It's hard to believe now, but in the early 1950s Marilyn and Grace were considered rivals. A movie magazine asked its readers to compare "Heat" (Marilyn) to "Ice" (Grace). Grace was sometimes called "The pious man's Marilyn." There were some similarities between them. Both were blonde and beautiful, and both their careers took off at the beginning of the decade.
But there were stark differences as well. Marilyn grew up poor in a series of foster homes and an orphanage in Los Angeles. Grace was the privileged daughter of one of the richest men in Philadelphia. Grace went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Marilyn was largely self-taught and coached. Marilyn's screen image was highly sexualized, but in her private life she rarely even dated until she met Joe DiMaggio in 1952. Grace's screen image was as an ice queen, but privately she had affairs with nearly all her leading men, most of them much older and very married.
Grace won respect and an Academy Award. Marilyn was never even nominated for one.
Grace left acting to marry Prince Rainier in 1956, and it was that year that Marilyn finally got her respect as an actress with her great performance in Bus Stop.
Both of them died unexpectedly, and too young. Marilyn became the avatar of Hollywood; many consider her the greatest movie star in history.
In death, Grace has not approached Marilyn as an icon. A strong example occurred just in the last few months. The fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn's death was covered by every major media outlet as though it were a news event.
To my surprise, the thirtieth anniversary of Grace's death in September went virtually unremarked upon. Perhaps there had been so much attention paid to Marilyn that wary editors shied away from similar coverage of Grace's anniversary and legacy.
Perhaps Grace's fiftieth anniversary will be covered as widely as Marilyn's. But it's pretty clear who won the Marilyn vs. Grace contest.
My book Grace: The Secret Lives of a Princess is now an e-book. Her life story is rich and fascinating. I urge you to download a copy from Amazon!