A dashing and handsome English-American actor, Peter Lawford enjoyed a brief stint as a matinee idol in the 1940s before becoming better known as an in-law of the Kennedys and a member of “The Rat Pack” during the 1960s. Benefitting greatly from the dearth of handsome male talent in Hollywood during World War II, Lawford gained notice for appearances in such films as “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945) and “Son of Lassie” (1945). More roles followed throughout the 1950s, although it was his marriage to Patricia Kennedy – sister of John and Robert Kennedy – as well as his association with Frank Sinatra’s iconic cadre of carousers that brought Lawford lasting fame. Years after JFK’s assassination, rumors about Lawford’s scandalous adventures with the president, his being the last person to speak to a despondent Marilyn Monroe before her tragic death, and a bitter falling out with Sinatra, became the stuff of legend. Less glamorous was Lawford’s decline in the film industry, several failed marriages, and chronic alcoholism. With the halcyon years of “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960) far behind him, the aging actor made due with the occasional film role and guest turns on such TV fare as “The Doris Day Show” (CBS, 1968-1973) and “Fantasy Island” (ABC, 1977-1984). A bit player in a fascinating chapter of American pop-culture, Lawford would most likely be remembered less for his acting credentials than for the legacy encapsulated in author James Spada’s unofficial biography, Peter Lawford: The Man Who Kept the Secrets.
The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.