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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2 singular stars get new bios


By CRAIG WILSON
USA Today

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Grace Kelly

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Clint Eastwood

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They don't make them like they used to. People often say that about cars and refrigerators. The same can be said of movie stars.

Enter Grace Kelly and Clint Eastwood, who are being analyzed in new biographies. For anyone who longs for the day when the word superstar actually meant something, these two books will come as welcome escapes.

Ladies first.

Most everyone knows the basics of Grace Kelly's life. An extraordinarily beautiful Philadelphian conquers Hollywood and more than a few men along the way only to chuck it all to become a princess by marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco.

But the fairy tale wasn't all that "happily ever after," and author Donald Spoto in High Society gives readers a fascinating account of Kelly's difficult transition from Hollywood royalty to the real deal.

"For a very long time she felt like a displaced person, not just an expatriate," he writes. It took her 11 years, for instance, to change the custom that no man was permitted to visit her in her private apartments.

As Kelly said, "I missed the easier American attitude toward things."

She also shocked the conservative locals in the 1970s when she finally dismissed her bodyguards and took her children to local cafes and the public beach.

There's not all that much new here, but there are worse ways to spend a few hours than with the likes of Grace Kelly, who died in 1982 in a car crash after suffering a stroke while driving on the French Riviera. She was 52.

As for Mr. "Make My Day," Eastwood is the rough-and-tumble counterpart to Kelly's gentility: blue collar vs. blue blood.

What you get on the screen with Eastwood is pretty much what you get in real life. The "double helix" of Eastwood's creative and real-life DNA is so intertwined, says author Marc Eliot in "American Rebel," it's impossible to separate the private man from his on-screen persona.

Notoriously private, Eastwood, 79, rarely talks about his movies, let alone his life, so Eliot concedes that the "clues" to who Eastwood is "had to be found elsewhere."

Author of best-selling biographies of Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, Eliot wisely decided to spend much of the book on Eastwood's most recent 15 years or so, his most fruitful period, many believe, especially as a director. He has won five Oscars since 1992, and his latest film, "Invictus," is being mentioned as Oscar bait. It's a good decision on the biographer's part, as much of Eastwood's earlier life is well-traveled territory.

But yes, the affairs are all here, the seven children by five women, the two marriages. And the one amazing career.