Montgomery in April 1939
Henry Montgomery Jr.
May 21, 1904
|Died||September 27, 1981 (aged 77)|
New York City, U.S.
Elizabeth Bryan Allen
(m. 1928; div. 1950)
Elizabeth Grant Harkness
|Children||Martha (1930 - 1931)|
Elizabeth (1933 - 1995)
Robert Jr. (1936 - 2000)
|3rd and 8th President of the Screen Actors Guild|
Robert Montgomery (; born Henry Montgomery Jr.; May 21, 1904 - September 27, 1981) was an American film and television actor, director, and producer. He was also the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery. He began his acting career on the stage, but was soon hired by MGM. Initially assigned roles in comedies, he soon proved he was able to handle dramatic ones as well. During World War II, he drove ambulances in France until the Dunkirk evacuation. When the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, he enlisted in the Navy, and was present at the invasion at Normandy. After the war, he returned to Hollywood, where he worked in both films and, later, in television.
Henry Montgomery Jr. was born 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 (also 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". Author Scott Eyman wrote he had an "off-screen reputation as one of the chilliest, most pompous actors ever to find his way to Hollywood."
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; his first dramatic role was in The Big House (1930). MGM was initially reluctant to assign him the 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. He appeared as Greta Garbo's romantic interest in Inspiration (1930).
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. Montgomery played a psychopathic murderer in the thriller Night Must Fall (1937), for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
After World War II began in Europe in September 1939, and while the United States was still officially neutral, Montgomery enlisted in London for the 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 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), adapted from Raymond Chandler's detective novel, in which he starred as Chandler's most famous character, Phillip Marlowe. 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 1955 Montgomery was awarded a Tony Award for his direction of The Desperate Hours.
In 1954, Montgomery took an unpaid position as consultant and coach to President Dwight D. 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.
Montgomery has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for movies at 6440 Hollywood Boulevard, and another for television at 1631 Vine Street.
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.
|1929||The Single Standard||Extra||Uncredited|
|1929||Three Live Ghosts||William Foster|
|1929||So This Is College||Biff|
|1929||Their Own Desire||John Douglas Cheever|
|1930||Free and Easy||Larry|
|1930||The Big House||Kent Marlowe|
|1930||The Sins of the Children||Nick Higginson|
|1930||Our Blushing Brides||Tony Jardine|
|1930||Love in the Rough||Jack Kelly|
|1930||War Nurse||Lt. Wally O'Brien|
|1931||The Easiest Way||Jack "Johnny" Madison|
|1931||Strangers May Kiss||Steve|
|1931||Shipmates||John Paul Jones|
|1931||The Man in Possession||Raymond Dabney|
|1931||Private Lives||Elyot Chase|
|1932||Lovers Courageous||Willie Smith|
|1932||But the Flesh Is Weak||Max Clement|
|1932||Letty Lynton||Hale Darrow|
|1932||Blondie of the Follies||Larry Belmont|
|1932||Faithless||William "Bill" Wade|
|1933||Hell Below||Lieut. Thomas Knowlton, USN|
|1933||Made on Broadway||Jeff Bidwell|
|1933||When Ladies Meet||Jimmie Lee|
|1933||Another Language||Victor Hallam|
|1933||Night Flight||Auguste Pellerin|
|1934||This Side of Heaven||Actor on screen in theatre||Uncredited cameo: clip from Another Language (1933)|
|1934||Fugitive Lovers||Paul Porter, aka Stephen Blaine|
|1934||The Mystery of Mr. X||Nicholas Revel|
|1934||Hide-Out||Jonathan "Lucky" Wilson|
|1934||Forsaking All Others||Dillon "Dill"/"Dilly" Todd|
|1935||Biography of a Bachelor Girl||Richard "Dickie" Kurt|
|1935||Vanessa: Her Love Story||Benjamin Herries|
|1935||No More Ladies||Sheridan Warren|
|1936||Petticoat Fever||Dascom Dinsmore|
|1936||Trouble for Two||Prince Florizel||Alternative title: The Suicide Club|
|1936||Piccadilly Jim||James "Piccadilly Jim" Crocker Jr.|
|1937||The Last of Mrs. Cheyney||Lord Arthur Dilling|
|1937||Night Must Fall||Danny||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1937||Ever Since Eve||Freddie Matthews|
|1937||Live, Love and Learn||Bob Graham|
|1938||The First Hundred Years||David Conway|
|1938||Yellow Jack||John O'Hara|
|1938||Three Loves Has Nancy||Malcolm "Mal" Niles|
|1939||Fast and Loose||Joel Sloane|
|1940||The Earl of Chicago||Robert Kilmount|
|1940||Busman's Honeymoon||Lord Peter Wimsey||Alternative title: Haunted Honeymoon|
|1940||The Door with Seven Locks||Craig the butler||Alternative title: Chamber of Horrors|
|1941||Mr. & Mrs. Smith||David Smith|
|1941||Rage in Heaven||Philip Monrell|
|1941||Here Comes Mr. Jordan||Joe Pendleton||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1941||Unfinished Business||Tommy Duncan|
|1945||They Were Expendable||Lt. John Brickley||Also directed during illness of John Ford (uncredited)|
|1947||Lady in the Lake||Phillip Marlowe||Also directed|
|1947||Ride the Pink Horse||Lucky Gagin||Also directed|
|1948||The Saxon Charm||Matt Saxon|
|1948||June Bride||Carey Jackson|
|1949||Once More, My Darling||Collier "Collie" Laing||Also directed|
|1950||Your Witness||Adam Heyward||Also directed|
|1960||The Gallant Hours||Narrator||Also directed|
|1950-57||Robert Montgomery Presents||Host|
|1958||Navy Log||Host||Episode: "The Butchers of Kapsan"|
|1942||Philip Morris Playhouse||Man Hunt|
|1948||Suspense||The Black Curtain|