Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Jackie Kennedy's Favorite White House Dinner

The Nobel Prize dinner at the White House on April 29, 1962 may have been the most impressive dinner of the Kennedy years—and perhaps the dinner of the century at the White House—but First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was especially excited about the next dinner, which took place only twelve days later.  It honored French cultural affairs minister Andre Malraux.

Mrs. Kennedy was fascinated by Malraux.  When asked about what made him special, she replied:  "He happens to be a war hero, a brilliant, sensitive writer, and he happens to have a great mind."

The dinner, like the Nobel event, was star-studded with many people from the literary world.  Among them were Saul Bellow, Paddy Chayefsky, John Hersey, Archibald MacLeish, Robert Penn Warren, Thornton Wilder, and Tennessee Williams.

Others included Charles Lindbergh, who sat at the president’s table, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh—both of whom had met with the president at the White House earlier in the day—and Andrew Wyeth.   Stephane Boudin, who was so instrumental in the recent refurbishment of the White House, also was there.

What was also noteworthy about the Malraux dinner was that shortly afterward, the French government loaned Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, to the United States, where it was shown at the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jacqueline Kennedy, America’s unofficial queen and social trendsetter of the early 1960s, continued to have special dinners and events at the White House as she went about making the famous building both a national salon and a living museum for the American people.

Photo credit:  Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

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