Searching for Grace Kelly… On Television

Today, November 12, 2020, marks what would have been enchanting Grace Kelly’s 91st birthday. On this day, I always like to revisit some of her films as a way to pay my tribute. I also normally host The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon on my main blog, The Wonderful World of Cinema, but chose to skip it this year as I thought I wouldn’t have time. Well, it turns out that I very well could have host it as I pretty much procrastinated yesterday and Monday. Anyway, if we come back to the films, there is a slight problem. If you are an avid fan of the actress who became a princess like I am, you might have seen all her films already (ending with Green Fire because you know it’s not her best one, and you have put it aside for quite some time). Yeah, it is always fun to rewatch Rear Window or High Noon for the 50th time. If you truly love these films, it’s hard not to be entertained by them anymore. However, and I think most of you will agree, we wish there were more. We would love to discover new Grace Kelly performances every year.

On the set of Rear Window

Of course, there are numerous documentaries about her (some being better than some others). While they can be very informative and interesting, it is not Grace Kelly herself. It is other people discussing Grace Kelly, using a screen to show us their vision of her. Then, there are those two films that she narrated: The Children of Theatre Street (Robert Dornhelm and Earle Mack, 1977) and TV film The Poppy Is Also a Flower (Terence Young, 1966), but once again, these are only narrations and not the whole package, if I may say so.

Then, comes the television, the small screen. That could be a goldmine as Grace appears in a considerable amount of episodes from various anthology shows and television plays between 1948 and 1953. Among them, we can name Kraft Television Theatre, Lux Video Theatre, Studio One or even Robert Montgomery Presents. Her televisions credits were much more numerous than her films credits. And it’s a shame that they seem impossible to find (unless you like physically go to some archival preservation places like the UCLA Archives but, yeah, it’s not always possible to do so). We know that some old TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bewitched or The Donna Reed Show are easily accessible today as they have intelligently been put on DVD or are available on platforms like YouTube or Dailymotion. But for these sort of theatrical anthology shows, it seems it was not really the case. We have to remember also that the idea of preservation back then was maybe not as important as it is today, and I guess it was even less the case for television programs, but I could be wrong. But in a way, here, it is not so much a question of preservation but more of making these easily accessible to the public.

However, I decided not to lose hope and digs once again on different places, and you can’t imagine my excitement when I found TWO television-related videos featuring Grace Kelly! The first one was unfortunately not an entire TV show but an excerpt from Toast of the Town. In this clip, she is paired with Ralph Meeker. Toast of the Town was the original name of The Ed Sullivan Show. At the beginning of the clip, the present time is 1956, and Ed Sullivan mentions that, back in 1953, Grace Kelly and Ralph Meeker did a scene on the show. Sullivan asked her the permission to re-show it, which she accepted on the agreement that her money be given to charity. We then move to the short (but very appreciated) short clip where Grace Kelly, as a librarian, gives a French lesson to Ralph Meeker who plays a football star. The whole thing is sort of a dancing and singing number at the same time. So yeah, here you have Grace Kelly teaching French to Ralph Meeker, Ralph Meeker singing, and the two actors dancing together at one point. That’s a treasure, to say the least. (Can I also add that I never thought I’d see the guy from Kiss Me, Deadly singing and dancing!).

Before going further, I’ll let you catch a glimpse of that unique product:

What struck me the most about this performance is the fact that Grace perfectly proves that she could play the girls next door and not only the wealthy socialites or cold Hitchcock blondes. It also proves certain versatility from her (remember 1953 was also the year of Mogambo, in which she played a totally different type of character). Then, we have to admit it; her French was pretty much on point for a non-native speaker. Of course, she had a text and repeated the line, but the pronunciation is there. She, therefore, manages to speak a beautifully articulated French with her charming native accent. I wrote, a few years ago, an article about the fact that the three enchanting ladies could speak French for various reasons. Well, becoming the princess of Monaco pretty much put French in the everyday life of Grace Kelly, as it is the Principality’s main language, but, even in 1953, you could feel there was something. We also hear her French skills in High Society, but this is pretty brief comparing to what you have just been watching.

Grace and French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont

Then, have you notice how expressive and well-articulated her voice is here. That makes me realize that, if Grace had been an actress longer, she also could have had a brilliant stage career. Yes, she did appear in a few theatre productions such as The Father in 1949 and To Be Continued in 1952 but she the potential to do more.

Grace in The Father

The second “television” discovery was a real treat for someone wanting to see more of Grace Kelly’s acting. Now we’re talking about a full 55-minutes episode entitled “The Rockingham Tea Set”, from the anthology drama series Studio One in which Grace plays a nurse. That, once again, proves the fact that she could play parts of different social status. Of course, finding this was a true excitement and improvement in the search for Grace Kelly TV material. The video was updated on November 12, 2019, so exactly one year ago, but I only came across it Tuesday. As it is pointed out by the person who put it online, these sort of teleplays had a lot of flaws and were produced on small budgets. It shows, but they are still pertinent documents for us to see. Yes, we notice the actors might not have had the chance to rehearse as much as they would have wanted to and, sometimes, their acting doesn’t seem very natural, but you are still entertained by the story which is, in my opinion, good enough. Grace Kelly herself is, in my opinion, among the best performers of the TV show and she proved that she had a lot of potentials. This episode was aired in 1950, so, a year before Kelly’s first appearance on the big screen in 14 Hours. In the film noir, she plays a pretty minor role but here, be happy to know that she plays the main role!

So, if you are planning to have a little Grace Kelly movie night, why don’t you give yourself a treat by visiting her television work? On my side, I hade a “Grace Kelly morning” as I watched that while eating my breakfast!

As I said before, finding those two clips was a real improvement in the research for Grace Kelly’s television material. Of course, there could be much more, considering the important numbers of TV episodes in which she played. Yes, there are the Pathé Newsreel archives of Grace Kelly, but these are of the documentary style and usually quite short. I love watching them to see Grace as a person, but if you want to see Grace as an actress, you’ll need more. Now, I’m thinking, maybe, I am not looking in the right places. If you know some unsuspected television online archives where I could find more of Grace Kelly’s television work, please let me know.

Before going further, I’ll leave you with some stills from tv shows in which she appeared to give you a foretaste of what could maybe, one day, be accessible to us!

Grace Kelly in “Ann Rutledge” from The Philco Television Playhouse
With Gene Lyons in “Rich Boy” from The Philco Television Playhouse
Nina Foch, Dick Foran and Grace Kelly in “The Kill” from Studio One
With Jackie Cooper in “A Message from Janice” from Lux Video Theatre

And happy heavenly birthday to you, wonderful Grace!

3 thoughts on “Searching for Grace Kelly… On Television

  1. The French Lesson was written by Roger Edens, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green for the musical Good News where it was performed by June Allyson and Peter Lawford. Grace and Ralph are delightful.

    I appreciated your research, your opinion, and your links for Grace Kelly on television. I really enjoy the immediacy, the theatrical feel of many of those anthology shows of the golden age.

    Liked by 1 person

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