Feature: My Momentary Celebrity Obsession – Robert Montgomery

My craze over Robert Montgomery has been going on for some time now, more than a year, I would say. Like Carole Lombard, I was first exposed to Montgomery in Hitchcock‘s only purely comedic American endeavor, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The movie is a riot, and I regret the duo did not work together more. Montgomery won me over by being both funny and unrelentingly handsome/charming.

Robert Montgomery

Not long thereafter I caught Montgomery in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, based on the play (which would later become a Warren Beatty movie) “Heaven Can Wait.” He plays a boxer whose life is taken prematurely and so the folks in heaven try to find a suitable body in which he can complete is life expectancy. It is possible Montgomery has never been more funny, and the role earned him an Oscar nomination.

Romantic comedies were Montgomery’s milieu when he came to Hollywood around 1929 from the stage where he hooked up with George Cukor, thus facilitating his segue into film. He typically was cast as the socialite playboy who always got the girl despite how much of a heel his characters could be. He pressed for more dramatic roles and really showed his stuff in The Big House in which he plays a jailhouse snitch. He also got a great break when cast against type as a conniving killer in Night Must Fall, which earned him another Oscar nomination.

Montgomery would serve in the Navy during WWII and played several military parts on screen as well. When Director John Ford became ill and unable to finish directing The Were Expendable, in which Montgomery starred, the actor took over directing some of the PT boat scenes. He was officially credited as a director in 1947’s Lady in the Lake, which was shot in a first-person viewpoint from Montgomery’s character. The only time one actually sees the man is when he looks in a mirror.

Montgomery went on to host a television show, “Robert Montgomery Presents” and even had a job as President Eisenhower’s unpaid consultant, giving advice to make the leader look his best on television. This gent is also father to Elizabeth Montgomery, whom we all know as Samantha on “Bewitched”. He died from cancer in 1981 at age 77.

I have a list going of his movies that has proved a difficult feat to work through as most are not available on DVD and TCM does not air enough of his stuff. Nevertheless, I relish the opportunity to watch anything he has done.

Source: TCM.com

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3 Responses

  1. I think Night Must Fall is his best acting display. He is a convincing sociopath.

  2. The amazing thing about “Night Must Fall” is that in addition to giving a bravura performance, Montgomery handled most of the directing because Richard Thorpe felt overwhelmed by the project.

    You should enjoy his early stuff with Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. I recommend “The Gallant Hours” the film he directed with James Cagney as Admiral Halsey.

    Montgomery seems like a decent as well as creative man.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I have seen at least three of the Montgomery-Shearer partnerships but was never in love with her as I kind of feel she gave the same performance in most of those pre-code flicks.

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