Olivia de Havilland, who turned 103 this year, is one of the few film celebrities who has witnessed the «golden era» of Hollywood. However, the actress who appeared in «Gone with the Wind» and received two American Academy awards, played a key role in the fate of her colleague Grace Kelly…
The story, which is not well-known, happened in 1955 on a train heading from Paris to the Côte d’Azur. Olivia, newly married to «Paris Match» editor Pierre Galante, went with her husband to Cannes. The small French town was then preparing to host the 8th Cannes Film Festival.
At the same time, Grace Kelly appeared on the platform of the Gare de Lyon train station. The young actress had been invited to the festival due to her role in «The Country Girl» and came along with the American delegation. For her role in the movie Grace got an Academy Award for Best Actress.
According to Olivia de Havilland, the idea to invite Grace Kelly to a photoshoot at the Prince’s Palace came during lunch on the train. When her husband found out that Kelly was among the passengers, he offered to take her to a meeting with the Prince of Monaco together with the editor-in-chief of «Paris Match» Gaston Bonheur. The latter immediately supported the idea. However, it was not so easy…
When Grace Kelly refused to meet the Prince of Monaco
All that remained for them was to persuade Grace to come to Monaco. Olivia de Havilland decided to talk with the actress before arriving on the Côte d’Azur. Despite the attractive offer, Grace behaved professionally, saying that she needed to coordinate the meeting in Monaco with her studio, which sponsored her trip to France.
Having received the consent of Grace to meet with Prince Rainier, Pierre Galante called the actress, saying that the Prince expected her by 4 o’clock. However, she… refused. It turned out that at almost the same time in Cannes she had to attend a cocktail in honour of her movie. So the Princely Palace had to move the meeting back an hour, and given that flexibility the actress agreed.
The fateful day, May 6th, 1955, when Grace was supposed to meet her future husband, did not start very well, and then it became even worse. First, in Cannes, the electricity was cut off due to a strike. Grace found out about it only after she washed her hair. The hair dryer did not work, the iron neither. What to do? Grace put on her wrinkle-free dress with a floral print, attached some flowers to her hair and Grace headed to the Principality.
When the actress arrived at the Palace, the Prince was not there yet. Finally, Rainier appeared, and they went for a walk around the residence and the private zoo that belonged to the Princely family. After the meeting, Grace hurried to the cocktail party, noting, however, that the Prince was «charming».
Olivia de Havilland believes that the meeting was a success. The actress said that Grace was charm itself, when she met the Prince of Monaco again at a cocktail party in Cannes.
The meeting that led to the «wedding of the century»
After their first meeting, Grace and Rainier began a long correspondence. They managed to keep their love story out of the press, until Rainier went to the U.S. to see his future bride at Christmas.
Olivia de Havilland admitted that she was not surprised by the news of their engagement. However, she was annoyed that she would not be able to attend the «wedding of the century», since by that time she was pregnant.
On April 19, 1956, that very wedding took place, and got its name for a reason. This mind- blowing day is still reverberating in our minds, as the press has and continues to meticulously scrutinize every detail of the wedding ceremony. For instance, the iconic dress of Grace Kelly, designed by Helen Rose, was a gift to the actress from MGM, the film studio she worked with. Today, it belongs to the Art Museum of Philadelphia.
The ceremony, held at St. Nicholas Cathedral, was attended by 600 guests, including Hollywood celebrities Ava Gardner, Cary Grant and Gloria Swanson. The Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis was also seen among the guests. About 30 million people from different countries watched the wedding ceremony.
The scope of this event and Grace Kelly’s international profile laid the foundation for the history of Monaco, as a recognizable brand, boosting its reputation as a glamorous resort for a luxury vacation.
Later, Grace’s and Olivia’s paths crossed only once. It happened in one of the Parisian restaurants, when Grace had long been a Princess and arrived in the French capital with her 10-year-old daughter Caroline. Leaving the place, the Princess of Monaco approached Olivia’s table to greet the actress, who had played a role as one of the initiators of the love story between Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly.