1977: When Grace Kelly Invited NBC to the Palace of Monaco

NBCU photo bank via Getty Images
“She felt criticized all the time. She always had to be on guard,” says Lee Grant (left) of Grace Kelly (center), with an NBC crewmember during the 1977 shooting of 'Once Upon a Time.'

As dramatized in 'Grace of Monaco,' the actress retired from acting after she met her prince. But when Lee Grant visited Monaco to host an NBC doc, she found a cracked fairy tale.

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Grace Kelly may not have had a fairy godmother, but in the 1950s, the actress was Hollywood’s own Cinderella. Born in Philadelphia to a three-time Olympic gold medalist father and a women’s team sports coach mother, Kelly pursued an interest in acting despite her parents’ opposition, starring in a few school plays before transitioning to film.

In 1952, she signed a seven-year contract with MGM at a salary of $750 a week and landed roles opposite such leading men as Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby in films Mogambo, To Catch a Thief and The Country Girl (for which she scored a best actress Oscar at 25).

But it wasn’t until a royal encounter with Prince Rainier III at the Palace of Monaco that she found her prince charming. Kelly traded Hollywood fame to become Princess Grace when she married the young monarch in 1956, in what the press called the "wedding of the century." (The royal marriage is depicted in Lifetime’s Nicole Kidman starrer Grace of Monaco, Emmy-nominated for outstanding television movie.)

Despite expectations of a fairytale ending for Kelly, a rare glimpse of her lonely reign was seen offcamera during the filming of NBC’s 1977 television documentary Once Upon a Time … Is Now the Story of Princess Grace.

Actress Lee Grant, who interviewed Kelly for the doc, remembers her as a trained princess afraid of letting down her guard.

"I said to her between rolls of film, 'From one actor to another, what you’re saying is boring.' She turned to her friend [in tears] and said, 'Am I boring? Am I?'" Grant recalls to THR. "When the camera wasn’t rolling, she kind of emptied her heart. The truth was, her life was terribly restrained — she was princess of a little closed-off castle."

Kelly, who died in a car crash in 1982 at age 52, never appeared on film again after 1956’s High Society.