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Portrait of Grace Kelly while she was Alfred Hitchcock's favorite actress. She had just shot "An Almost Perfect Crime." (Agency reference 104404379)
Courtesy of © Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images (1954)
Portrait of Grace Kelly while she was Alfred Hitchcock's favorite actress. She had just shot "An Almost Perfect Crime." (Agency reference 104404379)

Airs Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9 p.m. & Sunday, April 6 at 2 p.m. on KPBS TV

They seemed to have it all – glamour, power, wealth and adoration. Grace Kelly, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Indira Gandhi, Madame Chiang Kai Shek... they were worshiped, loved and sometimes even feared by millions the world over. These were the pioneers who showed that a woman could be the equal of any man. But behind the public success, there was so often private heartache and personal tragedy. Featuring archive, interviews and dramatic re-enactment, this series reveals the price these extraordinary women paid for their achievements. Yet in the end, they overcame all adversities to emerge as triumphant, inspirational icons of the 20th century.

"Grace Kelly" - Grace Kelly had a privileged upbringing in Philadelphia, in fact, she was born to be a princess. Even her maternal grandfather was born in a German Castle. But the young Grace was quiet and sensitive and spent her childhood struggling to win her Irish-American father's approval. She was determined to find the success and independence that she hoped would impress him. By her teenage years, Grace had blossomed into a beautiful woman, picking up modeling jobs in order to finance her acting studies.


“If anybody starts using me as scenery, I’ll return to New York” - Grace Kelly, (1929-1982), American actress and Princess of Monaco

Never short of wealthy male suitors, Grace was at the heart of New York's social scene and even received a marriage proposal from the Shah of Iran. As her acting and movie career flourished, so she began a string of affairs with her co-stars including Gary Cooper, Clarke Gable, Ray Milland and Bing Crosby. She was attracted to older men who were often married.

Three successful performances sealed her place as Alfred Hitchcock's favorite actress; the definitive Hitchcock blonde who was the image of virginal beauty yet brimming with sexuality. Her decision to play a dowdy housewife in "The Country Girl" would reward her with the Best Actress Academy Award in 1955.

But Grace's life would take an even greater step up when she caught the eye of the eligible Prince Rainier of Monaco, that same year. In 1956, the couple were married in a spectacular MGM-produced wedding. Grace Kelly looked every inch the princess... but the marriage wouldn't live up to the fairy-tale. Over the coming years there would be moments of happiness including the birth of two daughters and a son.

Grace helped revive the ailing principality as Monaco became a thriving hub for the rich and famous. Princess Grace's charity work was widely respected and she gained the enduring love and adoration of the Monegasques. But there would also be persistent rumors of affairs on both sides, and as the children grew up, they only added more stress to a troubled marriage. Grace's untimely and mysterious death in 1982 brought a tragic end to the life of the Princess of Monaco and a Hollywood icon.

Distributed by BBC Worldwide

Extraordinary Women: Grace Kelly Preview