One spring day in 1952, Miss Grace Kelly, of Philadelphia, now resident in New York, went across to “a barn-like studio on the far West Side of Manhattan.” That is how she later described it, as if recalling a foreign trip. In the barn, she did a screen test, for a movie called “Taxi,” opposite Robert Alda: the fair young maid and the darker, troubled fellow, each pleading with the other. Kelly wears a soft sweater and, beneath it, a white blouse, whose demure collar is just discernible. We can also make out a mild Irish accent—not much of a stretch, for one of the Kelly clan. “It ain’t that I’m not fond of you,” she says, in words that have weighed like lead, throughout history, on the hearts of disappointed guys. Her eyes keep moving across the man, as if he were a passage of verse. There is both hesitancy and force in this woman; you can picture her, faced with a decision, flitting back and forth, and yet, once decided, becoming quite fiery and sure. It was a combination that appealed to the director of “Taxi,” Gregory Ratoff. He liked the look of Kelly, all the more so because, in his view, the look was that of a plain Jane. According to Kelly, “I was in the ‘too’ category for a very long time. I was too tall, too leggy, too chinny. I remember that Mr. Ratoff kept yelling, ‘She’s perfect! What I love about this girl is that she’s not pretty!’ ”

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