Grace Kelly Without Makeup

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Hollywood icon Grace Kelly became known for playing roles where beauty wasn’t just skin deep — it seemed to radiate from within. In 1954’s “Rear Window,” as Lina in “An Affair To Remember” (1957) and again in 1959’s “Sleeping City Yacht” with Fred MacMurray, this classic leading lady offered audiences glimpses into her life through film stills and photo shoots showing her natural beauty.

But before these roles came along, Kelly had already established herself as one of America’s sweethearts thanks to her marriage to actor Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1955. She gave birth to their daughter Princess Stephanie of Monaco in 1958 and then wed Prince Stefano Cassini di Belmonte in 1960. During those early days in front of the camera, though, she looked nothing like the movie star we all know today.

Kelly began making movies when she was 14, appearing in such silent films as “A Star Is Born.” By 19, she’d landed her first speaking role opposite Spencer Tracy in “Love Me Wisely.” It would be another 10 years before she played alongside Clark Gable in “Gone With the Wind” and Gary Cooper in “The Searchers,” but by 1964, Kelly had become an international sensation starring in Robert Redford’s romantic drama “How Green You Are.” Afterward, she appeared in several critically acclaimed dramas including 1967’s “Geography Of Love.”

Her next big hit came two decades later, when she starred in director Stanley Kubrick’s epic adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel “A Clockwork Orange.” Then in 2003, Kelly returned to the small-town setting of her very first major dramatic role in Miramax Films’ box office smash “Runaway Bride.” Her performance garnered critical praise and earned her a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress.

While critics hailed her appearance in both “Green Light” and “Runaway Bride” as masterful performances, they were also quick to point out how different Kelly looked without heavy makeup and hairstyling. As some pointed out, however, there was something undeniably attractive about her clear complexion, unblemished nose and full lips. They claimed that if you peered closely at her face, you could see a few imperfections here and there, but overall, viewers said her features were so flawless that it almost felt unnatural.

So what gives? Why did millions of fans fall head over heels for this statuesque blonde who didn’t wear any makeup whatsoever? We decided to take a closer look.

The Truth About Grace Kelly’s Beauty

Before delving further into this topic, let’s get one thing straight right up front. Many people have argued that while Grace may not have been blessed with perfect looks, neither was anyone else during her era. Some folks claim that because no man has ever won a female beauty pageant since 1952, no other women were really competing against each other. Others say that since she only competed in one category (Miss World), others weren’t able to showcase their best assets. Still others argue that Kelly simply happened to be born with a stunning combination of good genes and great exposure.

Then there are those who insist that even if Grace was truly gorgeous, she wouldn’t have worn much — if any — make-up because doing so might detract from her overall appearance. One famous example comes from photographer Helmut Newton, who says he took pictures of Kelly wearing little to nothing except lipstick and mascara. He claims that after taking off his lens cap, which usually adds 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms) onto your own weight, he noticed that she actually weighed less than he thought. What does that mean? That means she must’ve been naturally thin! How can someone weigh less with all that thick hair and clothing covering them?

Not surprisingly, Newton isn’t the only person to come away convinced that Grace Kelly wore little or no makeup. According to the late makeup artist Pat McGrath, Kelly’s skin tone was warm enough to allow her to go barefaced. While McGrath admits that he doesn’t agree with everyone who thinks she was naturally pretty, he believes that if she wanted to appear slightly softer, she probably used light foundation and powder to help set her facial contours.

However, McGrath acknowledges that although we often think that movie stars don’t need any kind of special effects beyond strong acting skills to sell us on a character, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Movie magic was prevalent back then too, and directors and producers relied heavily upon tricks like double exposures, selective focus shots and split screens to create images that were meant to capture our attention. For instance, in 1956’s “Anchors Aweigh,” Kelly sported dark, smudged eyeliner around her eyes. When viewed side by side, the effect created an uncanny resemblance between the real woman and the image projected onscreen. This technique allowed filmmakers to seamlessly blend actors into live action scenes with convincing CGI effects.

Another popular trick involved shooting closeups of actresses against contrasting backgrounds to highlight certain key elements. Take 1957’s “An Affair To Remember,” for example. Here, director George Cukor captured Kelly’s delicate features in exquisite detail using shallow depth of field and soft lighting. However, instead of placing her against a plain white background, Cukor chose to shoot her against a lush green backdrop that emphasized her lush red locks. The end result was a striking contrast between her pale blue dress and bluish highlights that helped viewers notice her glowing skin.

Of course, that’s not to mention the use of such modern techniques as digital compositing, computer animation and motion control photography. These tools contributed significantly toward creating a realistic depiction of characters onscreen. Today, you’ll find similar technology being utilized in everything from video games to car commercials.

Now that we understand why some people believed that Grace Kelly had no competition among her peers, let’s explore what led to her transformation from 1950’s ingenue to timeless beauty icon. Before long, you’ll wonder whether she ever wore anything besides a smile…

‘She Was Just So Perfect:’ The Legacy of Grace Kelly’s Untold Story

After becoming Miss New York State in 1944, Kelly moved quickly up the ranks as one of the nation’s top models. Thanks to her height of 5 feet 7 inches (1.6 meters) tall, petite figure and blond hair, she soon found work modeling for fashion designers like Mossad & Co., Harry Conley, Claire McCardell and Lilly Daché. Between 1946 and 1948 alone, she posed for 25 magazine covers.

By 1949, however, Kelly had grown tired of posing nude for photographers looking down her cleavage. She told Life Magazine: “I’m sick of having my breasts exploited!” Instead, she turned professional dancer and signed a contract with MGM Studios. There, she learned ballet steps and tap dancing moves under renowned instructor Buster Keaton. After graduating from college in 1953, Kelly joined 20th Century Fox studios, signing a $10 million deal with the company. Although she initially planned to study law, she eventually changed paths and pursued a career in entertainment.

During production on “Dial M for Murder” in 1955, Kelly met producer Ross Hunter, whom she married three months later. Five years later, she accepted a supporting part in “Two Weeks Together” and received rave reviews. Critics praised her portrayal of spoiled socialite Estelle Ellis, who falls hard for a poor salesman named Mark Rutland. Once word got out that Kelly was dating co-star Elliott Gould, gossip columnists went crazy trying to determine who stole whose heart. Unfortunately, they weren’t nearly as interested in finding out what was going on behind closed doors.

That same year, Kelly portrayed a troubled teenager struggling with drug addiction in “Interrupted Melody.” Despite positive reviews from critics, the film bombed at the box office. Not long afterward, Kelly left show business altogether until she agreed to play Vampira opposite Dick Powell in 1961’s horror flick “Voodoo Woman.” The following year, she reunited with “Dial M for Murder” writer/producer Carl Reiner in “Mackenna’s Gold.” Although the comedy proved successful, Kelly’s role as shy shopkeeper Rosemary Lavelle hasn’t aged well, especially considering that most of the plot revolves around her constant fear of germs.

Despite her lackluster output during the ’60s, Kelly continued working throughout that decade. Two of her biggest hits occurred in 1965. First, she lent her voice to cartoon heroine Betty Boop in “Betty Boop’s Big Honeymoon Adventure.” Next, she acted in a controversial new sci-fi thriller entitled “Planet of the Apes.” Even though its release sparked controversy due to scenes involving nudity and violence, it was nominated for five Academy Awards. Sadly, the film lost four awards, including Best Actor for Charlton Heston.

Although Kelly retired from acting in 1969, she remained active in Hollywood circles. She served as president of Screen Actors Guild from 1973 to 1975 and headed the organization’s Women’s Committee from 1987 to 1994. From 1989 to 1992, she hosted NBC’s daytime talk show “Who’s Your Baby?” Finally, in 1995, she published her autobiography titled “My Turn: Memoirs of a Modern Girl.”

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