Oleg Cassini’s Marilyn: High Style and Low Talk

This Cassini gown, first seen on ex-wife Gene Tierney, scandalized Hollywood when worn by Marilyn

The estate of fashion designer Oleg Cassini went under the hammer at Doyle’s Auctioneers in New York today, with all 755 lots sold for a total $1.3 million. Cassini, who died in 2006, was recently described as a ‘notable rogue’ in the New York Times. He was married to actress Gene Tierney, engaged to Grace Kelly, and worked extensively with Jacqueline Kennedy during her time as First Lady. He also designed two gowns worn by Marilyn, and would claim in his 1987 memoir, In My Own Fashion, that they were lovers.

“Ever concerned with his image, Cassini only wanted to be seen with what he called, ‘top top girls.’ Wholesome and glamorous, Grace Kelly was a ‘top girl,’ so was Jacqueline Kennedy who he said had ‘a hieroglyphic figure.’ However Marilyn Monroe, one of Cassini’s many conquests, did not make the cut. In his book he described her as ‘the world’s most marvelous marshmallow.’ According to [Maureen] Orth, he told journalist Joe Klein, that she was just ‘a little show pony.'”

Tate Delloye, Mail Online
Another Tierney cast-off, worn by Marilyn to the ‘Monkey Business’ premiere.

Interestingly, there were no Marilyn-related lots in today’s auction; and there is no corroborating evidence of Cassini’s claim. At the very least, his disparaging remarks suggest the great lothario was also a snob. (At worst, one might wonder if he ever really slept with Marilyn at all!)

Whatever the truth about their relationship, Marilyn loved Cassini’s gowns, praising their “taste and imagination” in an article for Modern Screen.

‘Hollywood Revisited’ in Palm Springs

The movie costume collection of Marilyn Remembered president Greg Schreiner – around 500 garments in total, including this red dress originally designed by Oleg Cassini and worn by his former wife, Gene Tierney, in On the Riviera (1951) , and by Marilyn a year later in promotional shots and at the premiere of Monkey Business – returns to the spotlight in Hollywood Revisited, a musical extravaganza at the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs on February 22, the Desert Sun reports.

“‘It began with Marilyn,’ Schreiner beams. ‘She was always my No. 1 star.’ In those early days of collecting, he says he could fetch a vintage garb from $200 to $500. ‘It was one of the first times [auction houses] had done something like it; nobody had thought the costumes would ever be worth anything.’ As prices for movie costumes shot north over the years, especially Monroe-related items, Schreiner fell deeper in love with collecting all kinds of movie wardrobe items.

In 1987, Schreiner formalized the genesis for what is now Hollywood Revisited in a very small way — in nursing and retirement homes. Things snowballed after that. This year, Schreiner has shows booked in major theatrical houses around the country — from West Palm Beach and Santa Monica to Chicago. He is now heralded for being one of the most well-known collectors of classic movie costumes worn by Monroe, Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Andrews, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, Judy Garland, and countless others. In fact, 30 of Schreiner’s costumes are on display in the Hollywood Museum.”

UPDATE: Hollywood Revisited will be staged again at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, Los Angeles on Match 26, to benefit the Musical Theatre Guild’s extensive youth outreach programs.

66 Years Ago: Marilyn at the Henrietta Awards

As this year’s awards season gets underway, the Hollywood Reporter looks back at the ‘Henrietta’, Marilyn’s first major acting award, which she collected on January 8, 1952.  Escorted by Fox publicist Roy Craft, Marilyn wore her notorious Oleg Cassini dress, and was the belle of the ball. The photo shown above was taken by Loomis Dean for Life magazine – and here’s a few more…

“The actress had only starred in a dozen or so minor movies when she received the award from the now-defunct Foreign Press Association of Hollywood in 1952.

In 1950, what’s now called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a split-off group called the Foreign Press Association of Hollywood. (The dispute was over some of the original organization’s members not being professional journalists.) The FPAH is now mostly forgotten, save for one memorable act: It gave Marilyn Monroe her first major award in 1952 at Santa Monica’s Club Casa del Mar. (That seaside brick building is now the Hotel Casa del Mar.)

The Henrietta — named after FPAH president Henry Gris — was shaped like a tall, nude woman holding a flower. The group had the prescience to choose Monroe for its International Stardom Award, given to the ‘best young box-office personality.’ (They gave the same award that night to Tony Curtis.) Monroe, then 25, had done a dozen or so minor films, with her standout turn being a small role in John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle.”

 

Marilyn’s Contemporaries: Gene Tierney

In a new series about Marilyn’s contemporaries for Immortal Marilyn, Leslie Kasperowicz profiles Gene Tierney, the beautiful star of Laura.  Gene found fame during the 1940s at Marilyn’s home studio, Twentieth Century-Fox. Her first husband was Oleg Cassini, one of Marilyn’s favourite designers (you may recognise Gene’s red Cassini dress in this photo, as it was also worn by Marilyn.)