Within the pristine white walls of Toronto's TIFF Bell Lightbox, fashion-lovers, royal followers and film fans alike were brought together by the recent exhibit, Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess. Though patrons shuffled between her handwritten notes, scripts and most memorable pieces from the Dial M for Murder actress' wardrobe, no item encased in glass could match the experience of seeing them brought to life on screen.
Audiences became infatuated with Grace Kelly, the movie star because of her beauty and reserved charm. While walking through the portion of the exhibit dedicated to Kelly's Hollywood years, movie posters and iconic outfits were on display. But for evidence of the personality that intrigued generations, you purchased the wrong tickets. The tribute to her short film career soon led to displays of the clothes which marked her transition to royalty, from the floral dress she wore to meet Prince Rainier for the first time, to a replica of her wedding gown. For more of the personality that first caught Hollywood's attention, a screening of To Catch a Thief was the perfect accompaniment.
Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 mystery was one of the first movies to romanticize the French Riviera. To see it is an indulgent experience in which the beauty of the setting is layered with glamorous leads (Kelly and Cary Grant) and luxurious costumes by Edith Head. Kelly plays Frances, a restless American heiress who romances reformed criminal John Robie. She's sure of herself and of getting what she wants but bares none of the petulant attitude she has playing rich girl Tracy Lord in her final film, High Society. As she moves through scenes in looks by the legendary costume designer, her over-the-top accessories also communicate the character's love of attention. When she isn't wearing jewels, a wide-brimmed hat will suffice. The solid blues and whites in her wardrobe reiterate her cool demeanor to the audience. Just as costumes were used to convey Frances' identity, so to was the camera. Hitchcock frequently used profile shots of the actress to highlight her refined, icy quality, which were then juxtaposed with her character's aggressive pursuit of John Robie. Aside from the film's aesthetics, the audible gasps from the audience made it clear that Hitchcock's mystery is still a thrill to unravel.