For Hollywood director ALFRED HITCHCOCK, she was an icy blonde muse.

PRINCE RAINIER III of Monaco saw her as his elegant bride.

And for legions of adoring fans around the world, she was the epitome of style, poise and beauty.

Such was the enduring appeal of movie star turned princess GRACE KELLY, whose fairy tale life is traced through fashion, film and memorabilia in the exhibit GRACE KELLY: FROM MOVIE STAR TO PRINCESS.

A vast collection of Ms. Kelly’s artifacts — including jewels, gowns and personal correspondence — goes on display Friday at Toronto’s TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX, offering a rarely seen glimpse into the private life of a superstar who was an enigma in many ways, said curator Noah Cowan.

“Although she was among the most photographed women of the 20th century she still remains something of a mystery,” commented Mr. Cowan, also artistic director of the TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX.

“In all phases of her life she became iconic — as a movie star, as a bride, as a princess — and yet it’s hard to actually know who the real Grace Kelly is. I think this show actually takes you inside (her world). You see her personal correspondence, you see what she wore, what she loved to wear and what she loved to do.”

Among the more intriguing pieces are several letters from a playful ALFRED HITCHCOCK, who signs his missives Love, Hitch; a handwritten holiday greeting from HIGH SOCIETY costar BING CROSBY and framed collages of dried flower petals — a hobby picked up after Ms. Kelly retired from the big screen and settled into life as a princess.

Then there are home movies, letters and photos from childhood scrapbooks, even cherished playbills and an early rejection letter from a filmmaker.

“She was a complete pack rat during her Hollywood years, so every telegram, every letter, every flower arrangement that she had was preserved,” Noah Cowan remarked.

Ms. Kelly’s newlywed son PRINCE ALBERT II of Monaco and his wife PRINCESS CHARLENE are set to travel to Toronto to officially open the exhibition and attend a private reception Wednesday.

“From the very beginning the palace has been incredibly supportive of the exhibition, really excited that the legacy of their princess could actually come to North America,” said Noah Cowan.

“They’ve been eager to have a North American venue from the very beginning.”

The exhibit is based on similar ones held in Monaco and London and makes its only North American stop in Toronto. From Canada, it heads to Australia and then returns to the Grimaldi palace.

GRACE KELLY: FROM MOVIE STAR TO PRINCESS is loosely divided into three sections: herlife as a movie star, as a bride and finally as a princess.

Highlights include an exact replica of her HELEN ROSE designed lace wedding gown, several original dresses, her signature HERMES KELLY bag, her ACADEMY AWARD for THE COUNTRY GIRL and the diamond tiara she wore when she became PRINCESS OF MONACO in 1956.

“The tiara was always kept by Van Cleef & Arpels; they were the owners of the piece and it was for the exclusive use of Grace Kelly,” Noah Cowan noted.

“And now of course that means it’s only in museums.”

Meanwhile, the replica wedding dress — featuring a 21 inch waist — was created by some of the original seamstresses who worked on the first one.

Mr. Cowan said that the original is in “pretty bad shape” and cannot travel from its home at the PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART.

“(The replica) is really made to the most exacting standards and I think it’s about as close as we’ll all get to seeing it.”

GRACE KELLY left Hollywood at the height of her career after just five years in show business. Her 11 films, including REAR WINDOW, HIGH NOON and TO CATCH A THIEF made a huge impact on the industry.

“She is one of the great queens of the silver screen,” the curator stated.

“When people talk about Grace Kelly, they frequently use the word timeless. She speaks to something that just doesn’t go away, which is a certain style, a certain glamour.”

He noted that the princess had hoped to return to acting after giving birth to children CAROLINE, ALBERT and STEPHANIE, but PRINCE RAINIER asked her to stop.

“She was in fact prohibited from going back to Hollywood to work,” he said, noting that ALFRED HITCHCOCK had her in mind for his 1964 thriller MARNIE, starring TIPPI HEDREN.

The exhibit is being held in conjunction with a film series ICY FIRE: THE HITCHCOCK BLONDE, which kicks off Friday with Hitchcock’s 1954 mystery DIAL M FOR MURDER.

The curator said there is still much to learn about PRINCESS GRACE, who died in a car accident in 1982.

“We still are finding things out about her and still finding images of her that redefine her sense of style and glamour. She’s just an endless source of what makes life more interesting.”


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