History of the Kelly Bag

Grace Kelly – Hermes Kelly bag

Now an expensive status symbol, such was the popularity of Grace Kelly in the 1950s that the luxurious Hermès bag she carried with her everywhere became rechristened with her name, ensuring the late Hollywood actress-turned-princess a lasting legacy in the fashion world. It would make Grace Kelly, an actress of only seven professional years, a cultural icon.

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The Sac à dépêches bag, as it was then known, was created in 1935, eleven years after the invention of the first leather handbag. Its earlier incarnations included high handles and smaller designs than most handbags of the day. It wasn’t until Émile-Maurice Hermès’s son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned the bag that it became the Sac à dépêches we know today. With a little more glamor, a memorable trapezium shape, and studs on the bottom allowing the bag to stand, the Sac à dépêches was born.

Its uniqueness laid in its craftsmanship. Each bag is hand-designed, quite literally, by a single artisan, requiring a total of 18 to 25 hours of over 2,500 hand-stitches. For that reason, the Kelly bag holds its high retail price.

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It was Alfred Hitchcock who introduced Grace Kelly to the Hermès bag. In the ’50s, she became his new muse – and he sought to use Kelly to bring elegance into his thrillers. With enough guidance from Edith Head, the Sac à dépêches bag became Kelly’s weapon of choice in To Catch a Thief, the picture that made Kelly fall in love with Europe. Her choice of preference was crocodile skin, either brown or navy blue, the two most popular colors to this day.

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It was the birth of paparazzi. Elio Sorci was photographing Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Years later, Marlon Brando would punch Ron Galella in the jaw. Grace Kelly was no exception to high-profile scrutiny. Her engagement to Prince Rainier III was the talk of the town. She would be the first American princess – famous in her own right. She used her handbag to shield her pregnant belly from the paparazzi. In 1956, Life magazine featured such a photograph of her bag, and so iconic was that image that the public began referring to it as the “Kelly” bag.

And the name stuck.


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To read the other blogposts celebrating Grace Kelly please click here and follow The Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon co-hosts The Wonderful World of Cinema & The Flapper Dame!

 

 

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Ronald Reagan’s D.C. Movie Tour

Phil Hartman was one of my favorite comedians. Funny, satirical, and a great impressionist. He was best known for his Bill Clinton impression, but I always loved his brief stint as Reagan.

In this SNL cold open, President Reagan – political knowledge limited by old Hollywood films – name-drops John Wayne, Tyrone Power, and even Gort from The Day The Earth Stood Still in an attempt to impress Gorbachev. For classic movie fans like me, it’s always fun to think back to Reagan’s Hollywood years. King’s RowBedtime for Bonzo, the General Electric Theater – as a Disney fan, I even remember Reagan co-hosting the opening day of Disneyland in 1955.

Classic Film Reading Wrap-Up

This week I wrapped up my reviews on five Old Hollywood books. Because I’m a creature of comfort (and I wanted to read up on subjects I knew I already loved) my books ranged from Chaplin to Hepburn, Welles to Fitzgerald. Familiar ground, but solid too.

While we’re on the subject of Orson Welles, as I read through the conversations between the director and Henry Jaglom, I remembered watching a late-70s talk show pilot he filmed during that era and the interview he did with Jim Henson and Frank Oz. I asked director Frank Oz via Twitter about working with Welles on that pilot and The Muppet Movie. To my great pleasure, Mr. Oz shared a nice remembrance of the maestro.

“The Pat Hobby Stories” Book Review

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It would be easy to dismiss The Pat Hobby Stories as mere fodder for magazines – cheap laughs to sell issues. Even Fitzgerald himself might’ve dismissed them as such. They were loose, quick, and always ended in a punchline. The author might have even considered himself a punchline at that point in his life. But despite everything, The Pat Hobby Stories might have concluded the fizzle of life in F. Scott Fitzgerald more accurately than any of his other writings.

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“Footlights” Book Review

“In the dusk of twilight, as the light of London’s street lamps became bolder against the saffron sky, Thereza Ambrose, a girl of nineteen, was sinking out of life…”
— Footlights

Footlights-Charlie-Chaplin

Remembrances of an old world never fell far back for Chaplin. As an artist on the search for inspiration, it was the past he mined for his films, never the present, nor the future unless to pointedly critique it. That Dickensian childhood of his haunted him time and again, and in his old age, would come to define his definition of ‘beauty’. In his later years, Chaplin was known to prowl the streets of South London in anonymity. Once in the ’70s, actor Michael Caine did the very same thing – and he ran into Chaplin, both reminiscing about the places and cobblestones that defined their childhoods. Footlights is the story of that world.

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“Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.” Book Review

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What we learn in this deceptive hint of film history by author Sam Wasson isn’t the factual making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s – though that does hold in and of itself many cultural themes, but the culmination of a character’s transformation. That character is Audrey Hepburn, and no other word can possibly describe her better than “character”.

By recounting the midcentury lives of Hepburn, author Truman Capote, director Blake Edwards, and all others players associated with Breakfast at Tiffany’sFifth Avenue 5 A.M. disseminates the cultural impact of the feminine image and how it affected the ultimate tone of the film.

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“My Autobiography” Book Review

“But the truth is so boring!”
— Chaplin (1992)

My-Autobiography-Charlie-Chaplin

In Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic Chaplin, the shroud of mystique that permeated Chaplin’s imagination was lifted to reveal a fragile, sensitive soul. All his life, the man struggled to be more than that. More than a comic, more than an actor, more than a human being. He wanted ephemera in his fiber – to be an artist, a magician, immortalized in film.

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Citizen Slapstick and the Debut of Joseph Cotten

It was to be the first of many cinematic collaborations together, but at the time, Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten had already worked together for three years in the theatre. With three successful plays that catapulted the young Welles into superstardom as the 22-year-old “boy wonder” of Broadway, Welles was thirsting to play with different modes of storytelling.

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“The Love of the Last Tycoon” Book Review

“It is a tragedy it is unfinished…. It has a kind of wisdom in it, and nobody ever penetrated beneath the surface of the movie world to any such degree. It was to have been a very remarkable book.”
— Maxwell Perkins

The-Last-Tycoon-F-Scott-Fitzgerald

What might’ve been had its great author lived to complete this novel, we’ll never know. F. Scott Fitzgerald was many things, but a Hollywood hack, he was not. His friend Billy Wilder once claimed asking Fitzgerald to write a script was akin to “a great sculptor who is hired to do a plumbing job.” An apt comparison can be made to a line of dialogue in the novelist’s magnum opus where Nick Carraway says to Jay Gatsby, “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

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“My Lunches with Orson” Book Review

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To be privy to the friendship of Orson Welles must have been a strange thing. For a figure whose reputation was so towering, his celebrity so at-large, his rejection of the Hollywood machine inevitably came at a price – for as famous as he was, Welles never ceased being the outsider. And in Peter Biskind’s transcriptions of Welles’s conversations with filmmaker Henry Jaglom, that frustration is revealed to be marrow deep.

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