A rather superficial but nevertheless convincing psychological portrait of Grace Kelly emerges from James Spada’s fact-filled biography. The main coup here is the kiss-and-tell revelations of one of the young actress’ first lovers, a New York drama coach with whom she maintained an intimate correspondence long after their love affair ended. His firsthand memories of her private behavior paint a vibrant portrait of the fun-filled, neurotic, and decidedly human Grace that existed behind the public masks of the iceberg-cool film star and the impeccably proper Princess of Monaco.
Once the story moves beyond Kelly’s student acting days in Manhattan, however, it becomes, first, a somewhat voyeuristic enumeration of which famous gentlemen she did or did not sleep with, and, later, an examination of her life with Prince Rainier that is primarily a rehash of newspaper reports and thirty years’ worth of gossip-column innuendo. Spada constantly tries to explain away the unusual choices Kelly made throughout her life by blaming her overbearing parents for both exerting too much influence on her and never giving her enough love. Her family was a major factor in her life, but one keeps hoping that Spada will go beyond simplistic Freudianism and provide a more complex view of the poor little rich girl from Philadelphia who became, arguably, the ultimate celebrity of the twentieth century. He resorts instead to pure speculation about how badly Grace felt when Princess Stephanie did this or the press wrote that.
Still, as a concise and revealing collection of facts about Grace Kelly, Spada’s book is comprehensive, clearly written, and generally enjoyable.