5 Surprising Facts About Grace Kelly

By Sterling Publications, eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Sterling Publications, eBay, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

From her first major screen role as Gary Cooper's violence-loathing Quaker wife in the classic Western High Noon through her "wedding of the century" and retirement from films to become Princess Grace of Monaco, Grace Kelly brought something truly unique to every part of her life. So let's take a look at five things you might not know about Grace Kelly, who was born on November 12, 1929.

1. Grace Kelly probably could have been an athlete.

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When Grace Kelly was born in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1929 to Margaret and Jack Kelly, her athletic pedigree was formidable. Jack Kelly, who ran a wildly successful brick company, was also one of the finest rowers ever to dip his oars in the Schuylkill River. He wasn't just a local phenom, though; Jack had three Olympic gold medals in sculling to his credit. He picked up single and double scull gold at the 1920 Games in Antwerp and then defended his double scull gold with his cousin Paul Costello in Paris in 1924. To underscore just how great he was, Jack Kelly is the only rower in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Kelly's mother, Margaret, was no slouch, either. She had been a world-beater as a collegiate swimmer at Temple and then became a physical education instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she became the Ivy League school's first-ever women's sports coach after she organized a basketball squad.

One of Kelly's three siblings, John Jr., was a formidable athlete in his own right; he rowed in the 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960 Olympics, picking up a single sculls bronze in Melbourne in 1956. John Jr. gave the medal to his sister Grace as a wedding gift.

2. Grace Kelly turned down at least one iconic role.

In 1954 Kelly was all set to costar with Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront when Alfred Hitchcock, with whom she had successfully collaborated on Dial M for Murder, told her to head to Los Angeles for costume fittings for his new film Rear Window. Kelly jumped at the opportunity to work with Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart on the film, so the role of Brando's love interest Edie in On the Waterfront went to Eva Marie Saint, herself a future Hitchcock blonde.

Both films became undisputed classics, but it's hard to imagine Kelly didn't kick herself a little at the 1955 Academy Awards when Saint picked up the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her part in On the Waterfront. Of course, the pain probably didn't last too long, as later in the evening Kelly won the Best Actress statue for her role opposite Bing Crosby and William Holden in The Country Girl.

3. BECOMING A PRINCESS WASN'T CHEAP.

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Kelly met Prince Rainier III of Monaco at a photo shoot in 1955 when she was leading the American delegation to the Cannes Film Festival, and the two instantly hit it off. After she returned to the States, the actress and the prince corresponded until later that year when he came to the U.S. on a diplomatic tour. After spending three days with Kelly and her family, Prince Rainier proposed, and Kelly accepted.

Things aren't so simple when you're marrying a prince, though. To seal the deal, Kelly's family had to cough up a dowry. Luckily, Jack Kelly was every bit as successful in the brick business as he was with the oars, and he forked over a $2 million dowry to help cover the cost of the wedding.

With a dowry like that, what kind of engagement ring does a movie star princess get? A gigantic one. Kelly's was a 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond with a platinum band. If you want to get a look at the ridiculous rock, watch High Society, Kelly's final feature film. She wears the ring throughout, at one point causing Bing Crosby to quip, "Some stone, did you mine it yourself?"

4. Not even Alfred Hitchcock could lure Grace Kelly back to Hollywood.

After Kelly's wedding in 1956, she became Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco and stopped working as an actress. However, her old director Alfred Hitchcock never gave up on trying to get Kelly to star in another one of his films. Hitchcock allegedly planned to use 1962's Marnie as Kelly's big comeback to the silver screen, and the princess agreed to take the part. In March 1962, Monaco's palace spokesman announced that Princess Grace would play the role then give up acting altogether.

The citizens of Monaco weren't so keen on having their princess return to the movies as a compulsive thief, though. The local press blasted the idea of Kelly making a screen comeback, and France's Charles de Gaulle supposedly pressured Prince Rainier to pull his wife out of the production for fear it would make Monaco appear frivolous. In April, Kelly announced that she was withdrawing from the production, ostensibly due to scheduling difficulties. Tippi Hedren ended up in the title role opposite Sean Connery.

5. SHE HAS A WHOLE SLEW OF TRIBUTES TO HER CREDIT.

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Princess Grace died in 1982 when she suffered a stroke while driving and drove over a steep embankment. (Contrary to rumor, Kelly's family insists that she was not driving on one of the winding roads she and costar Cary Grant zipped down in Hitchcock's underrated To Catch a Thief.) After a royal funeral that attracted nearly 100 million television viewers, she was laid to rest in Monaco.

More than 35 years after her death, tributes to Kelly keep rolling in. In 1993 she became the first American actress to appear on a postage stamp, and in 2007 special commemorative two-euro coins bore her profile. Fashion house Hermes's Kelly bag is named after the actress in honor of her penchant for appearing with the high-end purse.

Even though she didn't join in her family's rowing hobby, Kelly also has a sculling tribute in her honor. In 2003, the Henley Royal Regatta, a major rowing event on the Thames that once snootily rejected Jack Kelly's attempt to participate, renamed its women's quadruple sculls race the Princess Grace Challenge Cup.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Facts About Steve Martin On His 75th Birthday

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Is there anything Steve Martin can't do? In addition to being one of the world's most beloved comedians and actors, he's also a writer, a musician, a magician, and an art enthusiast. To celebrate his birthday (he turns 75 today), here are 10 things you might not have known about Steve Martin.

1. Steve Martin was a cheerleader.

As a yellleader (as he refers to it in a yearbook signature) at his high school in Garden Grove, California, Steve Martin tried to make up his own cheers, but “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs,” he later told Newsweek, did not go over so well.

2. Steve Martin's first job was at Disneyland.

Martin’s first-ever job was at Disneyland, which was located just 2 miles away from his home. He started out selling guidebooks, keeping $.02 for every book he sold. He graduated to the Magic Shop on Main Street, where he got his first taste of the gags that would later make his career. He also learned the rope tricks you see in ¡Three Amigos! from a rope wrangler over in Frontierland.

3. Steve Martin owes his writing job with the Smothers Brothers to an ex-girlfriend.

Thanks to a girlfriend who got a job dancing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Martin landed a gig writing for the show. He had absolutely no experience as a writer at the time. He shared an office with late Bob Einstein—Albert Brooks's brother, who is better known to some as Super Dave Osborne or Curb Your Enthusiasm's Marty Funkhauser—and won an Emmy for writing in 1969.

4. Steve Martin was a contestant on The Dating Game.

While he was writing for the Smothers Brothers, but before he was famous in his own right, Martin was on an episode of The Dating Game. (Spoiler alert: He wins. But did you have any doubt?)

5. Many people thought Steve Martin was a series regular on Saturday Night Live.

Martin hosted and did guest spots on Saturday Night Live so often in the 1970s and '80s that many people thought he was a series regular. He wasn't. Though at the moment, he holds the second highest record for number of guest hosting gigs on the show with 15. (Only Alec Baldwin has more, with 17.)

6. Steve Martin's father wrote a review of his son's first SNL appearance.

Steve Martin hosts a 1986 episode of Saturday Night Live.Yvonne Hemsey/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After his first appearance on SNL, Martin’s father, the president of the Newport Beach Association of Realtors, wrote a review of his son’s performance in the company newsletter. “His performance did nothing to further his career,” the elder Martin wrote. Martin's dad also once told a newspaper, “I think Saturday Night Live is the most horrible thing on television.”

7. Steve Martin popularized the air quote.

If you find yourself making air quotes with your fingers more than you’d really like, you have Martin to thank. He popularized the gesture during his guest spots on SNL and stand-up performances.

8. Steve Martin quit stand-up comedy in the early 1980s.

Martin gave up stand-up comedy in 1981. “I still had a few obligations left but I knew that I could not continue,” he told NPR in 2009. “But I guess I could have continued if I had nothing to go to, but I did have something to go to, which was movies. And you know, the act had become so known that in order to go back, I would have had to create an entirely new show, and I wasn't up to it, especially when the opportunity for movies and writing movies came around.”

9. Steve Martin is a major art collector.

As an avid art collector, Martin owns works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper. He sold a Hopper for $26.9 million in 2006. Unfortunately, being rich and famous doesn’t mean Martin is immune to scams: In 2004, he spent about $850,000 on a piece believed to be by German-Dutch modernist painter Heinrich Campendonk. When Martin tried to sell the piece, “Landschaft mit Pferden” (or "Landscape With Horses") 15 months later, he was informed that it was a forgery. Though the painting still sold, it was at a huge loss.

10. Steve Martin is an accomplished bluegrass performer.

Many people already know this, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Martin is an extremely accomplished bluegrass performer. With the help of high school friend John McEuen, who later became a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Martin taught himself to play the banjo when he was 17. He's been picking away ever since. If you see him on stage these days, he’s likely strumming a banjo with his band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. As seen above, they make delightful videos.

This story has been updated for 2020.