Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Robert Lacey

AMAZING GRACE

BEFORE FORMER JOURNALIST ROBERT Lacey signed on for his most recent project, he didn't think much of Grace Kelly as an actress. "I'd only seen her in High Noon and thought she was a bit insipid," he says. "But writing the book, I studied her great films To Catch a Thief and Rear Window, and I think she stands comparison with Katharine Hepburn."

Frankly, before taking on the project, Lacey didn't think much of Grace Kelly as a person, either. "I felt she was rather bland," says the British-born Lacey, 50, whose previous subjects include Elizabeth II in Majesty and Diana in Princess. "I was pleasantly surprised to discover she had all sorts of dimensions I never even guessed at." He adds, "I always try to fall in love with my subjects. With Grace it was no problem. I was there covering the funeral for Today and got a sense of the awful loss that everybody felt. She lent Monaco dignity and prestige that it didn't deserve.

"It's a very obvious thing to say, but I believe the reason for her success was that she was an actress. Not that she was putting on an act but that she gave herself to the role totally like a great professional actress." It was a performance, notes Lacey, that gave no hint of Kelly's unhappy life with Rainier or her extramarital affairs with a string of much younger men. "I was surprised and didn't want to believe the stories of the toy boys," he says. "But the evidence became overwhelming."

Lacey, who lives in West Palm Beach with his wife, Sandi, 46, hasn't heard how Monaco's royal family has reacted to revelations in the just-published book. "But," he maintains, "I think Grace would have loved it. Several of Grace's lady friends told me she would have loved me."

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