Saturday, December 15, 2012


Grace Kelly had a reputation as the girl in the white gloves. an innocent who was chaperoned on her dates by her older sister. The truth was somewhat different. Before she got to Hollywood, she studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and there she fell in love with one of her instructers.
     The instructor was twenty-seven-year-old Don Richardson, a married man separated from his wife, who has since directed hundreds of theater and television shows and now teaches acting at the University of California at Los Angeles. He had never met Grace before, and he found himself drawn to the teenage girl. “I was amazed to realize that without knowing her at all I felt immediately protective ... I found myself treating her as tenderly as a child.”
     Richardson offered to walk Grace back to the Barbizon, but when they got there, she was reluctant to say good-night. Richardson asked her if she would like to come over to his apartment. “She said yes,” Richardson recalls, “and we went over to my place. I started a fire, and within forty minutes we were in bed together. It was an amazing sight, seeing a girl as beautiful as Grace lying naked in my bed, bathed in the light from the fireplace. I thought to myself, ‘Boy, you sure got lucky.’”
     Grace and Richardson began an affair, the first of many she would have with older men. In the months that followed, he often took her to parties at the homes of theater and television professionals he knew. One of these was Irving Pincus, producer of Ellery Queen, a TV show Richardson was directing at the time. “There were a few important agents present, with their wives,” Richardson says. “At this gathering, like all the previous ones, Kelly— that’s what I called her—sat wringing her white gloves, listening and listening, but deeply enclosed. When one of the women would direct a question or comment at her, she would answer in a high young voice with a slight Philadelphia ring to it, articulately and poised, but then, having made a reply, she asked no question or made any comment in turn. The next day Pincus called me on the phone and said,  ‘Jeez, you’ve brought some dull broads to my house, but last night was the dullest.’”
     Richardson didn’t think Grace was dull. “Her public persona was so completely different than her private self that it was phenomenal. She was so proper, people thought of her as a nun. But when we were alone together, she used to dance naked for me to Hawaiian music. And if you don’t think that was an incredible sight, you’re crazy. She was a very sexy girl.”
     Before long, Richardson found himself falling in love with her. Grace too was infatuated. Richardson was exactly right for her—nine years older, separated from his wife, worldly and accomplished, an authority figure, and a man in a position to help her who believed strongly in her potential for success. “Even then,” Richardson says, “I was convinced that she was going to be a major movie star. She wasn’t a great actress, and her voice was minimal, which was a problem for the stage—I don’t think she would have become a great stage star—but I knew that the special qualities she possessed would come across beautifully on the screen.”
     Several of Grace’s fellow students were aware of her relationship with Richardson. “Grace and Don Richardson were very much in love,” Mary Naredo volunteers. “He was the first great love of her life.” John Lupton recalls that this affair between an instructor and a student became a prime topic of classroom conversation. “It wasn’t a very common thing,” Lupton says. “I think the general reaction was ‘Wow!’”

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