The Touch of Grace in Toronto

As I was walking in Entertainment District in Toronto, I heard someone’s whistling. I kept walking, assuming it was a catcall. Then, I heard it again for 2 more times. I looked back and approached a middle-aged man somewhere in his 50’s who called me. He passed me the ticket to Grace Kelly exhibition that was on him, only valid on the same day. He smiled and gave me a clin d’oeil before getting back to the driver’s seat.

Did I hear it wrong?

I directly entered TIFF Bell Lightbox, the building next to me where the exhibition was held. The actual ticket price was $15, the one I got cost $12, and I got it for free. So Charlie just got his golden ticket to the chocolate factory.  I’d got to rush, the museum would be closed within an hour!

TIFF brochure Grace Kelly

The house rules were strict. No photography, food, backpacks, handbags, stroller, too much noise and jackets worn inside. I held the jacket instead since I’m wasn’t willing to spend extra $2 to keep it in the garderobe.

Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess exhibition was produced by Grimaldi Forum Monaco in 2007 as seen in London, São Paulo, Astana, Rome and Paris. The theme says it all out loud. As I passed the security check, the wall on my left side displayed Kelly’s appearances in international magazines such as Time, Life, Look and Paris Match as a Hollywood actress and Her Serene Highness in the Kingdom of Monaco. In fact, it was the only part I could capture with my camera from the exhibition’s way out.

grace on cover of magazines

There were more archives highlighting Kelly’s life, which was anything but ordinary, behind the glass door of the museum. As one of the most remarkable fashion icons in the 20th century, her royal wedding dress designed by Helen Rose, flower-print dress when she met Prince Rainier III for the first time, the famous Kelly Bag, originally named sac à dépêche by Hermès, her favourite designer’s dresses by Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as Van Cleef and Arpels signature tiara undoubtedly lured her fans worldwide. It also showed scenes from her movie hits, e.g. Dial M for Murder, High Society, and Country Girl (where she won the Oscar) and photos from her past, from the wedding with Prince Rainier III, behind the scene with Alfred Hitchcock until her duties in numerous royal visits.

Her personal side is as interesting as her glamorous one. Kelly was a collector type in nature, although not necessarily beautifully crafted perfume bottles or music boxes. The telegram from Prince Rainier, the letter from AMPAS when she was nominated for an Oscar, from Alfred Hitchcock and her movie contract are some of the intimate belongings she kept well. Visitors had an access to view the Grimaldi family home video showing Kelly as a mother and wife. Besides, she did what A-list Hollywood stars rarely do, to wear some of her gowns more than once to the galas (except her wedding dress, I believe).

The white gloves she wore daily drive my curiosity. Kelly’s hands are more petites than I thought, probably smaller than mine. If I always have a problem getting favourite rings that fit me, especially in western countries, did she (unless they are customized)?

Grace Kelly’s Dresses
Image Credit: Where: Timely Information for Travellers, Nov-Dec 2011, p. 20-21

For a group of senior citizens, the exhibition had more profound meaning, beyond admiration of Kelly’s movies and beauty. They read Kelly’s private letters word by word as if they were love letters from the past lovers found in the old treasure box buried under the sands. They watched the Grimaldi home videos attentively, commenting on little Prince Albert and Princess Stéphanie as if they were their own grandsons.

grace kelly elevators

It brought back the time when they were young, reckless and productive. Kelly’s movies remind them of first high school dates or a family gathering to the cinema. Some still remember the joyful atmosphere when the beloved actress’ wedding become the wedding of the century, whose news was spread out around the globe, and how her wedding dress has become something legendary ever since. Even Kate Middleton couldn’t resist its timeless and classic design. They felt an emotional engagement with the exhibition since they grew up with Grace Kelly.

I wonder, perhaps one day I’ll feel the same way about Lady Gaga or Britney Spears exhibition when I turn 65.

I noticed the senior citizens seem to know each other well. Besides, there was a bus parking outside the museum, whose driver treated me the ticket. Eureka! I think I know why I got my golden ticket. The bus was chartered by the retirement home community to visit the exhibition. Since one of them couldn’t make it, the bus driver decided to give it away to someone else who was by him or herself. Then, he found me.

TIFF facade with Kelly news

“Elegance and beauty of movement, form, expression, or proportion” and “a pleasing or charming quality” are some of the definitions of “grace” quoted from WordReference.com. I believe that’s the part of “grace” the exhibition would like to show about Kelly, apart from commemorating her as a world class actress, fashion icon and princess, that touches both old and young generations. Well, I was lucky enough to feel that touch thanks to the golden ticket.

entertainment district in the pouring rain

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