Pete’s Pat—Peter Lawford & Patricia Kennedy
Joseph P. Kennedy, former United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James, has announced the betrothal of his daughter, Patricia, to Peter Lawford.
This announcement comes as no surprise to Hollywood. For months, Pete has been pursuing Pat Kennedy back and forth across the continent. His denial of any serious intentions was simply put down to Pete’s conservatism and to his insistence on impeccable behavior. Naturally, he would wait for the first announcement of his engagement to come from the bride’s family. One day before Mr. Kennedy’s announcement, Pete told MODERN SCREEN, “Pat and I have been friends for years. There is definitely no romance. No romance at all.”
Why had he been spending all of his spare time with Miss Kennedy? (Pete has had a lot of spare time. Since Metro dropped him last year, he has been in only one picture—It Should Happen To You, a sparkling comedy with Judy Holliday.)
“All of that,” Pete answered, “is pure coincidence.” But he was unconvincing. Pat Kennedy has been working for NBC television in New York and with Family Theatre in Hollywood. Pete has been commuting cross-country. Hardly any man does that kind of thing casually, and it didn’t seem characteristic of Pete Lawford. Pat and Pete were often seen together down at the beach in Santa Monica; Pete drove to the Beverly Hills Hotel every day to pick up Pat; they were often together at cocktail parties in Bel-Air.
Apparently, it took months of exposure to Pete’s English charm, but by January Pat was interested, and Pete, for the first time in his thirty-one years, asked a girl to marry him.
“We were having dinner at Frascati’s,” he recalls, “and I just leaned across the table and said, ‘I love you very much, and I wish you’d marry me.’ She smiled and said yes. And that’s how it happened. Nothing planned or premeditated.
“The proposal just popped out of me. I didn’t have a ring or anything. Later I went out and ordered one, nothing very tremendous—a square-cut diamond, three carats. It was being made up and took quite a while. And because Pat wasn’t wearing a ring, I could get away with my denials.
“Anyway, after I proposed and Pat accepted me, I flew to New York to get her father’s consent. I. don’t mind telling you I was pretty nervous. I thought Mr. Kennedy might object to having an actor in his family. After all, his son is a United States Senator and all of that. But he was wonderful. I asked his permission and he gave us his blessing.”
The Kennedy family is Catholic. Pete belongs to the Church of England, but he says any children they may have will be brought up in the Catholic faith.
“We are trying to keep our wedding as small as possible. We don’t want one of those tremendous affairs. Just the family. The only one in my family is my mother and she’ll come on to New York. But Pat has a rather large family, so I guess that will add up.”
Asked if he planned to abandon acting and go into business, Lawford said, “Not at all. After the honeymoon, Pat and I are going back to the coast. That’s where we intend to make our home. I have no intention of giving up my career. I’m an actor by profession and that’s how I intend to earn my living.”
Pete has always said that he would never marry an actress.
“Two acting temperaments in one family don’t work,” he has often explained. “And I don’t have to marry an actress to prove that!”
Some women may be downhearted at Pete’s removal from the eligible bachelor roster, but there is at least one who is extremely happy about it. That is Pete’s mother, Lady May Lawford.
“When Peter confided to me,” she says, “that he and Pat were going to get married, I can’t tell you how relieved I was. I’ve been afraid for so long that the boy might get into his car and whiz off to Las Vegas and marry just anyone. I guess every mother has those fears. But after all, Peter is such a nice boy, and there have been so many girls who’ve laid traps for him.
“You’d be surprised if I mentioned their names. They would telephone him at eight in the morning and come around at nine. They’d send him letters and telegrams and gifts. They really tried to spoil him. And if I must say so, it’s a tribute to his strength of character that he’s kept his head about him.
“He’s a conservative young man, and I should have known that when the time came for him to marry, he would pick a fine and beautiful girl like Patricia Kennedy.
“And she’s a bright young woman, too. Oh, yes. She really gave Peter a merry chase. He had to work to get that young lady all right. She made him step. And I believe that’s what a man likes. The thrill of the hunt is in the chase, not in the final capture.”
Emphatically, she explained that Peter is not an adopted son. Then she continued, “The thing to remember about Peter is that he had a very happy youth.
“My husband, the late Sir Sydney, came from a fairly wealthy family. His brother owned the estate next to Balmoral in Scotland. We always had at least three in service when Peter was a little boy, and he has been accustomed to the best.
“He’s been very discriminating in his choice of friends. He’s chosen people of his own calibre. Girls he’s liked have always turned out to be well-bred girls from good families. There’s certainly nothing wrong in that.
“Before we came to America we had lost practically all of our money. When England went off the gold standard, my husband thought it would be prudent to take his belongings out of the country. He deposited them in Greece and Czechoslovakia. When the war came the Germans marched into those countries and all our holdings were confiscated. We came to America with very little money, and one of Peter’s first jobs in Florida was working as a parking lot attendant. But he was always discriminating in his choice of friends. He said he would never marry an actress and that he would never marry before he was thirty.”
It is generally supposed that Peter Lawford made his motion picture debut in Hollywood. Actually he began to work in British motion picture studios when he was seven.
His first role was at Elstree in Ole Bill. At one time he was advertised as England’s Jackie Coogan. When Parliament passed a law limiting screen work for children under fourteen, Lawford’s parents took him to Paris where he worked in a few films and then temporarily lost the use of his right arm.
While playmates, he crashed thrones window, almost severing his right arm. The doctors recommended immediate amputation but neither the boy nor his family would consent and gradually the healed.
Pete’s first Hollywood job was ushering at a Westwood movie house. In his time off he hounded the casting offices and got bit parts in Mrs. Miniver and White Cliffs Of Dover.
A British subject and the sole support of his two parents, he was exempted from United States military service.
In 1943, he signed a contract with MGM and promptly began to win recognition as a competent actor and as a perennial escort.
How fair or how well-founded this reputation was is a matter of argument. One of Pete’s friends says, “When Lawford was under contract to MGM it was part of his job to escort all the actresses on the contract list. If Lana Turner wanted someone to go dancing with her, it was Pete. If the publicity department needed a new romance for Ava Gardner, it was Pete. If Liz Taylor needed a boy friend, it was Pete.
“He took out every actress on the lot, and I heard it said that he was using them for publicity. No one ever thought it might be the other way around.
“He came out here with no dough, and everything he has he’s earned. He saw what happened to his father who once had money and lost it, and he doesn’t want that to happen to him.
“Anyway, now that he’s going to marry Pat Kennedy, all that talk is a thing of the past.
“He deserves a little married happiness.”
Even his former dates wish Peter Lawford that.
—BY SUSAN TRENT
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MAY 1954