Cinema: The Girl in White Gloves

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I always tell actors don't use the face for nothing. Don't start scribbling over the sheet of paper until we have something to write. We may need it later. Grace has this control. It's a rare thing for a girl at such an age." Director George Seaton adds: "Grace doesn't throw everything at you in the first five seconds. Some girls give you everything they've got at once, and there it is—there is no more. But Grace is like a kaleidoscope: one twist, and you get a whole new facet." Under Hitchcock's expert direction, Grace bloomed in Rear Window. As a sleek young career girl, she distilled a tingling essence of what Hitchcock has called "sexual elegance." She was learning her trade. The way she walked, spoke and combed her hair had a sureness that gives moviegoers a comfortable feeling: she would never make them wince with some awkwardness of misplaced gaucherie. Exhibitors, who know a good thing when they see the turnstiles click, began dropping Hitchcock and Stewart from their marquees and advertised simply: "Grace Kelly in Rear Window." In Hollywood, the stampede was on.

More Than Beautiful. When the stampede started, Grace was in a bathing suit dutifully splashing around a Japanese bathhouse as Navy Pilot Bill Holden's wife in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (a movie that does little for Grace except establish the fact that she has a better figure than normally meets the eye). At about the same time, Paramount's producer-director team of William Perlberg and George Seaton got word that Jennifer Jones, scheduled to play the title role in their next picture, The Country Girl, had become pregnant. They asked M-G-M to lend them Grace. This time M-G-M said no. Grace still gets angry when she thinks about it. She went to her agent, says Perlberg, and told him: "If I can't do this picture, I'll get on the train and never come back. I'll quit the picture business. I'll never make another film." Actress Kelly had her way. M-G-M lent her out to Paramount again, but this time jumped the price from the $20,000 charged for Toko-Ri to $50,000, and demanded that she give M-G-M an extra picture (her contract calls for only three a year).

The Country Girl was final proof that she is more than merely beautiful. The well-bred girl from Philadelphia is completely convincing as the slatternly, embittered wife of aging, alcoholic Matinee Idol Bing Crosby. She slouches around with her glowing hair gone dull, her glasses stuck on top of her head, her underlip sullen, resentment in the very sag of her shoulders and the dangle of her arms. She looks dreadful. Said Seaton: "You know that old cardigan sweater she wears? Well, a lot of actresses would say, 'Well, why don't we just put a few rhinestones here? I want to look dowdy, of course, but this woman has taste . . .' and before you know it, she'd look like a million dollars. But not Grace. Grace wanted to be authentic."

Bing Crosby, a little nervous himself at undertaking so exacting a dramatic role, was dubious about his untried costar, and said so. But before the shooting was over, Crosby was telling Seaton, "Never let me open my big mouth again," and talking of taking Grace out dancing.

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