Born November 12, 1929, Grace grew up in a boisterous, loving Irish Catholic family. The strong personalities of her father John B. Kelly, Olympic medalist in rowing, politician and successful businessman, and her mother, Margaret, competitive swimmer, and community activist, fostered achievement in their children. Sisters, Peggy and Lizanne were outgoing and vivacious. Brother Jack, following in his father’s footsteps, became a rowing champion and public figure. Civic responsibilities, a wide circle of friends, and a large close-knit extended family kept life busy at the Kelly homes in Philadelphia and at the Jersey shore.
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Grace’s personality was shy and gentle. In contrast to her outer reserve, the determination that led her to leave her comfortable life in suburban Philadelphia to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City at age 17 was an indication of an inner strength that would characterize her adult life.
As She forged her career as a professional actress, Grace was able to turn to her uncle George Kelly, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright for counsel. She never forgot what it meant to have support from a professional from the outset; in turn, She often reached out to talented performing artists with financial assistance and advice after She became successful.
Her career progressed rapidly: Grace was featured in advertisements, live TV, Broadway and stock theater. Her movies, all made between 1951 and 1956, brought her fame and intense media exposure. Directed by such top names as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kramer, her leading men were established stars including Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Alec Guinness, William Holden, and Frank Sinatra. Her strong performance in The Country Girl, for which She won the Academy Award in 1954, proved that Grace had not only become a glamorous movie star, but an outstanding actress.