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Little Grace went to the local Ravenhill convent school, then to Stevens School in Germantown. By the time she was eleven, she was appearing in a local amateur dramatic company. Turned down by Bennington (she flunked math), Grace got herself into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. From the first, her family was dubious about an acting career. "We'd hoped she would give it up," says her mother. Snorts Father Kelly: "Those movie people lead pretty shallow lives." The "Clean" Way. But Grace knew what she wanted. To assure her independence, she got a job modeling, was soon making $400 a week posing for Ipana, beer ads, Old Golds. Photographer Ruzzie Green describes her as "what we call 'nice clean stuff' in our business. She's not a top model and never will be. She's the girl next door. No glamour, no oomph, no cheesecake. She has lovely shoulders but no chest. Grace is like Bergman in the 'clean' way. She can do that smush stuff in movies likeremember all those little kisses in Rear Window?and get away with it." A friend remembers her at this period as "terribly sedate, always wore tweed suits and a hat-with-a-veil kind of thing. She had any number of sensible shoes, even some with those awful flaps on front." She did TV commercials ("I was terriblehonestly, anyone watching me give the pitch for Old Golds would have switched to Camels"), doggedly made the rounds of summer stock (New Hope and Denver) and casting offices. "I've read for almost everything that's been cast. I even read for the ingenue part in The Country Girl on Broadway (left out in the movie). The producer told me I really wasn't the ingenue type, that I was too intelligent looking." Then she read for the daughter's part in Strindberg's grim The Father. She got the part and won good notices, but the play lasted only two months. Grace went back to TV ("summer stock in an iron lung") to play in such varied offerings as Studio One, Treasury Men in Action, Philco Playhouse and Lights Out.
First Fan. Once before and once shortly after she left dramatic school, Grace turned down $250-a-week movie contracts: "I didn't want to be just another starlet." Now Hollywood reached for her again but failed to get a firm grip.
Director Henry Hathaway gave her a bit part as the lady negotiating a divorce across the street from the man on the ledge in Fourteen Hours. But she refused a contract; she did not feel ready yet.
She did accept a one-shot offer from Producer Stanley Kramer for the part of Gary Cooper's young wife in High Noon.