High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Harmony (November 3, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307395618

As a former monk and the biographer of Jesus and St Francis of Assisi, Donald Spoto would perhaps not approve of the antics of Francois Grimaldi, who infamously subdued the palace of Monaco disguised as a friar in 1297.  But he wisely and diplomatically avoids this unfortunate past history, turning his hand instead to the equally fantastic story of Princess Grace, whose celebrity in the world of film brought her to the attention of Prince Rainier, whom she married in 1956.

Just a glance at the first page of the index of  his new book ‘High Society’ give s a clue as to what to expect: Academy Awards, Albert I of Monaco, Julie Andrews, Fred Astaire, Bacall, Bergman, Bernstein, Borgnine, Brando … this book is a veritable Who’s Who of celebrity.  But what also comes across very obviously from Spoto’s new account (who was granted private interviews with Kelly on several occasions while writing his book on Hitchcock), is the princess’s complete lack of affectation.

Less can be said for Spoto himself, who seems to have fogotten his monastic vow of humility. One frequently gets the impression that rather indulges himself in his closeness to the princess:

‘As I was shown into the family quarters, Grace was standing in an orange chiffon outfit trying, with difficulty, to fasten a bracelet. ‘”Oh Donald, ” she said, smiling and extending a wrist when she saw me.. “would you please help me with this?”.’

Of course his intention is to reveal the domestic side of Kelly – we’re also given access to what sounds like a surprisingly natural family arrangement – no nannies or special treatment for the kids – but did we really need the ‘Oh Donald’?

if we can forgive Spoto such lapses into smugness, readers of High Society will derive a great deal of entertainment from what is in effect a well-researched and intimate account of a fascinating figure.