I must start by saying I was sad to read that the Hollywood actor and star of Top Gun and Batman Val Kilmer has lost his natural voice due to a throat operation for cancer. Val made Willow at Elstree Studios and apparently could be a 'difficult' actor. I remember the production built a great castle on the studio backlot. I also recall the late great Jack Hawkins also lost his voice to cancer and in his last years had his voice dubbed by fellow actor Charles Gray. Film buffs will remember Charles as a James Bond villain and a black magic worshipper in the Elstree-made The Devil Rides Out. Ironically Charles also died of cancer.

This week I look back at the career of the star Peter Lawford, who you may remember if only due to conspiracy buffs linking him to the murder of Marilyn Monroe. Peter started his career at Elstree but shot to fame as a leading man at MGM in Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s. He was handsome although not a great actor so his career began to peter out as the studio began to fade. He then married into the Kennedy family which put him on another level and joined the 'rat pack' that also included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior and Frank Sinatra.

Watford Observer:

He was to fall out with the volatile Sinatra over a JFK visit. He had assured Sinatra that the president would stay at Frank's house and the singer even built a helipad for the occasion. However, the president was advised it was not a good idea due to Sinatra's contacts with organised crime, so he stayed with Bing Crosby instead. It was all a bit silly as JFK's father had links with the mob dating back to the 1920s and it is alleged their help got JFK elected.

Anyway, many books have alleged that Peter and Robert Kennedy organised the death of Marilyn Monroe as she was about to spill the beans on her affairs with Bobby and JFK, who were both good Catholic married men and in the 1960s this would have forced them both to resign. We have seen that can still happen today in recent weeks. Incidentally, I met John Profumo through his actress wife Valerie Hobson, who was also brought down by his affair while in office.

Peter admitted he spoke on the phone to Marilyn the night she died but never admitted anything more, even after he was divorced from the Kennedy family and both JFK and Bobby had been murdered.

His career went downhill rapidly in the 1970s as he became an alcoholic and a drug user. When he was broke he could have made a fortune by revealing he had helped cover up the murder of Marilyn Monroe if that was the case, but officially her death remains either suicide or accidental overdose.

Watford Observer:

I visited Marilyn's grave and even today fans still leave flowers. When Peter died his ashed were ironically buried close to the screen goddess. However, his family never paid the bill so his ashes were dug up and scattered at sea. What a sad end to a life and career. Personally I have no idea what happened to Marilyn. I do know that Stanley Kubrick did not fake the 1969 Moon landings at MGM in Borehamwood with the help of NASA. I may be of course lying, but if before next week I am rubbed out by the mob in a drive-by shooting using Thompson sub machine guns, or, if you prefer, Chicago pianos, then you will know the truth.

  • Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios