Judy Balaban, the daughter of a longtime studio mogul who dated Montgomery Clift and Merv Griffin, married Tony Franciosa and served as one of Grace Kelly’s bridesmaids at 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 the ACLU of Southern California.
In a 2010 piece for Vanity Fair that she and Beauchamp co-wrote, Balaban described with LSD (legal at the time) as a form of therapy in the early 1960s, when her good friends Cary Grant and his third wife, Betsy Drake, also used it.
“What I had with Cary and Betsy was a kind of soul-baring that the culture didn’t begin to grapple with until years later,” she says in the story. “That stayed with us even when our lives went in different directions.”
Balaban also spoke about those days during an appearance on the 2017 Showtime documentary Become Cary Grant.
Her 1961-67 marriage to Franciosa (A hat full of rain, The name of the game) was between 1953 and 1961 between her marriages to high-profile Hollywood agent Jay Kanter and actor Don Quine (The Virginian) from 1971-96. All three ended in divorce.
Judith Rose Balaban was born on October 13, 1932 in Chicago to Tillie and Barney Balaban. Her father co-owned a theater chain before being elected president of Paramount in 1936, and he ran the studio until 1964.
Her brother was the well-known jazz musician Red Balaban, and her half-brother was Burt Balaban, a producer of films including those from the 1960s 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 rumored to be dating Clift when he was making films in the early 1950s A place in the SunShe was dating Griffin and watching him sing at a nightclub when she met Kanter. Her marriage brought her to Hollywood.
Balaban quickly became friends with Kelly through Kanter, the actress’ agent (he also represented the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and Paul Newman throughout his career). The star of Midday, rear window And The country girl called her “Judybird”; She called Kelly “Graciebird.”
When Kelly and Rainier married on April 18, 1956, at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Monaco, Balaban was there along with his bridesmaids, Maree Frisby, a high school friend of Kelly’s. Sally Parrish and Bettina Thompson, classmates at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; Carolyn Scott, a model companion; and actress Rita Gam, Kelly’s former Hollywood roommate.
Everyone traveled to Monaco with the bride-to-be aboard the SS Constitution. (Ava Gardner, who starred opposite Kelly in 1953 MogamboShe reportedly 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 – designed by MGM costume designer Helen Rose – as “25 yards of silk peau de soie, another 25 yards of lightweight silk taffeta, 98 yards of silk tulle and almost 320 yards of Valenciennes lace.”
Balaban also appeared in documentaries about Clift in 1983 and 2018, a 1987 documentary about Kelly, and was interviewed for Mark Cousins’ acclaimed 2011 documentary series The Story of the Film: An Odyssey.
Survivors include her daughters, Amy, who she had with Kanter, and Nina, who 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.