On this day in 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco–the American-born former film star Grace Kelly, whose movie credits include The Country Girl and Rear Window–dies at the age of 52 from injuries suffered after her car plunged off a mountain road near Monte Carlo. During the height of her Hollywood career in the 1950s, Kelly became an international icon of beauty and glamour.
Kelly, the daughter of a former model and a wealthy industrialist, was born on November 12, 1929, in Philadelphia, and began acting as a child. After high school, she attended the American Academy for Dramatic Arts in New York. While she auditioned for Broadway plays, the classic blonde beauty supported herself by modeling and appearing in TV commercials.
In 1949, Kelly debuted on Broadway in The Father by August Strindberg. Two years later, she landed her first Hollywood bit part, in Fourteen Hours. Her big break came in 1952, when she starred as Gary Cooper’s wife in the Western High Noon. Her performance in 1954’s The Country Girl, as the wife of an alcoholic actor and singer played by Bing Crosby, won her a Best Actress Oscar (Kelly beat out Judy Garland in A Star is Born). Among Kelly’s other acting credits were three Alfred Hitchcock thrillers: Dial M for Murder (1954), with Ray Milland and Robert Cummings, Rear Window (1954), with James Stewart, and To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant. Her last big-screen role was in 1956’s High Society, a musical adaptation of 1940’s The Philadelphia Story, co-starring Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Kelly gave up her acting career after marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco (1923-2005) on April 19, 1956, in a lavish ceremony in Monaco. The couple, who had met the year before at the Cannes Film Festival, went on to have three children. On September 13, 1982, Princess Grace was driving with her youngest daughter, Stephanie, when she reportedly suffered a stroke and lost control of her car, which plunged down a mountainside. Seventeen-year-old Stephanie survived, but Princess Grace died the following day. Her death was mourned by millions of fans around the world.