by Kevin Dicciani
Good news for fans of classic Hollywood cinema: Throughout December, Chestnut Hill College is holding a special exhibit of memorabilia from the personal collection of Academy Award winning-actress and former Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly.
Among the items on exhibit are Kelly’s Christmas cards from the Palace of Monaco, photographs, framed posters of her movies, dolls dressed as the characters she portrayed on film, and original programs from her appearances at Old Academy Players in East Falls. A signed portrait of Kelly dressed in the Order of St. Charles, an honorary title bestowed upon her by her husband, Prince Rainier III, is also on display. The couple received the portrait as a gift in celebration of their first Christmas together as husband and wife. The collection, on loan from the East Falls Historical Society and part of the Grace Kelly Gallery, is on display in the Redmond Room of St. Joseph Hall until Dec. 31.
The exhibit, free and open to the public, began on Dec. 7 as part of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s 26th Annual Holiday House Tour. This year’s tour featured five neighborhood homes decorated for the holidays and concluded with a stop to the College. The fundraising event supports the nonprofit organization, whose efforts seek to inspire a sense of community in the neighborhood and improve its quality of life.
“Chestnut Hill College’s glorious rotunda, with its grand piano and the adjoining parlors, is a perfect location to view Grace’s Christmas cards from the palace showing her family over the years,” said Anne McNiff, the executive director of the Chestnut Hill Community Association.
The American Film Institute listed Kelly in its feature of the “25 Greatest Female Stars of Classical Hollywood Cinema.” She made 11 feature films in her career, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and “To Catch a Thief.” In 1954, she received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film “The Country Girl.” Kelly retired from acting in 1956 after marrying Prince Rainier III and becoming the princess of Monaco.
In 1982, Kelly died in Monaco at the age of 52 after she succumbed to injuries she suffered when she had a stroke while driving and her car hurtled off a mountainside. More than 400 people attended her funeral, including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Diana, the former princess of Wales, and actor Cary Grant. Approximately 100 million viewers watched Kelly’s funeral on live television.
Born in 1929 at Hahnemann University Hospital in Center City, Philadelphia, Kelly grew up in the East Falls section of the city. She attended St. Bridget’s Elementary School and Ravenhill Academy and later graduated from the Stevens School, an all-girls college preparatory school in Chestnut Hill that closed in 1982 and today is home of the Crefeld School. Kelly began her acting career at Old Academy Players, appearing in such productions as “The Women” and “Don’t Feed the Animals.”
Kelly’s childhood home in East Falls is a Pennsylvania historical landmark. Her father, John B. Kelly Sr., a three-time Olympic gold medalist in rowing, built the home in 1928. In 2016, Kelly’s son, Albert II, the current Prince of Monaco, purchased his mother’s house, completing renovations on it two years later. Today, the home is used as an event space for The Princess Grace Foundation-USA and as offices for the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
For more information, please visit www.chc.edu/events/special-grace-kelly-exhibit-open-throughout-december.