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High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly [Hardcover]

Donald Spoto
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 3 2009
Drawing on his unprecedented access to Grace Kelly, bestselling biographer Donald Spoto at last offers an intimate, honest, and authoritative portrait of one of Hollywood’s legendary actresses.


In just seven years–from 1950 through 1956–Grace Kelly embarked on a whirlwind career that included roles in eleven movies. From the principled Amy Fowler Kane in High Noon to the thrill-seeking Frances Stevens of To Catch a Thief, Grace established herself as one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses and iconic beauties. Her astonishing career lasted until her retirement at age twenty-six, when she withdrew from stage and screen to marry a European monarch and became a modern, working princess and mother.

Based on never-before-published or quoted interviews with Grace and those conducted over many years with her friends and colleagues–from costars James Stewart and Cary Grant to director Alfred Hitchcock–as well as many documents disclosed by her children for the first time, acclaimed biographer Donald Spoto explores the transformation of a convent schoolgirl to New York model, successful television actress, Oscar-winning movie star, and beloved royal.

As the princess requested, Spoto waited twenty-five years after her death to write this biography. Now, with honesty and insight, High Society reveals the truth of Grace Kelly’s personal life, the men she loved, the men she didn’t, and what lay behind the façade of her fairy-tale life.

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Review

“She was a great lady, and also great fun.”
—Ava Gardner

“She was anything but cold. Everything about Grace was appealing. She had those big warm eyes, and if you ever played a love scene with her, you knew she wasn’t cold.”
—James Stewart

“In two senses, she didn’t have a bad side–you could film her from any angle, and she was one of the most untemperamental, cooperative people in the business.”
—Cary Grant

“The subtlety of Grace’s sexuality–her elegant sexiness–appealed to me. . . . With Grace, you had to find it out–you had to discover it.”
—Alfred Hitchcock

“You couldn’t work with Grace Kelly without falling a little in love with her.”
—Fred Coe

“I thought she was the most gorgeous creature I ever met. . . . She was so entirely unaffected, completely without vanity.”
—Rita Gam

“She was a delight to have in the company–a rare kind of young person who had a hunger to learn and to improve herself.”
—Raymond Massey

“I saw the utter perfection of her nose . . . the long, elegant neck . . . the silky, diaphanous blond hair. . . . A very aristocratic-looking girl . . . not the sort you simply called for a date.”
—Oleg Cassini

About the Author

DONALD SPOTO is the author of twenty-five books, including bestselling biographies of Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, and Audrey Hepburn. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Fordham University. Spoto is married to the Danish school administrator Ole Flemming Larsen; they live in a quiet village, an hour’s drive from Copenhagen.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mostly about her movies. May 4 2010
By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Donald Spoto's new biography of Grace Kelly is a well-written account of Kelly's life, with a special emphasis on her acting career. He bookends his solid accounts of her films, Broadway, and television work with info about her private life. I think most readers of Spoto's book will have already read other biographies of her entire life and so not mind the emphasis on her career.

Spoto's a good writer. He had a long-term friendship with Kelly and she talked to him over the years about her life and career, asking only that he wait twenty-five years to publish what she told him. The book seems restrained about her private life - particularly because other biographers have written about her supposedly voracious propensity to have affairs with her leading men. Spoto writes that most of the speculation about her sex life is just that - speculation - and was not true in most cases.

Spoto's obvious regard for his subject does not extend to fawning over her. Because he was concentrating on her career, I think it was easy for him to avoid making conjectures about her private life. I read the book in one sitting - it's not long - and came away with a very good appreciation of her career.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another nice book from Spoto Nov. 14 2010
By Dadant
Format:Paperback
I have also read Donald Spoto's biographies on Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn and this book did not disappoint. The book details the Kelly's story with lots of information for the reading with only a light knowledge of the Kelly. High Society is well written and definitely another keeper from Spoto. I couldn't put the book down.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Read Dec 30 2009
Format:Hardcover
This biography claims to provide details which Princess Grace wanted the author (a personal friend)to keep secret until 25 years after her death. It is almost as discreet as the public persona she herself presented during her lifetime. Spoto does portray her as a flesh and blood human being: her desire to please her anti-intellectual macho jock father, her affairs during her time in the U.S., her wish to have a husband and children rather than a career in theatre and film, the periods of unhappiness she experienced in her marriage. For anyone who's read other biographies of Grace Kelly Grimaldi, there's very little here that's new or revelatory about her life, and certainly nothing shocking to anyone who has grown up in the moral climate of the last 50 years. That she lead a scandal-free life (by today's standards and compared to her childrens' antics) that was at once unusual (her acting career and marriage to a member of a minor European royal family) and rather conventional for a woman (giving everything up for a marriage and a family, being disappointed that her marriage was not all she hoped it would be) of her time is probably a relief to her admirers. The details of her life in Monaco not connected to her acting career (i.e. her decision not to return to Hollywood to star in Marnie for Alfred Hitchcock and a never-to-be-seen movie made in the last years of her life) are sparse. Is this perhaps a deliberate attempt on the author's part to show that the princess' sedate and duty-bound life in Monaco made her yearn at times for the life she might have had had "Grace Kelly" remained in Hollywood and New York? And is that revelation really so surprising? If you haven't read anything else about the princess, then it is a quick way of getting up to speed on the details of her life in Philadelphia, New York and Hollywood. Otherwise, it might prove to be a rather disappointing read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh View of Grace Kelly Nov. 9 2009
By Glenn Hopp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read Donald Spoto's first book when it came out in 1976, to which Princess Grace generously contributed a foreword, and I have read many of his books since. I'll have to say, as someone who has also read a number of other biographical books about Grace Kelly, this one does seem like something of a labor of love (being very restrained in its speculations), which is not all that bad, I suppose, considering that some of those other books probably adopt too lurid a view of Grace Kelly's Hollywood romances. If some of the omissions are surprising (no mention of Mark Miller, of Grace turned off by Gable's false teeth, of William Holden's trip to Philadelphia to meet the Kelly family and their cold treatment of him, of Grace's quite commendable candor to Gwen Robyns about her love affairs), Mr. Spoto has other things to contribute from his many interviews with Princess Grace and others (like Hitchcock) who knew her. His analytical comments on her films are also excellent (especially on HIGH NOON). He quotes Hitchcock on the essential "anti-cinematic" nature of 3D movies (which was how DIAL M FOR MURDER was filmed) and is consistently interesting on the background topics of the mores and customs of the Fifties. His view about the canceled plans for Grace to do MARNIE are contrary to those of others, but he makes his case convincing (I would say). Mr. Spoto's book is not in the least bit gossipy, and it's smart and enjoyably written (though the word "inchoate" turns up at least three or four times, annoyingly starting to seem like a word admiring itself in the mirror).
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to Spoto's usual standard Nov. 20 2009
By Richard A. Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Celebrity biographies are one of my favorite junk foods. Genre writing often means bad prose or poor research, and celebrity bios are often the worst offenders. Donald Spoto usually has been an exception, with meticulous research and well reasoned debunking of the kind of scandal that often sells the lesser of these books. Unfortunately, "High Society" appears to be a "clip job" and an instance of Spoto being a little too close to his subject. The book seems to draw a lot on leftovers from Spoto's past research on Alfred Hitchcock and his films. Spoto admits to a great deal of closeness with Kelly and he seems over eager to give her life and talent too many benefits of the doubt. Kelly's reign as princess gets a relatively short shrift. OTOH, the book does a good job of debunking myths about Kelly and her family, who were comfortable lace curtain Irish, rather than up from the bootstraps laborers and provides depth regarding her career and her lack of love for Hollywood, as well as her usually under appreciated stage work. The book plausibly (most of the time) debunks a number of Kelly's purported affairs without assuming that she had been virginal before marrying Prince Ranier. Spoto highlights Kelly's place in the realm of "cool blonds", although he is too Hitchcock-centric in his consideration of this now forgotten kind of mid-century elegance and sophistication (in contrast to "dumb blonds" like those played by Marilyn Monroe and imitators like Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren), that Kelly helped Americanize. The "cool blonds" later included television performers like Inger Stevens (who was Clairol's pitch woman for blond hair coloring) and the persona brushed off on Doris Day's later still-virginal roles and the later years of Donna Reed's television character. The counter culture and changing styles had more to do with the demise of the "cool blond" than Hitchcock's failure to find another as perfect as Grace Kelly. So, on balance, the book is a quick and mostly pleasant read, but one that pulls punches, is uneven in its analysis and seems particularly weak with regard to Kelly's later years.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mostly about her movies. Nov. 12 2009
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Donald Spoto's new biography of Grace Kelly is a well-written account of Kelly's life, with a special emphasis on her acting career. He bookends his solid accounts of her films, Broadway, and television work with info about her private life. I think most readers of Spoto's book will have already read other biographies of her entire life and so not mind the emphasis on her career.

Spoto's a good writer. He had a long-term friendship with Kelly and she talked to him over the years about her life and career, asking only that he wait twenty-five years to publish what she told him. The book seems restrained about her private life - particularly because other biographers have written about her supposedly voracious propensity to have affairs with her leading men. Spoto writes that most of the speculation about her sex life is just that - speculation - and was not true in most cases.

Spoto's obvious regard for his subject does not extend to fawning over her. Because he was concentrating on her career, I think it was easy for him to avoid making conjectures about her private life. I read the book in one sitting - it's not long - and came away with a very good appreciation of her career.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Virgin Queen Nov. 8 2009
By Phil Perry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
According to this book Princess Grace was the virgin Queen of Hollywood!
No sex with Gary Cooper, no Clark Gable and most unbelievable no Bing Crosby!!! I think Mr. Spoto is a little too close to his subject and wants to defend her reputation! Nothing about any affairs after her marriage to Prince Rainer. The best bits in the book are the parts that deal with Hollywood and her film career (her life in Monaco only rates 40 pages!)If only he could have been more objective about her love life this book would have been great! It takes nothing away from Princess Grace that she enjoyed her time in Hollywood to the fullest!!!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tells you nothing about the life of Grace Kelly--don't bother Feb. 3 2010
By Wallaby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm very glad I read this for free from the library. There is nothing about Grace Kelly here that we didnt' already know from the newspaper articles from her death. I would be surprised if Mr. Spoto interviewed anyone who knew the Princess.
I did not need to know every boring detail about the plots and filming of her movies. The woman was royalty, but you would never know from this book if she participated in any palace activities or even met other royalty. Did she meet Princess Diana? Prince Charles? Mountbatten? You won't hear about any other royalty in this book. I was interested in her life, her cares, children, aspirations and relationships. Don't look for any of that here, you will not find it. This is only the very superficial information.
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