One of my all-time favorite actors, Robert Montgomery, was born on this date in 1904.
I wrote a brief post on Montgomery's birthday in 2010, but he's really deserving of a more detailed tribute!
Robert Montgomery was a two-time Oscar nominee as Best Actor, an accomplished and innovative movie director, a Tony-winning Broadway director, a decorated Navy veteran who retired with the rank of Commander, a television pioneer, and a media consultant for President Eisenhower. He also happens to have been the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery, the star of one of my all-time favorite TV shows, BEWITCHED.
There seems to be a resurgence in Montgomery's popularity among classic film fans in recent years. His movies now have far greater exposure thanks in part to his films being available for viewing on Turner Classic Movies and via Warner Archive DVDs. The Archive has released many of his movies, including an 8-film collection.
A couple of Montgomery's earliest films, NIGHT FLIGHT (1933) and LETTY LYNTON (1932), were tangled up in rights issues for decades. LETTY LYNTON, in fact, is still in legal limbo, but it appears there may be some real hope it will be set free in the next couple of years.
After serving in WWII, Montgomery continued to act while transitioning into directing, beginning with his first postwar film, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945); Montgomery assisted director John Ford with second unit shooting and also filled in for Ford shooting first unit footage when the director was incapacitated for a period of time.
He next worked as both star and director of LADY IN THE LAKE (1947), in which he experimented with the camera serving as the "eyes" of his lead character. He directed all but one of his remaining starring films, and as of 1950 he switched to television, with the long-running, Emmy-winning ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS. He also won a Tony for directing Paul Newman and Karl Malden in THE DESPERATE HOURS on Broadway in 1955.
Montgomery passed on in his home state of New York in 1981.
For more on Robert Montgomery, please visit Classic Montgomery and The Earl of Hollywood, excellent blogs which are largely devoted to Montgomery's life and career.
A short list of my favorite Montgomery films would include the pre-Code THEIR OWN DESIRE (1929), in which he experiences rapturous young romance with Norma Shearer at a summer resort; the very witty (and slightly naughty) pre-Code comedy THE MAN IN POSSESSION (1931); LETTY LYNTON (1932), in which he shines as Joan Crawford's smart and devoted knight in shining armor, even when viewed on an extremely murky "grey market" print; HIDE-OUT (1934), in which he's a New York City gangster reformed by the love of farm girl Maureen O'Sullivan and her family; his superb performance as Joe Pendleton, a prizefighter killed off a wee bit too early by a heavenly emissary in HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941); and THE GALLANT HOURS (1960), in which Montgomery narrates and directs his old friend James Cagney, who plays Admiral Nimitz during the most difficult days of the war in the Pacific. I've kept this list to a half-dozen favorites but could easily expand it!
Over 40 Robert Montgomery films have been reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings in the last seven years: THEIR OWN DESIRE (1929), THE DIVORCEE (1930), OUR BLUSHING BRIDES (1930), LOVE IN THE ROUGH (1930), THE EASIEST WAY (1931), STRANGERS MAY KISS (1931), THE MAN IN POSSESSION (1931), PRIVATE LIVES (1931), LOVERS COURAGEOUS (1932), BUT THE FLESH IS WEAK (1932), LETTY LYNTON (1932) (and also here), BLONDIE OF THE FOLLIES (1932), FAITHLESS (1932), MADE ON BROADWAY (1933), WHEN LADIES MEET (1933), ANOTHER LANGUAGE (1933), FUGITIVE LOVERS (1934), THE MYSTERY OF MR. X (1934), RIPTIDE (1934), HIDE-OUT (1934), FORSAKING ALL OTHERS (1934), NO MORE LADIES (1935), PETTICOAT FEVER (1936), TROUBLE FOR TWO (1936), PICCADILLY JIM (1936), THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY (1937), LIVE, LOVE AND LEARN (1937), THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1938), YELLOW JACK (1938), THREE LOVES HAS NANCY (1938), FAST AND LOOSE (1939), HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1940), MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941), HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (1941), UNFINISHED BUSINESS (1941), LADY IN THE LAKE (1947), RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1947), THE SAXON CHARM (1948), JUNE BRIDE (1948), ONCE MORE, MY DARLING (1949), EYE WITNESS (1950), and THE GALLANT HOURS (1960).
2013 Update: Additional reviews of Montgomery films: RAGE IN HEAVEN (1941) and EVER SINCE EVE (1937).
2014 Update: A review of THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945).
2015 Update: Here are new DVD reviews of STRANGERS MAY KISS (1931) and JUNE BRIDE (1948).
2016 Update: Here are new DVD reviews of THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1938), YELLOW JACK (1938), and HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1940).
Related post: Book Review: Behind the Scenes of They Were Expendable: A Pictorial History.