Grace Kelly’s film career lasted only six years before she became Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco in 1956. Of her 11 movies, eight of which will be screened at BAMcinématek as part of its tribute to the porcelain-perfect actress, the three she made with Alfred Hitchcock—Dial M for Murder (1954; not included in the series), Rear Window (1954; which kicks off the retro with a one-week run), and To Catch a Thief (1955)—made her the archetypical remote, posh, fair-haired screen divinity. And no one worshipped this demigoddess more than the Master of Suspense himself: Like Scottie obsessively trying to remake working-class, brown-haired Judy into sophisticated, platinum-haired Madeleine in Vertigo (1958), Hitchcock, too, was searching for Grace notes in all the blondes who followed her and almost lured Kelly out of retirement to play the frigid klepto in his last great film, Marnie (1964).
Hitch, explaining the allure of Kelly’s “indirect sex appeal” to François Truffaut for the latter’s book-length interview with his idol, bluntly stated: “You know why I favor sophisticated blondes in my films? We’re after the drawing room type, the real ladies, who become whores once they’re in the bedroom.” Lisa (pronounced “Lee-za”) Fremont, the supremely poised fashion-magazine editrix Kelly plays in Rear Window, might be disparaged by temporarily wheelchair-bound boyfriend Jeff (James Stewart) as “too perfect,” but there’s no mistaking the impure thoughts on her mind as she brings out her nightie for a sleepover at the laid-up photographer’s West Village apartment. Even in her high-femme, Edith Head–designed beige dress with multiple petticoats, Lisa isn’t too dainty to scale a suspected killer’s fire escape—a bit of butch derring-do that turns Jeff on. No longer will Lisa have to incongruously plead “Pay attention to me.”