It is impossible to discuss the career of Grace Kelly without equally discussing Alfred Hitchcock and his place in her life. He himself would say that he did not discover Grace, but rather saved her from a stale career full of bland roles and stunted professional progress. He saw in a Grace a potential that was not being utilized-- her subtly insinuated yet powerful sexuality. Once he put it to use before the movie camera, her image was forever changed. She suddenly became elegant yet smoldering, refined yet dangerous, mysterious yet alluring. However, Grace was not the first blonde in Hitch's life, nor would she be the last. There is a long line of women who have been either idolized, terrorized, or bewildered by the iconic director, but there are only two that stand out as his all time favorites: Ingrid Bergman and Grace. Comparing the two and their relationship with the smitten director sheds some light on the maniacal genius himself as well as the public's perception of the two beautiful actresses and their eternal place in celluloid history.
Ingrid is always captured in an embracing light, inviting viewers to wrap their hearts around her. Despite her characters' flaws, her weakness and innocence always beckon to even the coldest of hearts. Ingrid meekly evades, enticing us to follow her further into her destructive journey, using mystery and compassion to reel us in. As Donald Spoto points out in his book Spellbound by Beauty, Hitch didn't love anyone with his camera like Ingrid. That being said, no one gave love to Hitch's camera like Grace Kelly.
His smartest move was making Grace the sexual aggressor in his films. Whereas Ingrid quietly willed the public to her with longing and sympathy, Grace would come right at ya'! Hence, her dreamlike and fantastical entrance in Rear Window (above) when she is first seen crawling toward the camera to seductively plant a kiss on the lucky Mr. Stewart. This is the great divide in Hitch's career: he would spend three of his films chasing Ingrid and another three letting Grace come after him. After losing Ingrid, he was betrayed in a way-- dare I suggest, brokenhearted. So, this time around, he would allow the object of his desires to make love to him and not the other way around. Grace was the personification of the sexual hellcat in white, and he willingly submitted himself as prey. When Grace shockingly pulls Cary Grant to her for an unexpected kiss in To Catch a Thief, or nuzzles a nonchalant Stewart in Rear Window, she is brazenly making love to not only her leading man, but her director as well.
In her Hitch movies, Grace is daring. She risks her life to retrieve the wedding ring of Mrs. Thorwald, she engages in an affair with a known burglar because it turns her on, and even in Dial M she engages in an affair about which she only feels kind of bad. The reason she got away with these erotic and questionable moral behaviors on the screen is because she carried them off with such ease. Her demeanor and delivery saved her from the "tramp" label, a fact Hitch loved. In her, there was a perfect marriage of the Madonna and the Whore-- the immaculate, immaculately dressed, dream girl.
Both women forever remained ideals to Hitch, and as ideals they were able to escape him unscathed. (Ironically enough, they both evaded their most ardent lover by getting married to other men). In our minds, so too are they ideals. Ingrid is our feminine, vulnerable side-- a slave to desire-- and Grace is our calculating sex-kitten-- satisfying her own desires (with impeccable fashion, of course). It is perhaps fortunate that these ladies made no more movies with Hitch than their classic trios. Had they stayed longer, the lines between artistry and control, imagination and dementia, may have become blurred. As it is, their films remain clean, precise, tantalizing, and classic. We continue to love and be loved by them... and love being loved by them. This is why we remain transfixed by Hitchcock, for by interpreting his own fantasies, he equally painted vivid portraits of our own. We all love, we all fear, we all desire, we all go a little mad sometimes, and it was Hitch's mad love of I and G that enhanced and solidified our own attachment to them. But hey, it's a lovely way to go.