The American born actor/director started out his career in New York on the stage in his early 20's after the tragic death of his father. (His father who once had a successful Rubber Co. jumped to his death from the Brooklyn Bridge). His "in" to Hollywood came when he shared the stage with George Cukor who gave him a role in "So This Is College" 1929 at the advent of talkies. Norma Shearer also took notice and requested him for her next two films "Private Lives" 1931 which also starred Reginald Denny and Una Merkel (see previous post on Una). With his dashing good looks and well received comedic timing, starring roles would continue to come his way. He married the actress Elizabeth Allan in 1928 and they remained married until their divorce in 1950.
Now thats a handsome bloke!
with Marion Davies in "Blondie of the Follies" 1932
Robert continued to star in comedic roles at MGM throughout the 1930's along side the top box office stars of the day. He co-starred with Greta Garbo in "Inspiration" 1930 then his first appearance with Norma Shearer in the box office hit "The Divorcee" 1930. He starred in the first adaptation of "When Ladies Meet" opposite Myrna Loy and Ann Harding in 1933. Of course a few films opposite the great Joan Crawford we're an MGM must for any leading man so he appeared with La Joan on a few occasions during the 1930's.
publicity still with Joan Crawford
with Joan Crawford and a young Clark Gable in "Forsaking All Others" 1935
One of his first starring roles with Joan was in "Our Blushing Brides" 1930 which was the follow-up to Joan's hit "Our Dancing Daughters" 1928. (For more on this series and flappers you might enjoy my post on Anita Page who appeared with Joan in the first two of the sequels). Robert starred opposite Norma Shearer again in 1934 in the melodrama "Their Own Desire". I really enjoyed this film and the chemistry of Norma and Robert playing off of one another. Unfortunately the plot has been overdone and ruined by Hollywood in a few films as of late. He teamed up with Tallulah Bankhead for "Faithless" in 1932, one of his early dramatic roles. We all know Tallulah could sell drama better than anyone else. (You can read all about the talented and outspoken Tallulah in a previous post).
with Norma Shearer in "The Divorcee" 1930
with Constance Bennett in "The Easiest Way" 1931 (The film and it's subject matter was considered quite scandalous for it's day).
Quite dapper for a game of tennis. You have to admire the creative geniuses behind early publicity stills. The ascot adds a nice touch. : )
Robert starred opposite his wife Elizabeth in the psychological thriller "The Mystery of Mr. X" in 1934. Then under the direction of George Cukor, Robert starred in "No More Ladies" opposite Joan Crawford again in 1935. Lead roles continued and finding his knack for dramatic acting Robert appeared opposite Rosalind Russell, Reginald Denny, Virginia Bruce, Clark Gable, Constance Bennett, William Powell and Marion Davies to name just a few of his co-stars during the 1930's. Robert was nominated for his first Oscar for Best Actor in 1937 for his role in "Night Must Fall" co-starring Rosalind Russell. He lost out to Spencer Tracy for his role in "Captain Courageous".
with Joan Crawford
In 1941 Robert put his mark on Hollywood with the Hitchcock comedy and huge hit "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" co-starring the great comedic actress Carole Lombard. I don't know anyone who loves this genre that doesn't list this movie as a must see. And people are often surprised that it was directed by Hitchcock. Throughout the 1940's Robert was still hot and leading roles continued to come his way with "Rage In Heaven" 1941 co-starring Ingrid Bergman and the lovely George Sanders. (I could watch George Sanders and listen to his voice for hours on end).
with Carole Lombard in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" 1941
The following year Robert starred in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" opposite Claude Rains and Evelyn Keyes. Robert was nominated for his second Oscar for Best Actor for this role but he lost out to Gary Cooper for "Sergeant York" it was a tough year with Cary Grant being nominated for "Penny Serenade", Orson Welles for the great film "Citizen Kane" then there was Walter Huston for his role in "All That Money Can Buy". "Here Comes Mrs. Jordan was also nominated for Best Picture but it lost out to "How Green Was My Valley".
Robert who had an interest in directing got his chance with the film "Lady In the Lake" 1947. This passion started a new creative turn in his career which continued into the 1960's. Divorcing his first wife in 1950 he married Elizabeth Grant Harkness the same year and they remained married until his death He had two children with his first wife Elizabeth one of which is the actress Elizabeth Montgomery. She was best known for playing Samantha in the television show "Bewitched" Roberts last acting role was in the British drama "Your Witness" 1950.
click his autograph from my collection to enlarge
The talented Mr. Montgomery passed away from cancer at the age of 77 like his daughter Elizabeth and his son Robert Jr. He was cremated and his ashes were spread by his family and friends in a private ceremony. He appeared in over 60 films spanning over 4 decades. For a view of Robert's Beverly Hills mansion click HERE.
back stamp of publicity still from MGM, click to enlarge
click MGM issued publicity still to enlarge
Interesting Robert Montgomery Facts:
He served in the US Navy during WWII rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
He was active in Republican politics and concerned about communist influence in the entertainment industry, he was a friendly witness during the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947.
In 1954 he took an unpaid position as a consultant and coach to President Eisenhower. Advising him on how to look his best during his television appearances. (Even though Robert was known for his stylish dress lets hope he didn't suggest an over sized ascot for President Eisenhower).
He was widely considered the best dressed man in Hollywood and for awhile he did not carry a wallet as it messed with the drape of his trousers.
He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1935-1938 and then again from 1946-1947.
His television series "Robert Montgomery Presents" won an Emmy in 1953.
He won a Best Director Tony for his stage play "The Desperate Hours" in 1955.
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