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How to become a Grace Kelly expert - Ocean City Sentinel: News

How to become a Grace Kelly expert

Historical Museum’s Al Crescenzo has gone from audience to lecturer

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Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2019 10:38 am

OCEAN CITY – Al Crescenzo, an Ocean City Historical Museum trustee, discussed Ocean City’s tie to royalty on Wednesday, Oct. 9, when he lectured about Grace Kelly for the East Falls Historical Society. 

Crescenzo spoke about Kelly’s movie career, like he has in Ocean City at the historical museum’s annual Grace Kelly Tea. 

Kelly was born in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.  Her family owned a house in Ocean City and Kelly vacationed here throughout her life.  

Before he gave the lecture, Crescenzo went to places in the area that were important to Kelly, including her house, the school she attended, the church she went to, and the Old Academy Players, where she performed theater. 

He estimated about 60 people attended the lecture. 

Crescenzo, who has given several lectures at the historical museum’s annual Grace Kelly teas, became a Kelly expert by chance. 

During the first Grace Kelly Tea the museum held, someone asked the speaker how Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco III met and the speaker did not know.  Crescenzo later researched it. 

“The more I read, the more I get into it, so I read half a dozen biographies. Over the years, I learned everything from soup to nuts about her, from her childhood to her passing,” he said. 

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Kelly is the daughter of John Kelly, an Olympic rower, and is Playwright George Kelly’s niece. 

In 1947, Kelly attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.  Two years later, after performing in summer stock, Kelly appeared on Broadway. 

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kelly did a lot of live television productions, as well as theater, according to Crescenzo. 

“They performed all of these live, hour-long dramas and they put them on television,” he said. 

She did more than 60 television shows and theater, including performing at the Bucks County Playhouse, when she took a screen test and her movie career began to take off. 

Kelly made 11 movies and her first was “Fourteen Hours.”

Her career includes roles in “Rear Window,” “To Catch a Thief,” “Mogambo,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “High Noon.”

According to Crescenzo, many people do not know that “Dial M for Murder” was filmed in 3D, but was redone after test audiences panned it. 

He also said that her role in “The Country Girl,” for which Kelly won an Academy Award, Kelly’s role was originally offered to Jennifer Jones. 

Jones, however, got pregnant and had to drop out of the movie. 

Kelly also had a Gold Record with the song, “True Love,” which she sang with Bing Crosby in “High Society.” 

Kelly met Prince Rainier in May 1955, when she was in the area for the Cannes Film Festival and was persuaded to do a photoshoot with the prince in Monaco for a magazine.

Though Kelly was reluctant, she went, according to Crescenzo. 

Though she and Rainier wrote letters to each other, Kelly did not see Rainier again until Christmas, when he came to America and proposed to her. 

At the time, Rainier was under pressure from the Monaco government to get married and produce an heir. 

“The law at the time was if you die and don’t produce an heir, Monaco ceases to exist,” he said. 

In that case, Monaco could have become a part of France if there was no heir to the throne. 

An MGM Studios costume designer made Kelly’s wedding dress, and the studio spent more than $7,000 in material and hired 36 women to sew it. 

The dress is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

After she got married, Kelly’s movie career ended.  She still summered in Ocean City while serving as Princess of Monaco. 

“She was very down to earth … they usually had the Kelly (family) reunion at the end of August, around Labor Day, and she always came to that, sometimes with Rainier, sometimes without, and she was just like a normal person. She went to the beach, went to the boardwalk, went to the store. There was no paparazzi frenzy like there is today,” Crescenzo said. 

The Ocean City Historical Museum holds an annual Grace Kelly Tea in the spring.  To learn more about the museum, see https://www.ocnjmuseum.org, call (609) 399-1801 or visit the museum at 1735 Simpson Ave., Ocean City. 

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