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Robert Montgomery Profile
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 Robert Montgomery

Robert Montgomery Profile

One of the missions here on TCM - if "mission" isn't too serious a word - is to not only salute those working in every aspect of filmmaking, from makeup artists to set designers, cinematographers, songwriters and everyone in between, but also to celebrate legendary stars the size of Garbo, Grant, Astaire and Brando, as well as popular character actors whose names you might not quite know. (Want to try Rafaela Ottiano? Esther Dale? Donald Meek?) As often as possible we also like to throw a strong klieg light on those who aren't as quickly recognized today as the Bogies or the Hepburns. A case in point is our December Star of the Month, Robert Montgomery. A major player at MGM for 27 years, he costarred with the most famous ladies of the era-including Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Norma Shearer (five times) and Joan Crawford (six times); he also received two Academy Award® nominations (1937, 1941), went on to be a respected actor-director, then became a television icon as the producer-director-host of a popular TV series Robert Montgomery Presents (1950-57), during which time he also had an office in Washington, D.C., as President Eisenhower's special communications consultant, guiding Ike whenever the president made an appearance on television. That, and so much more. An amazing man, Mr. Montgomery, yet few recognize his name today. We hope to help change all that.

This month we'll be showing 49-count' em-49 of his films, including his most famous ones such as 1937's Night Must Fall, in which he played a suspicious handyman who may, or may not, have a severed head in a mysterious hatbox he keeps close at hand. We'll also feature many of the sprightly comedies that were his forte, such as Noel Coward's Private Lives (1931), plus war dramas such as John Ford's They Were Expendable (1945) with John Wayne (who received second billing to Montgomery, the bigger star at the time), and the 1946 film noir classic Lady in the Lake, with Montgomery as both star and director, inventively telling the private-eye tale exclusively through the eyes of the story's anti-hero, Philip Marlowe. In between the films I'll also be bringing you plenty of Montgomery lore, such as the fact that he was Capra's first choice to do It Happened One Night but turned it down because he felt it was "too lightweight"; second-choice Gable did the part and won an Oscar®. Then there was the time Montgomery began filming A Woman of His Own (later to be retitled Desire Me) with Greer Garson and bolted after two weeks, raising the ire of MGM and director George Cukor before Cukor bolted himself. (It's the only major studio film to date to be released with no director credited.)

If you don't know the work of this extremely talented, likeable, charming but headstrong man who wore many hats, let TCM in January be your guide to some rich films, good times, pleasant surprises and someone definitely worth knowing better.

by Robert Osborne

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