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In 1956, the world thrilled to the fairytale romance of movie star Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco. And by felicitous coincidence, just as their wedding was taking place, MGM released Kelly's final film, The Swan (1956), the story of a beautiful princess trying to get a prince to propose. Or was it a coincidence?
The Swan, a play by Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar, was a hit on Broadway in the 1920's. It had been made into a film with Lillian Gish, called One Romantic Night (1930). Grace Kelly had played the part of Princess Alexandra in a television version, before she went to Hollywood. In the summer of 1955, Kelly and MGM couldn't agree on what her next film would be...and suddenly, the actress was very eager to again play the princess whose destiny it is to marry a prince and glide through life "like a proud white swan...so dignified, so silent, so regal."
That spring, Kelly had been on the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival. A French magazine arranged a photo shoot with Prince Rainier at his palace in nearby Monaco. After that first meeting, the couple began to correspond secretly. So maybe a possible future with Rainier was on Kelly's mind when she suggested The Swan as her next project. Shooting began in late summer, with Biltmore House near Asheville, North Carolina standing in for the palatial home of European royalty. The house, built by George Vanderbilt in the 1890's, is a replica of a French chateau, and was then the largest mansion in the United States. Kelly seemed quite at home in the opulent surroundings.
The Swan wrapped production just before Christmas, and Kelly left to spend the holidays with her family in Philadelphia. Prince Rainier visited the Kellys, and by the end of his visit, the couple was engaged. MGM took full advantage of the publicity when it released The Swan to coincide with the royal wedding in the spring. Helen Rose, who had designed the costumes for the film, created Kelly's wedding gown as a gift from the studio. Although High Society would be released later, The Swan is actually the final Hollywood film Grace Kelly made. And it's a fitting "swan song" for the regal star who became Her Serene Highness, Princess Grace of Monaco.
Director: Charles Vidor
Producer: Dore Schary
Screenplay: John Dighton, based on the play by Ferenc Molnar
Editor: John Dunning
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Principal Cast: Grace Kelly (Princess Alexandra), Alec Guinness (Prince Albert), Louis Jourdan (Dr. Nicholas Agi), Agnes Moorehead (Queen Maria Dominika), Jessie Royce Landis (Princess Beatrix), Brian Aherne (Father Hyacinth), Estelle Winwood (Symphorosa).
C-109m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri