Of course everything works out on screen, but activities behind the scenes did not go nearly so smoothly. Nor was there much love lost between screen lovers Davis and Montgomery.
June Bride was an important film for Bette Davis. She was coming off the lackluster drama Winter Meeting (1948) and longed to make a romantic comedy. From the beginning Davis wanted a Warner Bros. player like Dennis Morgan or Jack Carson for her co-star in June Bride. But director Bretaigne Windust and producer Henry Blanke talked her into Montgomery, promising he had more clout as a co-star and would help sell the movie. Later Blanke would admit to other motives for casting Montgomery. Apparently they believed the mid-forties Montgomery would make Davis look younger. Unfortunately, most agree it did not work. After watching the rushes, Blanke realized the effect was actually the opposite -- Davis made Montgomery look younger.
Montgomery, it seems, heartily enjoyed showing Davis up. In his close ups, Davis contended, Montgomery added elements that did not exist in the original scene. He would react to things Davis never did in her close ups (which were filmed first) and in doing so invalidate her performance entirely. Montgomery also had more experience with comedy than Davis did and never let her forget it with comments like, "Bette, my dear, this is not the court of Queen Elizabeth and certainly not the castle of Lady Macbeth."
The rivalry didn't end there. June Bride was filmed during the very close election race between Truman and Dewey. Davis was a Truman supporter. Montgomery backed the Republican Dewey. In fact, in 1947, Montgomery actually headed the Hollywood Republican Committee to elect Dewey. Polls were on Montgomery's side, predicting a Dewey win, but apparently Davis took issue with his smug confidence about the election's outcome. One scene in June Bride was actually filmed two ways to allow for a victory by either side. But based on the polls, the Dewey version of the scene was left in the original release print. The line was, "How can I convert this McKinley stinker into a Dewey modern?" Three days after the picture opened, Truman pulled off an upset and a rerelease print with the Truman substitution was rushed into theaters. Davis, naturally, sent Montgomery a gloating telegram.
Despite off screen tensions, the resulting film was a modest success that ensured Davis a new, four picture contract in 1949 and made her the highest paid woman in the United States, with a salary of $10,285 a week.
Producer: Henry Blanke
Director: Bretaigne Windust
Screenplay: Ranald MacDougall, Eileen Tighe (based on a play by Graeme Lorimer)
Editing: Owen Marks
Music: David Buttolph
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Cast: Bette Davis (Linda Gilman), Robert Montgomery (Carey Jackson), Fay Bainter (Paula Winthrop), Betty Lynn (Boo Brinker), Tom Tully (Mr. Brinker), Barbara Bates (Jeanne Brinker), Jerome Cowan (Carleton Towne).
BW-97m. Closed captioning.
by Stephanie Thames