Who was Oleg Cassini? Oleg Cassini and Grace Kelly
If anyone today is familiar with the name of Oleg Cassini, that’s probably because he was the couturier of Jackie Kennedy; he designed those strange clothes she was so fond of that look so odd to us today.
But what’s much more interesting – and slightly scandalous – is the affair he had with actress Grace Kelly before she became Princess Grace of Monaco.
In fact, had things worked out just a little differently, Grace may have never become the beloved Monegasque princess.
Although when her future husband, Prince Rainier, first me her he believed her to be the epitome of purity, the fact was that Grace had been a Hollywood actress for several years.
It must have been impossible to maintain one’s ‘purity’ in that atmosphere.
Grace had been deeply in love with actor Ray Milland but Oleg, who was working as a Hollywood designer, was determined to make her his own. Grace’s affair with Milland had ended.
Cassini was a nobly born European, a sportsman and something of a playboy. Elegant and urbane, he had been married twice.
He pursued Grace in a very romantic fashion and she succumbed. After a whirlwind romance, they became engaged and Grace had to face the next step – presenting him to her parents.
This was a disaster.
Her parents were affluent and staunchly Catholic. They objected wholeheartedly to Oleg’s playboy image and the fact that he was twice-divorced. Grace’s mother had no hesitation in informing him of this and even though Grace was a renown movie star, she still deferred to her parent’s wishes. Sort of.
She had no intention of giving Oleg up and even suggested to him that she should become pregnant by him which would force her parents into agreeing to the marriage for the sake of respectability.
Back in New York, they lived almost as husband and wife and when they returned to Hollywood, they set up home together. In the early part of 1955, whether by Grace’s design or by accident, she did indeed become pregnant. Now she was truly determine to marry Cassini. The forthcoming baby was the perfect excuse. Cassini belonged to a Russian Orthodox religion but agreed to convert to Catholicism. Despite the fact that he was divorced, he found a priest who would perform the marriage ceremony.
But before the marriage took place, Grace had second thoughts. She had been brought up as a strict Catholic and thought that her marriage to a twice-divorced man would be invalid – along with all the ramifications that involved. She weighed up this, along with her movie career, against the love she felt for Oleg.
This was a torment. There was her family to consider too – she would lose them. Could she really defy them and go through with it? Then there was her pregnancy. Marrying Oleg was contrary to her religious upbringing but so was the other thought she entertained – that of an abortion. But her family would know if she married Cassini; an abortion could be kept secret from them.
This is what she eventually decided to do.
Oleg, who never remarried, refused to talk about the situation when asked in later life. ‘It’s too personal’ he said. He continued:
I must say that I was exhausted emotionally with all this effort by the studio, her agent, the priest, the family, to get her away from me. I thought ‘Let destiny play its role here.’