Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Becoming Grace Kelly
In 1953, Alfred Hitchcock was searching for a female lead for a film he was directing at Warner Bros., Dial M for Murder. While looking for an actress to cast, he reviewed an old screen test Kelly had done at Twentieth Century Fox and watched Mogambo. While Hitchcock thought Kelly was stiff, if not a bit wooden, he saw that she had potential. Almost immediately, the master of suspense started to mold Kelly into the prototypical cool Hitchcock blond. When Dial M for Murder was released, the reviews were good, some even thinking it better than the stage play upon which it was based. This time, Crowther mentioned Kelly in the sixth paragraph (out of seven) of his review saying, “Grace Kelly does a nice job of acting the wife's bewilderment, terror and grief.” From the likes of Crowther, that was absolutely glowing praise.
Once again, Hitchcock took complete control of Kelly’s image and introduced her to screenwriter, John Michael Hayes. As Hayes would state in an interview before his death in 2008, Hitchcock asked him to get to know Kelly and study her speech patterns. Hayes was instructed to write dialogue that would seem natural coming out of Kelly’s mouth. Hitchcock thought (and rightly so) that if Kelly collaborated with Hayes on some of her dialogue, her characterization would avoid the stiffness of some of her earlier roles. The fact that Hayes’s wife was a former model made him the perfect person to write for Kelly.
When Rear Window opened at the Rivoli in August of 1954, 2,000 people attended the premier, a benefit for the American-Korean Foundation. It was an immediate commercial and critical success and people took notice of Grace Kelly in what would become an iconic role for the then 25-year-old actress.