Category: Biographies

Embed from Getty Images

Filmography

1929      

The Single Standard

Three Live Ghosts

So This Is College

Untamed

Their Own Desire

 

1930      

Free and Easy

The Divorcee

The Big House

The Sins of the Children

Our Blushing Brides

Love in the Rough

War Nurse

 

1931      

Inspiration

The Easiest Way

Strangers May Kiss

Shipmates

The Man in Possession

Private Lives

 

1932      

Lovers Courageous

But the Flesh Is Weak

Letty Lynton

Blondie of the Follies

Faithless

 

1933      

Hell Below

Made on Broadway

When Ladies Meet

Another Language

Night Flight

 

1934      

Fugitive Lovers

The Mystery of Mr. X

Riptide

Hide-Out

Forsaking All Others

 

1935      

Biography of a Bachelor Girl

Vanessa: Her Love Story

No More Ladies

 

1936      

Petticoat Fever

Trouble for Two

Piccadilly Jim

 

1937      

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney

Night Must Fall

Ever Since Eve

Live, Love and Learn

 

1938      

The First Hundred Years

Yellow Jack

Three Loves Has Nancy

 

1939      

Fast and Loose

 

1940      

The Earl of Chicago

Busman's Honeymoon

The Door with Seven Locks

 

1941      

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Rage in Heaven

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Unfinished Business

 

1945      

They Were Expendable

 

1947      

Lady in the Lake

Ride the Pink Horse

1948      

The Saxon Charm

June Bride

 

1949      

Poet's Pub

Once More, My Darling

 

1950      

Your Witness

 

1960      

The Gallant Hours

Awards

Robert Montgomery was nominated for two Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Awards

If you are lucky enough to be a success, by all means enjoy the applause and the adulation of the public. But never, never believe it. ~ Robert Montgomery

Robert Montgomery was born Henry Montgomery, Jr. on May 21, 1904, in Fishkill Landing, New York (now Beacon, New York), to Henry Montgomery, Sr. and his wife, Mary Weed Montgomery (née Barney). His early childhood was one of privilege, as his father was president of the New York Rubber Company. His father committed suicide in 1922 by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge, and the family's fortune was gone.

Montgomery settled in New York City to try his hand at writing and acting. He established a stage career, and became popular enough to turn down an offer to appear opposite Vilma Bánky in the film This Is Heaven (1929). Sharing a stage with George Cukor gave him an entry to Hollywood and a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where he debuted in So This Is College (1929). One writer claimed that Montgomery was able to establish himself because he "proceeded with confidence, agreeable with everyone, eager and willing to take suggestions". During the production of So This Is College, Montgomery learned from and questioned crew members from several departments, including sound crew, electricians, set designers, camera crew, and film editors. In a later interview, he confessed, "it showed [him] that making a motion picture is a great co-operative project." So This Is College gained him attention as Hollywood's latest newcomer, and he was put in one production after another, his popularity growing steadily.

Montgomery initially played exclusively in comedy roles, but portrayed a character in his first drama film in The Big House (1930). MGM was initially reluctant to assign him in such a role, until "his earnestness, and his convincing arguments, with demonstrations of how he would play the character" won him the assignment. From The Big House on, he was in constant demand. Appearing as Greta Garbo's romantic interest in Inspiration (1930) started him toward stardom with a rush. Norma Shearer chose him to star opposite her in The Divorcee (1930), Strangers May Kiss (1931), and Private Lives (1931), which led him to stardom. In 1932, Montgomery starred opposite Tallulah Bankhead in Faithless, though the film was not a success. During this time, Montgomery appeared in the original pre-Code film version of When Ladies Meet (1933), which starred Ann Harding and Myrna Loy. In 1935, Montgomery became President of the Screen Actors Guild, and was elected again in 1946.

In another challenging role, Montgomery played a psychopath in the chiller Night Must Fall (1937), for which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor nomination.

After World War II broke out in Europe in September, 1939, and while the United States was still officially neutral, Montgomery enlisted in London for American field service and drove ambulances in France until the Dunkirk evacuation. He then returned to Hollywood and addressed a massive rally on the MGM lot for the American Red Cross in July 1940. Montgomery returned to playing light comedy roles, such as Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) with Carole Lombard. He continued his search for dramatic roles. For his role as Joe Pendleton, a boxer and pilot in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), Montgomery was nominated for an Oscar a second time. After the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, he joined the United States Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, and served on the USS Barton (DD-722) which was part of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

In 1945, Montgomery returned to Hollywood, making his uncredited directing debut with They Were Expendable, where he directed some of the PT boat scenes when director John Ford was unable to work for health reasons. Montgomery's first credited film as director and his final film for MGM was the film noir Lady in the Lake (1947), in which he also starred, which received mixed reviews. Adapted from Raymond Chandler's detective novel and sanitized for the censorship of the day, the film is unusual because it was filmed entirely from Marlowe's vantage point. Montgomery only appeared on camera a few times, three times in a mirror reflection.

He also directed and starred in Ride the Pink Horse (1947), also a film noir.

Active in Republican politics and concerned about communist influence in the entertainment industry, Montgomery was a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. The next year, 1948, Montgomery hosted the Academy Awards. He hosted an Emmy Award-winning television series, Robert Montgomery Presents, which ran from 1950 to 1957. The Gallant Hours (1960), a film Montgomery directed and co-produced with its star, his friend James Cagney, was the last film or television production with which he was connected in any capacity, as actor, director, or producer. In 1954, Montgomery took an unpaid position as consultant and coach to President Eisenhower, advising him on how to look his best in his television appearances before the nation. A pioneering media consultant, Montgomery had an office in the White House beginning in 1954.

On April 14, 1928, Montgomery married actress Elizabeth Bryan Allen (December 26, 1904 – June 28, 1992), sister of Martha-Bryan Allen. The couple had three children: Martha Bryan, who died at 14 months of age in 1931; Elizabeth (April 15, 1933 – May 18, 1995); and Robert, Jr. (January 6, 1936 – February 7, 2000). They divorced on December 5, 1950. His second wife was Elizabeth "Buffy" Grant Harkness (1909 – 2003), whom he married on December 9, 1950, four days after his divorce from Allen was finalized.

Montgomery died of cancer on September 27, 1981, at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. His body was cremated and the ashes were given to the family. His two surviving children, Elizabeth and Robert Montgomery, Jr., both died of cancer, as well.