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smitten like a kitten

March 20, 2009

4quo7odmm3g57od4Peter Lawford had a habit of falling in love with beautiful women.

Famous Women, Influential Women,Married Women.  

June Allyson was in the midst of astonishing the country with her perfect marriage to Dick Powell when Peter Lawford strolled onto the MGM set of Two Sisters from Boston. Six years older than Peter and very happily married to someone else, June was off limits. Which was why Peter was more than slightly flattered when June was a little willing to accept his advances. But, in all truth, how could she be expected to resist him. I mean, really.

But, as with all amazingly beautiful love stories between the stars of old hollywood there always seemed to be some big brother of a studio ready to douse the fires of passion. June Allyson was smart, young, and very much in the public eye  in 1946. She was in her first year of marriage and wary of taking a false step. MGM played the foreboding parent; a fact she herself embraced whole heartedly in most cases, often saying she felt alone without the guidance of the studio. image

Peter was terribly drawn to her overall helplessness, and could hardly stand to be away from her. This head over heels love would put Peter in many a heartbreaking situation throughout his life. Peter and June would steal time at the studio when they could, careful to not let too many see them. She appeared at the parties that he frequented and vice versa. Peter  had a friend that allowed him use of the house for his married women friends he would bring around, and needless to say, June probably felt like she was living for the first time.

MGM had gotten wind of some hushed mumblings going on about the pair and quick to dispell rumors, began making rules. June was to be in New York for a period of time and MGM threatened to cut Peter’s contract if he went anywhere near the Big Apple. In old hollywood those studio contracts were something precious and threats were not taken lightly. Poor Peter would find himself continuously warned by MGM on the account of many a young woman.

With filming on Two Sisters from Boston coming to a close the relationship between June and Peter was abruptly halted. June Allyson went back to being the charming housewife all America adored and Peter Lawford went back to being Peter Lawford. Peter was very in love with June and found it very difficult to give her up. According to friends there always seemed to be a bitterness surrounding the subject of June,after the relationship ended. Peter, heartbroken, quickly discovered how easy it was for love to turn into hate. He had grown up insecure, and had felt slightly used.allyson3 Peter would come into difficult situations for the whole of his life, and being a dreamer and idealist, often felt helpless himself against that which he was made to bear.   

A year later June and Peter would star in Good News. For this production Peter worked harder than for any film he had since. He took lessons in singing and dancing. This was a lead role, and opposite a reluctant lover, one could only imagine the tension on the set. With Peter feeling jaded and her hands tied, the couple became prone to fighting. Still, being the first big title role for Peter, and a whole year wiser he was quick to try and abide by the rules, and act professional. The on screen interaction with June would have to suffice. It is the chemistry between Peter and June that makes Good News so successful. A beautiful movie in its own right, one could not imagine it without these two stars.  There are places in the film where one wonders if the longing gazes are real or just an example of Peter’s improving acting capabilities.

It would be two long years before the two would be paired again in 1949 in Little Women. Two years of other women for Peter included another warning from MGM regarding a 16 year old Elizabeth Taylor. It also included the film It Happened in Brooklyn which paired him with his fairweather friend, Frank Sinatra. Kathryn Grayson and Jimmy Durante, who starred with him in Two Sisters from Boston, would also share the limelight in this film.  Easter Parade brought a breif romance with Judy Garland and a lifelong friendship.

By the time he took the role of the lovesick Laurie in Little Women,  June Allyson was 32 to Peter Lawford’s 26. Little Women would be their last film together, and as such their last chance for romantic encounter.

(Spada, James, Peter Lawford: The Man Who Kept Secrets, Bantam 1991)

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