Actor. He is probably best remembered as a member of the Hollywood's "Rat Pack' which included entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Joey Bishop, who appeared together on stage and films, including the movies "Ocean's 11" (1960) and "Sergeants 3" (1962). He is also remembered as the husband of Patricia Kennedy, the sister of President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy, which made him a member of the Washington DC social elite. Born Peter Sydney Ernest Alyen in London, England, into British aristocracy, he was the only child of British Lieutenant General Sir Sydney Turning Barlow Lawford, Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. At the time of his birth, his mother, May Sommerville Bunny, was married to Dr. Capt. Ernest Vaughn Aylen, one of Sir Sydney's officers, while his father was married to Muriel Williams. At the time, May and Alyen were living apart and she confessed to him that the child was not his, which resulted in a double divorce. Sir Sydney and May then married in September 1924, after their divorces were finalized and when their son was one year old. He spent his early childhood in France, and because of his family's travels, was never formally educated. Instead he was schooled by governesses and tutors and his education included tennis and ballet lessons. He had an interest in drama at a young age and around 1930, aged seven, he made his acting debut in the English film "Poor Old Bill." When he was 14, he severely injured his right arm in an accident when it went through a glass door, greatly compromising the use of his lower arm and hand with irreversible nerve damage, which he later learned to hide. The injury was considered damaging enough to keep him from entering the military, which his parents had planned, and he decided to pursue a career as an actor. Prior to World War II, he obtained a contract position with the MGM studios and in 1938 he made his Hollywood debut in a minor part in the film "Lord Jeff." His first role in a major film production was in "A Yank At Eton" (1942), where he played a snobbish bully opposite Mickey Rooney. The film was a smash hit, and his performance was widely praised. He followed this with uncredited appearances as a pilot in "Mrs. Miniver" (1942) and as a sailor in "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" (1943). He won acclaim for his performance in "The White Cliffs of Dover" (1944), in which he played a young soldier during World War II, and MGM gave him another important role in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1945). His first leading role came in "Son of Lassie" (1945) and he later won a Modern Screen magazine readers' poll as the most popular actor in Hollywood of 1946. His busiest year as an actor was 1946, when two of his films opened within days of each other, "Cluny Brown" and "Two Sisters From Boston." He also made his first comedy that same year with "My Brother Talks To Horses" (released in 1947) and appeared with Frank Sinatra for the first time in the musical "It Happened in Brooklyn" (1947), for which he received rave reviews. He followed with the musical "Good News" (1947), using an American accent for his role, and he won acclaim as a performer. He was given supporting roles in MGM films over the next few years, including "On an Island with You" (1948), "Easter Parade" (1948), "Little Women" (1949), "Royal Wedding" (1951), and "You for Me" (1952). In 1953 he made his television debut in a guest starring role on Ronald Reagan's anthology series, "General Electric Theater" and the following year, he starred as newspaper advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist Bill Hastings in the short-lived NBC series "Dear Phoebe" with Marcia Henderson and Charles Lane. That same year he married Patricia Kennedy, the sister of then-US Senator John F. Kennedy (who he eventually divorced in 1966), with whom he had four children. When MGM released him from his contract, he appeared in the Columbia Pictures comedy "It Should Happen to You" (1954), with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon. From 1957 to 1959 he co-starred with Phyllis Kirk in the NBC television series "The Thin Man." In 1959 Frank Sinatra invited him to join the "Rat Pack" and also got him a role in "Never So Few" (1959). The casino caper "Ocean's 11" was a project he first brought to Sinatra's attention and it became the first film to feature all five main "Rat Pack" members. On April 23, 1960 he became an American citizen. He had prepared for this in time to vote for his brother-in-law in the upcoming presidential election. He, along with other members of the "Rat Pack", helped campaign for Kennedy and the Democratic Party. In 1962 he starred in the films "The Longest Day" and "Advise and Consent." In 1961 he and his manager Milt Ebbins formed Chrislaw Productions (named after his son Christopher) and produced, in part, the 1963 action film, "Johnny Cool," starring Henry Silva and Elizabeth Montgomery. He went on to star in two films with Sammy Davis, Jr., "Salt and Pepper" (1968) and "One More Time" (1970). From 1971 to 1973 he had a recurring role on television's "The Doris Day Show," as the love interest to Day's character. He appeared in "They Only Kill Their Masters" (1972), which reunited him with several former MGM contract players. His last film role was as Montague Chippendale in the comedy "Where's Parsifal" (1983). He also guest starred on various television series including "The Martha Raye Show," "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars," "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Wild Wild West," "The Virginian," Bewitched," "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island" and "The Bob Cummings Show." Besides guest spots, he also guest-starred on television variety shows such as "The Judy Garland Show" and "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," and game shows "What's My Line?," Password," and "Pyramid." At the age of 48, he married his second wife, Mary Rowan, the daughter of comedian Dan Rowan, in October 1971 when she was one day shy of 22 years old. They were separated two years later and divorced in January 1975. In June 1976, at age 52, he married aspiring 25-year-old actress Deborah Gould, whom he had known for only three weeks. They separated two months after marrying and divorced in 1977. During his separation from Gould, he met 17-year-old Patricia Seaton, who became his fourth and final wife in July 1984, months before his death. He died in Los Angeles at the age of 61, from cardiac arrest, having suffered from kidney and liver failure after years of substance abuse. His body was cremated and his ashes were interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. Owing to a dispute between his widow and the cemetery, his ashes were removed and scattered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. A plaque bearing his name was later erected at Westwood Village Memorial Park. During his film career he appeared in 80 movies, a number of which were uncredited. He is the father of actor and author Christopher Kennedy Lawford. He was first interred at Westwood Memorial Park in Westwood, California. His cremated remains were later removed and scattered at sea in the Pacific Ocean.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Beloved Husband, Father & Friend
Patricia Kennedy Lawford
1924–2006 (m. 1954)