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TV Star Parade (November 1970)

"Marriage Hawaiian Style"

by Christopher Wilkins

James MacArthur glanced at his watch. It was nearing midnight as he stood at the back of a large crowd awaiting the arrival of a Western Airlines jet taxiing up to the Honolulu International Airport terminal having completed its lengthy flight from Los Angeles. The gathering waited with anxious anticipation as friends, relatives and business associates deplaned. All of the passengers were greeted with the traditional lei and a kiss from a young Hawaiian woman.

Jim pushed himself atop the toes of his shoes trying to see over the crowd in hopes of catching a glimpse of one passenger very dear to his heart. Shortly, Melody Patterson strolled from the walkway, and spying Jim, raced, pushing her way through the crowd as she went to his waiting arms. A curious glance of hesitant recognition crossed the faces of many members of the crowd as Jim and Melody greeted each other with a kiss, taking little notice to the attention they attracted and obviously not caring. For Melody had arrived in Hawaii after spending the week in Hollywood taping several pages of script that will be “dubbed” into her vocal role of a recently completed movie.

Only 16 hours had passed since Jim had put his wife of less than a week on the plane, admitting that he almost resented the necessity of the separation.

Arm-in-arm they strolled from the airport to their car and soon they were safely back in the apartment that for almost two years had been a bachelor’s paradise. Already, however, the evidence of a feminine touch was apparent, with several sets of new draperies, his and her towel sets inscribed “Jim” and “Melody,” and a colorful new bedspread.

Their wedding on the island of Kauai several days before had been a splendid, and typically Polynesian, marriage, and due to demands of Jim’s work the couple could afford only a short, two-day honeymoon.
“Jim must stay here until January, and then he’ll be off for a three-month vacation, so we plan to take a real honeymoon then,” Melody explained as she sipped a glass of ice tea in the MacArthurs’ apartment.

“I think we’ll be going to Europe, but that’s really Jim’s decision. He wanted to go last year but business and personal appearances prevented him from making it. He and Beau (his best man and a stunt man who shared the apartment with Jim) were going to go all over Europe skiing.

“Finally, Jim and his cousin met in Aspen and he spent nearly a month there,” Melody added. “I ski,” she continued, “but the first or second time Jimmy ever took me, it was at Mamouth in North California. I fell and broke my leg, so I’m a little afraid of it. But I’ll do it again -- but only with my husband.”

The look in Melody’s beautiful brown eyes was enough to excite and please the most outspoken skeptic of the couple’s marriage. The word “husband” echoed through the room and seemed to be repeated again and again throughout the apartment.

“Yes, it does seem like all a dream. We dated for a little over two years you know, and I had really had moments when I doubted if I’d ever become Mrs. MacArthur,” Melody confided.

As Mrs. James MacArthur, Melody inherits a great deal of traditional responsibility, for not only is she now Helen Hayes’ daughter-in-law, she’s also a member of one of American’s most respected families. Among its members is the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur. It’s a family that sought its future in the creative arts.

But in addition, Melody becomes Jim’s second wife and the stepmother to his two deeply loved children, Charles, 9, and Mary, 5. She realizes that in assuming all of this, and certainly more in the years to come, she must be obedient to Jim in the tradition of all the MacArthur women.

“I never really thought about Helen being my mother-in-law until after the wedding. She is so filled with life and ambition. She’s always been just splendid.

“Many times, I’d go over to Jim’s home and there would be Jim, Charles, and Mary swimming, with Helen sitting nearby reading and enjoying being in the company of her children.

“At first I naturally felt like an awkward outsider, and I have to admit that on a few occasions I refused to go when Jim told me everyone was at the house.

“But then I got to know Helen as a friend. In no time at all I felt like a part of the family. Often she would tell me tales of Jim when he was a youngster, and of his father. He must have been a marvelous man.

“All of this simply drew me in, closer to Jim, the children and Helen,” Melody explained, a gleam in her eyes.

The exposure to the MacArthur family way of life has carried over to Jim’s second marriage with Melody.

Jim, returning home from a day’s shooting at numerous locations of Honolulu, was greeted by his wife with a kiss and a cold beer.

“It’s very important to me that my family be together in good times and in bad. I’m a believer that a family that plays together, stays together,” he said as he relaxed in his favorite easy chair.

Jim recalled his first marriage to actress Joyce Bulifant, and how, during its first five to six years, everything was good. Jim’s acting career was flourishing, and while Joyce was cast in no less than three television pilots, none of them ever reached the air.

“Certainly the competitive thing was there, but it was more than that. Since I was doing films, I was away from home a great deal, and therefore not only away from the children but my wife. The distance that separated us simply proved to be too much of a strain on both of us,” Jim explained.

“Then, after our seventh year together, we decided to seek the help of a professional, so we engaged a marriage counselor. Two years later we were divorced. It was inevitable from the outset,” he added.

This experience -- being constantly separated from his first wife and children -- taught Jim a valuable lesson.

“I want Melody to continue with her career and to act. Why not? She is not ready to become the stay-at-home domestic housewife, and whether she works as an actress or a store clerk, if she’s pursuing a goal that she likes, it’s as important to me as it is to her that she continues.

“However, we’re going to stick pretty close together. We’ll never be apart,” he adds.

Melody agrees that she wants to continue to act, but, she adds, “Our careers are going to be a family project, not separate endeavors.”

That familiar twinkle fills her eyes again as she says, “So, meet my new manager.”

The newlyweds then left for an evening dip in the Pacific, within walking distance of their apartment. Hands clasped tightly together, they strolled across the white sandy beach and then disappeared into the ocean breakers.

It’s very apparent that Jim and Melody MacArthur are truly happily married. They’re intent on sharing their lives together, and to include one another in their individual good times and bad.

“What’s really going to be exciting is returning to Los Angeles and moving into Jim’s beautiful home in Tarzana. It’s terribly ‘manish,’ but I think he’ll let me change it a little,” Melody said later, after their swim.

“I need the woman’s touch in just about everything,” Jim agreed.

“After nearly three years of being a bachelor, I’m sure there are many things that have become obviously masculine around me without me even realizing it. Melody has excellent taste in everything. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she does,” he added.

There is one thing, however, that both agree will remain generally the same: “Jim will always be the chef, the gourmet cook. He’s fantastic and he’s promised to give me lessons,” Melody concluded.

Listening to the MacArthurs, one comes away convinced that the recipe for their marriage is just right!

Melody Patterson, James MacArthur

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