Stritch: “A well-known fact among Elaine’s friends is how incredibly cheap she was. Born to a wealthy family and the widow of an industrialist, Elaine was very well off. She worked all the time and never entertained, to say the least,”writes Mr. Rosen.
“When I once asked Gerry Schoenfeld, the head of the Shubert Organization, if he was bringing the one-woman show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty” from the Public Theater to Broadway, he responded, ‘No. Elaine doesn’t leave any change on the table.’ When she died, she left an estate worth millions. In thirty years, she had never picked up a check at a restaurant.”
Miss Stritch lived in a small room at The Carlyle, provided gratis by the management in return for her annual appearance at the Cafe Carlyle. In lieu of tipping the hotel employees in cash, Stritch would schlep bags of leftover food from restaurants and parties and present them to the doormen, bellboys and chambermaids.
Carol Channing: Rosen was working with the Fendi sisters to launch their first fragrance at a splashy party in Los Angeles and invited the immortal Miss Channing. There was a tambola, sort of Italian bingo, to win a fabulous prize, a summer ermine coat from Fendi, and Carol’s number was drawn. The next morning at 7:00, Rosen’s phone rang:
“It’s Carol. wooon the coat laaast night.”
“Yes, I know. Congratulations.”
“Do you think I could exchange it for a white one? Pl—eez.”
Why is God punishing me, I thought, grasping for words. “I’m afraid not, Carol. It’s worth fifty grand.” Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth!
“I know, but I only wear white because of my complexion.” Carol wore the heavy, brownish pancake makeup she wore onstage offstage.
“Carol,” I groaned. “Try changing the color of your foundation!”
Barbara Stanwyk: Shirley Eder’s daily Hollywood gossip column for the Detroit Free Press was syndicated and powerful. Writes Rosen, “Shirley’s two best friends were Ginger Rogers and Barbara Stanwyk, who had the same birthday but no other similarities. Ginger was fun and feminine and a devout Christian Scientist; Stanwyk was smart and acerbic and tough as nails.”
Miss Eder, who Rosen says “became my second mother”, told him of the time she was having dinner at Chasen’s in L.A. with Stanwyk, when four tourists from Detroit burst into the restaurant, came over and interrupted their pleasant meal. They began ranting on and on about Miss Stanwyk and also Ginger Rogers.
“Shirley went mum, as she knew that Barbara hated Ginger. There was a pause, as Stanwyk, continuing to look down at her plate and cut her steak, said, ‘Yeah, Shirley’s friend Ginger Rogers, she doesn’t drink and she doesn’t smoke, but boy does she put out!”
Rubbing Shoulders is not a conventional memoir, it is a drive-by shooting—a smart and sassy compilation of insights into famous people we thought we knew. To mark its publication, private equity executive Randy Jones and wife Connie, famed for her peaches-n-cream complexion, invited tout le monde to their East Side aerie, whose ceilings soar 25 feet and whose gigantic windows are flooded with northern light. I know the space; I recall being there a few years ago for a black-tie dinner in honor of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and Sophie, who were gracious and alert, as royals tend to be. Most of them.
Representing Hollywood royalty was Miss Dahl, who recently turned 90 but appears decades younger—her epidermis is legendary. After five previous husbands (including Lex Barker, Fernando Lamas and Alexis Lichine), she has been married to Marc, 71, for 31 years: “Arlene was a cougar before the word became part of the vernacular,” writes Rosen in his book.
Leading the cutting-edge conversation were Pamela Fiori, the former editor of Town & Country, who gave Marc the title for his book and wrote the foreword; Deborah Norville; writers Jeanne Lawrence, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Charlie Scheips and Christopher Mason; veteran Hearst publisher Tony Hoyt; computer guru Peter Bacanovic; publicist Jon Marder; Gale Hayman; Susan Gutfreund; Simone Levitt; Sharon Bush; Jennifer Ruys; singer Anna Bergman; Arlene’s daughter Carole Holmes Delouvrier; and Randy and Connie’s son, history professor Cole Jones with his bride Kathryn, who subtly photographed the reception.
All the guests rubbing shoulders were strictly top drawer, and all were Keeping Up With The Joneses.