Leave Heaven To Her
by Fredda Dudley
Modern Screen | August 1946
Mrs. Oleg Cassini, newly moved into a home in Beverly Hills, stood quite still in the middle of the floor and thought. Then she went to the chest of drawers in the bedroom, started with the top drawer and removed every item. Not there. She went to the second, third, fourth, and fifth drawers. No luck.
She thought, “And now what am I going to do! I wish I knew Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in person – this is definitely a problem for Basil Rathbone!”
Countess Cassini, Oleg’s mother, had – on an occasion shortly after Gene’s marriage to Oleg – given Gene a collection of pictures of Oleg as a baby, as a bright-eyed youngster, as an adolescent, and as a young man. These photographs had been collected on two huge mats and framed. They represented two of Gene’s dearest possessions. And now, since moving day when the van company had carefully taken down everything, swathed them in protective coverings, and transported them, the pictures were nowhere to be found.
Countess Cassini, upon giving Gene the irreplaceable mementoes, had said, “You are so careful with items of value that I give you these with trust. I know they will be preserved with care because they mean so much to both of us.”
And now they were gone.
One morning she rushed to the linen closet to get sheets with which to change Daria’s bed. Swish, she pulled out one sheet. Snatch – she tugged at the other. It was weighted down by some heavy object hidden by the stack of linens.
There were the pictures!
Gene is not the only person in the Cassini household who mislays things. One afternoon recently, Oleg and Gene decided to run down to the market to do a bit of last minute shopping. Oleg had been using the car only that morning, and had placed the keys, he said positively, right there – on that table.
Yet they were gone.
Miss Daria Cassini, aged two-and-one-half, was meandering around the room, humming and looking as innocent as possible. “Darling,” said her mother suspiciously, “have you seen the keys?”
“Keys?” repeated Daria, her great eyes big with wonder. “Keys?” She searched the house. Slowly she gravitated to the kitchen.
That gave Oleg an idea. Lifting the coffee pot, he shook it as Daria burst into delighted laughter. There were the keys!
Life in the Cassini household is full of gaiety and laughter. Take, for instance, the case history of Gene’s police dog, Butch.
Butch is a ham. He can sniff out a photographer at a distance of one mile, and the lightning of flash bulbs warms his soul like a grate fire. He is also a clown, doing all sorts of things that he knows amuse human beings.
Butch simply ignores Daria. When she was first brought home from the hospital, Butch wandered over to her crib one day, sniffed her thoroughly, and decided that here was someone whose general habits were those of an unmannered puppy. Backing away, he studied the bundle for a few more minutes in an intense effort to see what it was that endeared such an individual to Gene. Giving it up, Mr. Butch strode away, his low opinion written large over his expressive face.
I want my mama . . .
While Gene was in New York, Daria was obviously lonely for her parents, back in California. One afternoon Cobina Wright, Jr., stopped at the Cassini resident, just to see how Daria was getting on. Daria caught sight of her from a distance. Cobina was wearing red earrings, a print dress and cardinal lipstick. “Oh, Mama,” called Daria, exhilarated by the sight of the vision, “Mama, Mama, Mama . . .” Then as she came near enough to recognize Cobina, she slowed to a walk, and said, “Oh, hello,” in a small voice.
When Cobina, meeting Gene in New York a few days later, related the incident, Gene broke down and cried. She would have taken the next plane to California if she hadn’t made several positive business commitments for the studio.
Even so, when she called at the hotel desk for her mail the following morning, and was handed a package which, opened, disclosed a hand-embroidered baby dress that a fan had made for Daria, Gene was tempted to cancel everything and take the gift, straightaway, to her daughter.
While Gene was prowling through New York shops, she discovered some French organza on which tropical fish were printed in formalized design. Gene fell in love with it, knowing that – since it was an original – it could never be duplicated.
Oleg, who is one of 20th Century Fox’ most resourceful designers and who creates all of Gene’s professional and private wardrobe, was as intrigued with the fabric as Gene had been and promptly designed an exquisite evening gown for Gene.
Gene had planned to wear it to an important party, but on the evening of the affair she reached the hotel in a state of utter exhaustion. Kicking off her slippers and collapsing into a chair, she announced she was exhausted, pooped, done.
When she was finally gowned, Gene regarded herself in the mirror and commented on the reflection with an anguished moan. “It’s awful,” she said. “It’s the least becoming thing I have ever worn. Why did I buy the material in the first place, and why did I agree to your design! I simply cant wear it, Olie. Really, I can’t.”
soothing smoothie . . .
Oleg Cassini is a philosophical man. Moreover, he understands Gene’s every mood. Soothingly, he said, “Just wear it this once for me. If everyone at the party isn’t delighted with the dress, I will never again design your clothing.”
This was drastic, so Gene subsided. “I know the evening is going to be a complete failure,” she sighed.
The result was exactly what might be expected. Gene’s gown was the rave of the affair, and Oleg took bows until he began to look like a man walking through a low tunnel.
Said Gene in a mock voice later, “I love the dress, Olie. It’s the most becoming I’ve ever worn – just as you said.”
Daria is, incidentally, a beautiful child. Her bone structure is exquisite, her coloring lovely. Before she was born, Gene spent a good deal of time wondering about a name that would form a happy combination with “Cassini.” Gene was positive that he was going to have a son, but, in order to be prepared, she cast about for a few feminine names. “Toni” was her choice for several months. She told friends, “If the baby should be a girl, and not particularly a good-looking person, I think that ‘Toni Cassini would still give her something to look up to – it’s got charm.”
Upon hearing this, Gene’s sister-in-law said, “If I ever have a daughter, I think I should like to call her ‘Daria’ after Oleg’s great-grandmother. Isn’t it a lovely name – the feminine of the olden Persian name, ‘Darius.’”
“I’m pregnant and you’re not,” laughed Gene, “so I’m stealing that name this instant – if I have a daughter.”
Having started life with a unique name, Miss Daria also possesses an imaginative bit of jewelry. In the hospital where Daria was born, each infant was marked by a plastic bracelet on which its surname was set. Recently, Gene had this “Cassini” marker set in a larger gold band which can be extended from time to time as Daria’s wrist grows.
Gene brought Daria a set of phosphorescent pictures from New York. You’ve probably seen them, shedding their soft light in the darkness. These were hung in Daria’s room and that night, theoretically after Daria had been asleep for an hour, Gene tiptoed into the nursery to find Miss Daria’s eyes were wide and her manner was alert.
“Darling, why aren’t you asleep?” said Gene. “Why are you staying awake?”
“To see,” explained Daria, nodding toward the pictures.
With such an adorable moppet at home, is it any wonder the Cassinis prefer nurseries to nightclubs?