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Photo Screen (October 1970)

"The Strangest Wedding of the Year! Why It Took Place In a Cave!"

By Christopher Wilkins

James MacArthur peered out the window of his Honolulu apartment facing the Pacific Ocean, his eyes aching from the brightness of the late morning sun. In the distance he knew was Kauai Island in the Ferngato sector of the Hawaiian Islands. Within a few hours he would be there, exchanging wedding vows with Melody Patterson.

Excitement swept him at the thought. After more than two years of courtship and a couple of breakups, he would soon take Melody as his second wife. His thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of his phone, the first of several calls he would receive within the next few hours from friends, his mother, actress Helen Hayes, and business associates who had gathered in Honolulu for the occasion.

Too nervous to really eat a big lunch, Jim waited patiently for his roommate, a stuntman on TV’s Hawaii Five-O called Beau, to finish dressing. Beau would be Jim’s best man.

Keeping with tradition, Melody had stayed with her parents, Pat and Rosemary Patterson who had flown to the Islands from Inglewood, California, at a nearby hotel, and Jim would not see his bride until the 4 p.m. ceremony.

A short time before then, Jim, Beau, and a group of a dozen friends and relatives boarded a plane that would take them to Kauai. An awaiting bus took the party to the wedding barge, decorated from end to end with orchids with a four piece Polynesian musical group aboard.

During the next 25 minutes, the barge made its way up a narrow river before arriving at the foot of what years before had been sacred wedding grounds for the first inhabitants of the Islands. Up a winding, flower shrouded path, Jim and his party climbed the mountain to the entrance of a mountain chapel, located inside an ancient cave.

There they would wait, and watch, as a second wedding barge carried Melody, her bridesmaids and parents to the foot of the mountain. “Hawaiian Love Song” echoed across the river and through the mountains as the barge docked.

Lit only by candlelight, the cave chapel was filled with reverence and solitude as Jim waited for Melody’s arrival. As he did, his thoughts flashed back to that evening more than two years ago when they first met.

It was at a social affair in Hollywood just before Jim left the mainland to begin his role as Danny Williams opposite Jack Lord, as members of a state police force.

Only a few months had passed since Jim and his first wife, Joyce Bulifant, had been divorced, and it was one of those rare occasions in which Jim decided to attend a party. Seldom, either as a bachelor earlier in his life or during his marriage, had Jim frequented any party, and particularly none that could be considered typically Hollywood.

But, this time a close friend of his had also just recently been divorced and both were in need of a night out. Melody was there with a date, and yet when they looked into each other’s eyes, something very definite clicked.

Within a few days, Jim built up enough courage to call her.

“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. You remember that I had been married for nine years and was a father of two children, so it’d been a long time since I had called a girl for a date,” Jim insisted.

Nevertheless, Melody agreed to accompany him to a movie, and thus their romance began. In the ensuing months, Melody was introduced to Jim’s children, Charles, 9, and Mary, 6. An only child herself, Melody shined like a new mother herself as she grew to know Charles and Mary.

She admitted to a certain amount of jealousy when she learned that both children would spend at least a month of their summer vacation in Hawaii with their father while she remained on the mainland. But, she was quick to realize that Jim was their father, and she was not their mother.

Her concern was quickly erased a few weeks later when she received one of Jim’s frequent calls from the Islands. In fact, what had started as occasional calls had developed into regular weekly calls each Sunday evening, and both Jim and Melody found themselves arranging their weekend activities around that call.

During one conversation, Jim invited Melody to join him in Hawaii for a vacation. The owner of two residences in the Islands, Jim had arranged for Melody to have her own private apartment during her stay. Without a second’s hesitation she agreed and within a week she boarded a jet for Hawaii.

Despite Jim’s hectic work schedule of 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, Melody discovered what she had thought for some time -- she was in love with Jim.

While he had extended himself to show her everything on the Islands, he had yet to hint his feelings for her, and while she confided her deep devotion and love for Jim to her friends, she was careful not to question him. She knew that not much time had passed since his divorce from Joyce, and at the same time she realized that after a nine-year marriage, men are generally over-cautious about rushing into still another marital relationship. And then, too, there were the children.

Since his divorce, Jim had devoted his every free moment to remaining the father of his children. He was raised in a close-knit, loving family, and this automatically overlapped into his home. Even in divorce, he and Joyce had agreed that Charles and Mary would remain close to both of their parents.

“We neither wanted to hurt the children. We didn’t stay together at the last just for the children’s sake as so many couples do. We had really had something for each other, and we earnestly didn’t want to lose it.

“But, then it was inevitable, and we simply, as two adults should, agreed that we’d make it as painless on each other and the children as possible.” Jim explained.

“Jim’s a very loving person,” said Melody. “You’ll be hard pressed to meet anyone anywhere, in the entertainment business or out of it, who doesn’t like him. He doesn’t necessarily cater to everyone just to be friends; on the contrary -- he’s very much an individual, but he’s ultra sensitive to other’s feelings.”

Close friends of Jim could tell that he had a great deal of affection for Melody, but they also knew that whatever woman became his wife would have to understand his devotion for his children and accept it. Not to the point of being second in his life, but certainly sharing Jim on an equal plane.

In the months that followed Melody’s return to Hollywood, it was not uncommon for Jim to suddenly arrive from Honolulu for a weekend. Time was short, usually, and so Melody often joined him at his 35-year-old secluded home hideen in the tree-covered hills of Tarzana, California, a Los Angeles suburb, to find his children happily playing either in their specially built playground or in the backyard pool.

There was but a short amount of time for the couple to be alone, and yet it was evident to Melody that Jim too was in love, though he had still not spoken those three little words.

When he returned to the mainland he was in Los Angeles only a short time before he flew to the East Coast to visit his mother, Helen Hayes, at the family home in Nyack, N.Y. and then spend nearly two weeks in New York on business.

It was April and Melody would be celebrating her birthday.

A personal appearance trip to South Carolina for a film she had recently done would break the monotony, but she still would not be with Jim.

Much to her surprise and pleasure, however, Jim asked her to join him in New York, and therefore she spent her birthday seeing the sights with Jim. A year later they would spend an evening together for her birthday in Los Angeles before Jim returned to Hawaii for the start of another season.

“When he left,” a close friend of Melody’s confided, “it was fairly well accepted that they both loved one another, but there had been little discussion about marriage. I guess the flame was wavering somewhat, and finally Melody accepted an invitation to go out with someone else.”

The date was an actor named Ron Taft, whom Melody had met through a mutual friend. In the few weeks that followed her letters to Jim became fewer in number, and soon it was rumored that Ron had proposed.

Whether that was fact or not, the news of the proposal reached Hawaii, and a week later Jim was back in Los Angeles.

“I knew I loved her, but I guess I was just being too cautious when it came to making the decision as to whether or not I should ask her to marry me,” Jim related.

“Nevertheless, when I heard that she was dating someone else it didn’t bother me at first. I thought maybe that was her way of calling our relationship to an end. But, then I was told she was getting serious and suddenly I said to myself, ‘you love her, so why not tell her so!’” he added.

A short weekend on the mainland convinced both Jim and Melody that the love they had nurtured the past couple of years was for real. Jim proposed, and Melody said “yes,” something she had hoped for the past year and a half.

“It all happened so fast, it’s like a dream come true,” Melody related. “When he asked, I just hugged him.”

Within two weeks, all the wedding arrangements had been made. Melody broke the news to Ron, who, while disappointed gave the couple his best wishes for a happy marriage.

A waterfall, splashing over the entrance of the cave, caused a chilly breeze as Melody and her father entered to the music of the traditional wedding march.

Soon the ceremony was over, and the wedding couple and their party were taken to a secluded tiki house near the Cocoa Palms Hotel on the Island. The ground on which the hotel sits was once sacred, available only for royalty of the early settlers. It was here that a gala reception would be held, with more typical Polynesian music, a champaign toast to the newlyweds, and the traditional cutting of the cake.

Discreetly, and politely, Jim and Melody finally slipped away as the sun began to disappear behind the Pacific. A soft shower that had begun to fall just as the ceremony ended, had stopped, and the warm Pacific breeze brushed aside the towering palms. At still another hideaway on the Island, Jim and Melody would have two days to enjoy their honeymoon before he had to return to the demanding chores as co-star of Hawaii Five-O.

Two days seemed to be such a short time, but after more than two years of dating, Jim and Melody were now man and wife, a most happy day for both, and blessed with the everlasting love that only a marriage in paradise could have.

James MacArthur, Melody Patterson

Charlie MacArthur, Beau Van Den Ecker, James MacArthur, Melody Patterson

Melody Patterson, James MacArthur

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