18 May 2017
Tim Koch produces what is now the fourth part of the two-part Kelly story:
After the third HTBS piece on the Kellys of Philadelphia was posted, I remembered a nice eight-minute U.S. television news report linked to the publication of Dan Boyne’s, Kelly: A Father, A Son, An American Quest (2008) that we had put up in 2013. It is certainly worth revisiting, plus it gives me a chance to post some pictures that I did not use previously – and to spread some gossip.
The problem with writing about Jack and Kell and their sculling activities is that the story of Grace, actress and princess, is much more appealing, even to a hardened rowing historian. Thus, any connection between Grace and the sport is to be milked for all it is worth. I previously mentioned that Bert Bushnell, one half of the winning 1948 Olympic double, once managed to secure a date with her, and now rowing journalist, Chris Dodd, informs me that Tony Rowe, winner of the Diamond Sculls at Henley in 1950, also took out the lovely Miss Kelly.
There have been many books published about Grace’s many other gentlemen friends. Most are ‘hack jobs’, but one, High Society: Grace Kelly And Hollywood by Donald Spoto, may have a bit more credibility as it is based on hours of interview tapes that he collected from his subject prior to her death in 1982. Spoto names a string of famous Hollywood men that Grace had ‘discreet affairs’ with, but he also includes the Shah of Iran in the lucky group. As Grace ended up marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco, she clearly liked older men and men who had their own country. However, Spoto also has good stories about some relatively unknown ‘friends of Grace’.
In the late 1940s, Grace had a two-year relationship with one of her acting teachers, but there was tremendous pressure from her family to end it. When she took him home to meet her Catholic parents, her mother went through his personal effects and found his divorce papers and a packet of condoms.
A review of Spoto’s book in the Daily Express says this about her affair with actor, Gene Lyons (it would be racist to add ‘without irony’):
An Irish Catholic, Lyons might have met with her parents’ approval if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was an alcoholic.
Spoto also repeats the famous (though dubious) tale frequently told by suave British actor, David Niven. Allegedly, well into his marriage to Grace, Prince Rainier once asked Niven, who had been his most exciting lover? He started to reply ‘Grace’ but, catching himself and changing his answer as he spoke, he actually replied: ‘Grace….ee Fields’. Luckily, Rainier had never heard of the working-class Lancashire singer and so did not realise the unlikelihood of such an encounter.
Of course, Jack and Kell also had busy social lives and Grace’s Eurotrash children kept the gossip columns and paparazzi busy for many years. But that is enough puerility for now…