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The Petrie Family: A Life In Show Business

August 12, 1985|DEBORAH CAULFIELD | Times Staff Writer

Only a week remained before Sis was to get married. She looked pretty calm, her older brothers commented, then proceeded to tease their future brother-in-law about last-minute escapes.

As the four lounged in the living room of the comfortable family home in Brentwood, Dad sat down and joined in on the good-natured teasing. Mom made coffee and discussed details about the wedding--including the arrival of Sis' twin sister from New York. Soon the family would be together for an increasingly rare reunion.

It could be a scene from Anytown, Anyfamily, U.S.A., unless one were to ask, "So how was work today?"

In the Petrie family, that's a loaded question. It can be answered by no fewer than two directors (Dan Petrie and son Donald Petrie); a television movie producer (Dorothea Petrie); a screenwriter (Dan Petrie Jr.); a movie studio executive (June Petrie, the bride-to-be), and an actress (June's fraternal twin, Mary Petrie).

While not as famous outside the entertainment industry as the families Douglas, Bridges, Carradine, Keach or Fonda, the Daniel Petrie family--by sheer numbers--may be the most firmly entrenched family in show business. Consider:

--Dan Petrie is the recipient of three Directors Guild awards and a Peabody award; director for motion pictures, television and stage. Among his projects: "Resurrection," "Fort Apache, the Bronx," "Lifeguard," "A Raisin in the Sun" and this year's "The Bay Boy," which he wrote and directed; the television films "Eleanor and Franklin," "Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years" and "Sybil," and the Mark Taper Forum production of Athol Fugard's "A Lesson From Aloes."

--Dorothea Petrie, a former model, actress, literary agent and casting director, is now an acclaimed television producer. Her topical television movies include "Orphan Train" (which she currently is adapting as a Broadway play), "Angel Dusted," "License to Kill" and the coming "Picking Up the Pieces," a story about the devastating effects of divorce, starring Margot Kidder.

--Dan Petrie Jr., 33, received an Academy Award nomination last year for "Beverly Hills Cop," his first produced screenplay. The former agent recently signed a three-year writing/producing/directing deal with Walt Disney Productions.

--Donald Petrie, 31, makes his directorial debut this fall on Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories" with "Mr. Magic," a segment starring Sid Caesar. Petrie, an actor and American Film Institute graduate, has been given a second directing assignment on an episode for ABC's new fall series "MacGyver." --June Petrie, 26, a former Doubleday assistant editor, made her move into show business as a story editor at MGM/UA in New York. Now living in Los Angeles, she is director of creative affairs for the studio.

--Mary Petrie, 26, is a New York-based actress and graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts. Her credits include a small role in Sidney Lumet's next film, "Power," appearances on the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live" and several Off-Broadway plays.

The Petrie family presents a good example of show business as merely a trade.

Despite their jobs and their credentials, there is nothing remotely "Hollywood" about this family. No glamorous mansion/servants/limousines life style; no scandal-ridden divorces or drug-addicted, bitter children. Close-knit and hard-working, their values seem much the same as any "typical" American family.

"I think the fact that Mom is from Iowa and Dad is from Nova Scotia has a lot to do with it (the normalcy)," Mary Petrie speculated during a phone call from New York. "They're pretty down-to-earth people. Drugs, drinking, large parties . . . they're just not in that (Hollywood) mainstream."

Her mother offered a somewhat different perspective: "Dan set a whole tone for the family that was very healthy. We never had the pressure of the competitiveness of this business--the wanting the bigger, the better, the more. It's never been a part of our lives."

For years, a big part of their lives was moving.

"We really did move about 18 times," Dorothea explained. "Our home base was New York City, but we decided early on to raise the children together, so we traveled with Dan wherever he went."

Son Donald attributed this traveling, more than anything, to guiding him into acting. "You would never have long-term friendships. I was usually in the 'geek' clique, because the new kid is usually in the geek clique until he moves his way up. Then I found this thing called drama. After two months of rehearsing a play after school and having to get on stage in front of people, there would be a camaraderie and even fans. So I had my trick. I'd arrive at any new school, waltz into the theater department and have 'old friends.' "

However, until the family's permanent move to California in the early 1970s, the Petrie children agreed that they had very little idea what exactly their father did for a living.

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