Oleg Cassini, the costume designer for the rich and famous – including the (early 1960s) U.S. president’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, and his own wife (1941–1952), actress Gene Tierney – has died of undisclosed causes on Long Island, N. Y. He was 92.
Cassini, born in Paris (as per the New York Times obit) into a family of Russian nobles, designed Tierney’s clothes for several of her 20th Century Fox films, including The Razor’s Edge (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Night and the City (1950), On the Riviera (1951), and The Mating Season (1951). He also played a version of himself on-screen in the Tierney vehicle Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950).
Cassini also designed for the likes of Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Veronica Lake, and Marilyn Monroe, and he claimed to have created the Grace Kelly look. (And that he and Kelly were going to get married at one point in the 1950s.)
One tragic story in Cassini’s – and Tierney’s – lives was the birth of their first child, Daria. While pregnant, Tierney had been exposed to rubella by a fan who had escaped from confinement so as to get near her screen idol. Daria was born blind and severely retarded. Cassini later wrote that he thought of killing himself and his daughter, while Tierney fell into a deep depression from which she never quite recovered.
In later years, the designer – who in the old days had promoted dead animals’ skins as luxury garments – became an ardent animal rights activist.
A series of letters between Cassini and Jacqueline Kennedy were included in his 1995 book Oleg Cassini: A Thousand Days of Magic.
By the way, Gene Tierney’s autobiography, Self Portrait, is one of the best – and most harrowing – show-business books I’ve ever read. Another book, Gene Tierney, was written by her second daughter, Christina Cassini. Tierney, her stunning beauty by then long gone, died of emphysema in 1991.
Note: The Los Angeles Times obit says that Tierney and Cassini were divorced in 1947 and later remarried. Other sources state that the divorce took place only once – in 1952. There was, however, trouble in their marriage in the late 1940s – when Tierney became involved with both future president John F. Kennedy (for whose future wife Cassini would work as fashion designer) and (it was speculated) her The Razor’s Edge co-star Tyrone Power.