At the 1954 Oscars, Grace Kelly pulled off a shocking Best Actress win for “The Country Girl,” besting comeback-kid Judy Garland in the musical remake of “A Star is Born.”
This year, Nicole Kidman could follow in Kelly’s footsteps by portraying the movie star-turned-princess in “Grace of Monaco.” The film, directed by “La Vie en Rose” helmer Olivier Dahan, will be released by The Weinstein Co. on Dec. 27, the very day that Oscar nominations open.
Weinstein films have won Best Actress for two years running: Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady” (2011) and Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012). Streep, who co-starred with Kidman in “The Hours” which won the latter her only Oscar in 2002, is a strong Best Actress contender this year for “August: Osage County,” which Weinstein will unspool in November.
Kelly’s victory over Garland is viewed as one of the biggest upsets in Academy history, but looking back, was it really a neck-and-neck race?
At 25, Kelly was an up-and-coming ingénue who had contended for Supporting Actress the previous year for “Mogambo” (she lost to Donna Reed for “From Here to Eternity”).
In the same year as “The Country Girl,” Kelly also had starring roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and “Dial ‘M’ for Murder,” as well as “Green Fire” and “The Bridges of Toko-Ri.” Here was a star in the making if ever there was one.
Garland, meanwhile, was coming back from a very long, very public battle with breakdowns, bankruptcy, and substance abuse. “A Star is Born” reminded Hollywood of what a tremendous talent she was, and a Best Actress win would be her ultimate vindication.
On Oscar night, Garland was in the hospital recuperating from the premature birth of her son, Joey, and a camera crew was waiting outside the window for the perfectly made-up mother to accept her reward.
Though both actresses had taken home Golden Globes, the odds were tipped heavily in Garland’s favor. When the envelope was opened, however, Kelly’s name was called, leaving Garland with a brave smile for the cameras. Soon after her win, Kelly married Prince Rainier, relinquishing her title as Hollywood’s princess to become Monaco’s.
On paper, “Grace of Monaco” looks like the perfect vehicle for Kidman to nab her second Best Actress trophy — it’s a biopic that combines Old Hollywood lore with European royalty. How could voters not eat that up?
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Kidman would be the second person in history to win for portraying a real-life Oscar winner; Cate Blanchett prevailed in the supporting race in 2004 for playing four-time Best Actress champ Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator.”
It’s still way too early to tell, but these are the kind of stories that make the Oscar race so much fun to follow, whether it’s 1954 or 2013.