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Entertainment

The problems with 'Grace' and the delicious truth about the jet set era

MoviesFilm FestivalsIgor (movie)Nicole KidmanHarvey WeinsteinLiz Smith

"The passenger jet was, and still is, one of the wonders of the world, a world whose other wonders the jet makes accessible." So writes William Stadiem.

If the upcoming movie "Grace of Monaco" keeps getting super-bad publicity, it may well create an underground demand for this outrageous movie, which I hear from my friend, Harvey Weinstein, the film's producers would rather downplay than play up. But how can they, when the movie will open the Cannes Film Festival on May 14? (Word of mouth is "Grace of Monaco" is not even "campy fun," which would at least guarantee some interest.)

AN actress I like and admire, Nicole Kidman, stars in this movie and is said to bear very little resemblance to the super-glamorized Grace Kelly, who deserted films back in the '50s to become Prince Rainier's fairytale "princess." At the time, Grace gave up an already very sexy and entertaining life, kissing the likes of Clark Gable and Bing Crosby, and winning an Oscar. She was at the peak of stardom when she gave up her acting career and became a princess. Hollywood had been a snap for the demure looking blonde from Philadelphia.

At the time, the Golden Greek Aristotle Onassis (pre-Jackie Kennedy), owned the Societe des Bains de Mer, which meant owning Monaco itself. It was a little tiny enclave on the edge of the French Riviera that had been created for escape from taxes. And everybody began to go to Monaco to gamble and shop and join what was coming to be called "The Jet Set."

I keep telling people that the Grimaldi family in place at the Palace of Monaco was Johnny-come-lately among many European titles. The press always refers to them as "royalty," but, in my opinion, they were about as royal as Royal Crown Cola.

If they were anything, they were mere serene highnesses, as my then boss, Igor Cassini, always told me. His brother, movie costume designer, Oleg, had almost married Grace Kelly himself. The Cassinis knew history and titles. Both brothers spent a lot of time helping to further the glamour of Monaco and Igor feathered his own nest as an international columnist for the then-powerful Hearst newspapers. (I was just a ghostwriter for him.)

You can read all about these realities in the coming June book titled "Jet Set: The People, the Planes, the Glamour, and the Romance in Aviation's Glory Years." William Stadiem's work is comprehensive, all about when folks began to really fly around in a hurry. This booming aviation era facilitated both advertising and publicity and everybody began to worship The Jet Set and tried to become a part of it.

Included in this coming book are examples of the then-successful man, the aforesaid Igor Cassini, who used the nom de plume of Cholly Knickerbocker. He created and helped popularize "The Jet Set" phrase. This book shows us how society changed with the coming of fast air travel and as the "social" or "society" world began to lose its polish, events took on the false glamour of "celebrity." That is exemplified in today's world where push, shove and getting attention hold sway.

What a book Mr. Stadiem has written! The Kennedys, the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra himself and early financiers like Eddie Gilbert are dealt with in depth. It was a beginning for the sort of frenetic, desperate world we now seem to be living in.

If you think yesterday's glamour and appeal was reserved for people trying to be rich and famous, well, just look at today. I lived intimately through it all in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s and I have yet to find a mistake in Stadiem's amazing book. Order it now. All the players are here, Bobby Kennedy, as a menace to much of the fun, Joe Kennedy, his father, having young ladies procured for him, lawyers making millions getting "socialites" out of hot water, the creation of disco and rock 'n' roll, the rise of Great Britain's popular music and fashion appeal and on and on ... plus New York as the so-called "400" became the 4 million.

You could think now about how you will wish a happy 90th birthday to that huge star of the '50s, Doris Day.

It won't do any good to expect the Academy to do anything. And she probably wouldn't accept an honorary Oscar now, after observing how they treated Mary Pickford, and more recently, Kim Novak.

But fans can still celebrate by sending Doris birthday wishes to http://www.dorisdayanimalfoundation.org and maybe sending her a check for the many homeless animals she supports.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)

(c)2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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