Judy Balaban, the daughter of a longtime studio magnate who dated Montgomery Clift and Merv Griffin, married Tony Franciosa and served as one of Grace Kelly’s bridesmaids during her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, has died. She was 91.
Balaban died Thursday evening in a Los Angeles hospital, said her friend, author and documentary filmmaker Cari Beauchamp The Hollywood Reporter.
Balaban was a civil rights advocate and served for decades on the board of directors of the ACLU of Southern California.
In a 2010 piece for Vanity fair that she and Beauchamp wrote together, Balaban described using LSD (then legal) as a form of therapy in the early 1960s, when her close friends Cary Grant and his third wife, Betsy Drake, also used it.
“What I had with Cary and Betsy was a kind of shamelessness that the culture only started to deal with years later,” she says in the story. “We continued to have that, even when our lives took a different direction.”
Balaban also talked about those days during an appearance in the 2017 Showtime documentary Becoming Cary Grant.
Her marriage from 1961-1967 to Franciosa (A hat full of rain, The name of the game) was sandwiched between her marriages to high-profile Hollywood agent Jay Kanter from 1953-61 and to actor Don Quine (The Virginian) from 1971-96. All three ended in divorce.
Judith Rose Balaban was born in Chicago on October 13, 1932, the son of Tillie and Barney Balaban. Her father co-owned a chain of theaters before being elected president of Paramount in 1936, and he would run the studio until 1964.
Her brother was the famous jazz musician Red Balaban, and her half-brother was Burt Balaban, a producer of films from the 1960s, among others. Murder, Inc.
She and her family moved to New York when her father took the job at Paramount, and she attended high school in Washington, D.C., before returning to Manhattan to work in the fashion industry.
Balaban, who was in the tabloids for dating Clift in the early 1950s while making films like A place in the sun, was dating Griffin and saw him singing at a nightclub when she was introduced to Kanter. Their marriage took her to Hollywood.
Balaban quickly became friends with Kelly through Kanter, the actress’s agent (he also represented Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and Paul Newman, among others during his career). The star of Mid-day, Rear window And The country girl called her “Judybird”; she called Kelly “Graciebird.”
When Kelly and Rainier were married at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco on April 18, 1956, Balaban was there with fellow bridesmaids Maree Frisby, a high school friend of Kelly’s; American Academy of Dramatic Arts classmates Sally Parrish and Bettina Thompson; Carolyn Scott, a modeling journeyman; and actress Rita Gam, Kelly’s former roommate in Hollywood.
All traveled to Monaco with the bride-to-be aboard the SS Constitution. (Ava Gardner, who played with Kelly in 1953 Mogamboreportedly declined to be a bridesmaid.)
Balaban wrote about the experience in her 1989 book: The bridesmaids: Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco and six intimate friends.
She described Kelly’s dress – created by MGM costume designer Helen Rose – as “twenty-five yards of silk peau de soie, another twenty-five yards of light silk taffeta, ninety-eight yards of silk tulle, and almost three hundred and twenty yards of Valenciennes dress.” lace.”
Balaban also appeared in 1983 and 2018 documentaries about Clift and one about Kelly in 1987, and was interviewed for Mark Cousins’ acclaimed 2011 doc series. The story of film: an Odyssey.
Survivors include her daughters, Amy, whom she had with Kanter, and Nina, whom she had with Franciosa; and a cousin, Oscar-nominated actor Bob Balaban. Victoria, her other daughter with Kanter, died in June 2020.
Scott Feinberg contributed to this report.