EXCERPT: 'High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly'

My visit that day was an important part of the research for my first book, The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, the first full- length treatment of all the director's movies. Knowing that she gave interviews but rarely, I had not much hope when I wrote from my home in New York to Grace's secretary at the palace in Monaco. Up to 1975, my writing résumé listed only a few magazine articles and one essay in a book—hence I had little hope for an interview with the princess, who was constantly besieged with such requests.

Two weeks after I wrote, however, I received a reply from her secretary, Paul Choisit, asking if I would like to meet with Her Serene Highness in Paris that September. You bet I would. I went to visit Grace shortly after spending two weeks with Alfred Hitchcock, while he was directing (as it turned out) his last film, Family Plot, that summer of 1975. I told him that I had an appointment to interview Grace. "That should be interesting," he said with a wry smile.

My first conversation with Grace that September afternoon was mostly about her three films for Alfred Hitchcock, made between July 1953 and August 1954. Her memories were sharp, picturesque, amusing and full of telling anecdotes. That day and later, she also spoke about other directors, especially Fred Zinnemann and John Ford, mostly to compare their methods and manners with Hitchcock's. There was no doubt about her deep respect, affection and acute understanding of Alfred Hitchcock the director and the man. Later she also spoke quite frankly to me about her life and about incidents for which she asked my confidence "as long as I'm around," as she said. I gave her my word.

At that first meeting, Grace impressed me with her total lack of affectation and of anything like a regal manner. She wore a simple navy blue suit and, as I recall, very little jewelry. She put on no airs, she was funny and ironic, she had an extraordinary memory for detail, she told some delightfully risqué tales of Hollywood, she was realistic and completely unstuffy—and she was as interested in my life as I was in hers. I was completely at ease with her. We sat on a comfortable sofa, and we sipped tea and munched delicious little cookies, on and off, all through the afternoon until dusk.

But there was one enormous surprise for me as I prepared to depart.

As we came to the end of the afternoon, Grace asked if anyone was going to write a foreword or introduction to my work. I replied that, as The Art of Alfred Hitchcock would be my first book, I had given no thought to the matter of a foreword by anyone—I had been lucky just to find a small independent publisher. "I am constantly asked to endorse products," she continued, "and to comment on books, or to say something about a movie. I cannot do that, for many reasons. However, in your case, I would make an exception. If you will send me your manuscript when it's finished, would you like me to write a foreword to your book?"

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