A New Grace Kelly Documentary Reveals How The Hollywood Icon Lost Her Millions
Grace Kelly was the epitome of Hollywood glamour, a film and television actress who was among the most successful of her time, later marrying into royalty when she wed Prince Rainier III of Monaco.
But in 1982, when the Hollywood actress-turned-royalty was just 52, she tragically died after suffering a stroke at the wheel while on her way back to Monaco from her country home in Roc Agel, with her car plunging into a nearby ravine. Some may be shocked to know that at the time of her death, Kelly had just $10,000 to her name, along with a single cottage in County Mayo, Ireland, that belonged to her grandfather.
A new documentary, Grace Kelly: The Missing Millions, is providing a new deep dive into how one of Hollywood’s most successful stars, as well as a member of Monaco’s royal family, had so little to her name.
The documentary—which includes key contributors Bonnie Greer, a novelist and playwright, Kate Williams, a history professor, and Gemma Godfrey, a wealth adviser—explores Kelly’s privileged financial upbringing in Philadelphia, her “millions made and the millions lost”, and ultimately where her fortune ended up.
Godfrey in particular studies Kelly’s financial history, including what she was compensated for the films she starred in compared to her male co-stars.
“In this documentary, for the first time ever these types of documents have not only been accessed but brought together to build this picture of her financial position, which is absolutely fascinating,” Godfrey told the magazine.
Kelly, after moving to New York City to work as a model, made her film debut in 1952 in High Noon, which was quickly followed by Mogambo in 1953, an adventure romance starring Clark Gable.
It’s when Kelly began working with Alfred Hitchcock that her career spiked, appearing in the 1954 thriller Dial M for Murder, where she starred alongside actor Ray Milland. While filming, Kelly and Millard began their notorious affair.
In 1954, Kelly won her first Oscar for The Country Girl, but her relationships with co-stars, including Gary Cooper and Gable, and their negative portrayals by the media, would begin to define her in the public eye. Of course, neither Cooper nor Gable had their careers affected by such treatment from the papers.
But it would be the documentary’s deep dive into Kelly’s payments for her work that is most enlightening, showing she received just $5,000 in compensation for her work as the “thrill-hunting American heiress” in Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief (1955), while co-star Cary Grant was paid $18,750. Similarly, when Gable made $5,000 a week while shooting Mogambo, Kelly received just $750.
While many might assume Kelly’s small earnings were to blame for the amount to her name at the time of her passing, it was when Kelly met her husband, Prince Rainier III, that her fortune would dwindle most dramatically. According to The Missing Millions, the actor had to pay a $2 million dowry to the House of Grimaldi, her entire fortune as well as a large portion of her family inheritance.
“The thing that surprised me the most… it’s the fact that she had to pay to be a princess,” Godfrey told 9Honey, adding, “That was quite shocking because obviously, the way that the story is usually told is that she built up this fantastic career in Hollywood, then, of course, she got whisked off her feet and then got access to huge amounts of wealth.”
When Kelly decided to join the royal family in Monaco, she agreed to cease acting—a decision she reportedly “bitterly regretted.” If Kelly had continued to act, as well as monetised her relationship with fashion brands, she could have amassed a fortune that equalled that of her contemporaries Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day.
While the new documentary looks at Kelly’s financial files, one document remains unavailable—her will, which Godfrey claims could reveal more about her wealth, or lack thereof. The documentary, Grace Kelly: The Missing Millions, is not currently available to watch in Australia, so stay tuned for updates.