On this day in 1956, Grace Kelly said her final farewell to Hollywood before heading to Europe to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Here’s a closer look at the gorgeous dress and classic jewels she wore for her final film industry appearance before her wedding.
On March 21, 1956, Grace Kelly arrived at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to attend the Academy Awards ceremony. Three months earlier, she had accepted a marriage proposal from Prince Rainier III of Monaco. The wedding was scheduled for April, and the day after the Oscars ceremony, Grace would fly to New York to make final preparations for her voyage to Europe.
A year earlier, in 1955, Grace had won the Best Actress Oscar for her work in The Country Girl. Though she was not nominated in 1956, she attended the ceremony to carry out the tradition of presenting the following year’s Best Actor Oscar.
Almost everything about Grace’s final Hollywood appearance was coordinated by her studio, MGM. She was escorted to the ceremony by MGM publicist Morgan Hudgins. Her gown for the occasion was made by Helen Rose, the studio’s chief costume designer.
Her look for the evening screamed—or, perhaps, gently whispered—”princess bride.” Her white chiffon gown was a sort of bridal preview, with criss-crossed neckline and a full skirt decorated with floral embroidery. (Rose was also in the process of designing Grace’s wedding gown at the time.) Her accessories included a small clutch bag, and a pair of demure white gloves. She arrived for the ceremony with a light blue wrap placed elegantly around her shoulders. Something blue?
Grace kept her jewelry for the occasion simple and chic. She wore a pair of classic diamond and pearl earrings. (She would soon add a grander suite of pearls to her jewelry box.) Her massive diamond engagement ring, if she wore it, was hidden away under her glove.
One of the most memorable moments from the 1956 ceremony was captured in this photograph, taken backstage during the ceremony. Grace waits for her turn to present beside another iconic star, Audrey Hepburn. Like Grace, Audrey was a presenter at the ceremony, not a nominee. She was the presenter for the Best Picture Oscar, which went to Marty.
Marty won several of the most prestigious prizes at the ceremony. Grace presented the Best Actor Oscar to Ernest Borgnine, who played the title role in the film. Here, Grace and Borgnine pose together for the press backstage.
After participating in the ceremony, Grace boarded a plane the next day for New York. In their write-up on the year’s Oscars, the Los Angeles Times noted that Grace was “already a princess in visible loveliness.” In her brief career, Grace Kelly had risen to the highest heights of Hollywood achievement. Now, a new royal life, and the title of Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, awaited her.