Robert Montgomery (actor)

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Robert Montgomery
Montgomery in April 1939
BornHenry Montgomery, Jr.
(1904-05-21)May 21, 1904
Fishkill Landing, New York (now Beacon, New York), U.S.
DiedSeptember 27, 1981(1981-09-27) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationActor, director
Years active1924-1960
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Bryan Allen (1928–1950; divorced); 2 children
Elizabeth Grant Harkness (1950–1981; his death)
ChildrenElizabeth Montgomery
Robert Montgomery, Jr.
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For other people named Robert Montgomery, see Robert Montgomery (disambiguation).
Robert Montgomery
Montgomery in April 1939
BornHenry Montgomery, Jr.
(1904-05-21)May 21, 1904
Fishkill Landing, New York (now Beacon, New York), U.S.
DiedSeptember 27, 1981(1981-09-27) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationActor, director
Years active1924-1960
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Bryan Allen (1928–1950; divorced); 2 children
Elizabeth Grant Harkness (1950–1981; his death)
ChildrenElizabeth Montgomery
Robert Montgomery, Jr.

Robert Montgomery (May 21, 1904 – September 27, 1981) was an American film and television actor, director and producer.[1] He was also the father of actress Elizabeth Montgomery.

Early life[edit]

Montgomery was born Henry Montgomery, Jr. in Fishkill Landing, New York (now Beacon, New York), to Henry Montgomery, Sr. and his wife, Mary Weed (née Barney).[2][3] 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,[4] and the family's fortune was gone.


Montgomery went to 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.[5] Sharing a stage with George Cukor gave him an in to Hollywood, where, in 1929, he debuted in So This Is College. He entered the moving picture industry during the revolution of the talkies, which made it more difficult to impress the studio. One writer claimed that Montgomery was able to establish himself because he "proceeded with confidence, agreeable with everyone, eager and willing to take suggestions". 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, with his popularity growing steadily.[5]

Montgomery initially played exclusively in comedy roles, but portrayed a character in his first drama film in The Big House (1930). The studio was initially reluctant to assign him in such a 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. Appearing as Greta Garbo's romantic interest in Inspiration (1930) started him toward stardom with a rush. 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.[5] During this time, Montgomery appeared in the original pre-Code film version of When Ladies Meet (1933), which starred Ann Harding and Myrna Loy.

Montgomery in the trailer for Night Must Fall (1937)

In 1935, Montgomery became President of the Screen Actors Guild, and was elected again in 1946. In 1937, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor as a psychopath in the chiller Night Must Fall, then returned to playing light comedy roles, such as Alfred Hitchcock's Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) with Carole Lombard, but continued his search for dramatic roles.[5] He was again nominated for an Oscar in 1942 for Here Comes Mr. Jordan. During World War II, he joined the United States Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander, and served on the USS Barton (DD-722) 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 was the film noir Lady in the Lake (1947), in which he also starred, which received mixed reviews. Adapted from Raymond Chandler's detective novel and sanitized for the censorship of the day, the film was nonetheless noteworthy for the revolutionary way it is 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.[citation needed]

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, in the 1950s. The Gallant Hours, a 1960 film Montgomery directed and co-produced with its star, his friend James Cagney, was the last film or television production he was connected with in any capacity, as actor, director or producer. In 1954, Montgomery took an unpaid position as consultant and coach to President Eisenhower, advising him on how to look his best in his television appearances before the nation.[6] A pioneering media consultant, Montgomery had an office in the White House during this time.[citation needed]

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.


His first marriage, in April 1928, was to actress Elizabeth Daniel Allen (December 26, 1904 – June 28, 1992), sister of Martha-Bryan Allen.[2][7] 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 marriage was to Elizabeth "Buffy" Grant Harkness, whom he wed on December 9, 1950, four days after his divorce from his first wife was finalized.[8]


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.[2] His two surviving children, Elizabeth and Robert Montgomery, Jr., both died of cancer as well.[9]


1929Single Standard, TheThe Single StandardExtraUncredited
1929Three Live GhostsWilliam Foster
1929So This Is CollegeBiff
1929UntamedAndy McAllister
1929Their Own DesireJohn Douglas Cheever
1930Free and EasyLarry
1930Divorcee, TheThe DivorceeDon
1930Big House, TheThe Big HouseKent Marlowe
1930Sins of the Children, TheThe Sins of the ChildrenNick Higginson
1930Our Blushing BridesTony Jardine
1930Love in the RoughJack Kelly
1930War NurseLt. Wally O'Brien
1931InspirationAndré Montell
1931Easiest Way, TheThe Easiest WayJack 'Johnny' Madison
1931Strangers May KissSteve
1931ShipmatesJohn Paul Jones
1931Man in Possession, TheThe Man in PossessionRaymond Dabney
1931Private LivesElyot Chase
1932Lovers CourageousWillie Smith
1932But the Flesh Is WeakMax Clement
1932Letty LyntonHale Darrow
1932Blondie of the FolliesLarry Belmont
1932FaithlessWilliam 'Bill' Wade
1933Hell BelowLieut. Thomas Knowlton, USN
1933Made on BroadwayJeff Bidwell
1933When Ladies MeetJimmie Lee
1933Another LanguageVictor Hallam
1933Night FlightAuguste Pellerin
1934Fugitive LoversPaul Porter, aka Stephen Blaine
1934The Mystery of Mr. XNicholas Revel
1934RiptideTommie Trent
1934Hide-OutJonathan 'Lucky' Wilson
1934Forsaking All OthersDillon 'Dill'/'Dilly' Todd
1935Biography of a Bachelor GirlRichard 'Dickie' Kurt
1935Vanessa: Her Love StoryBenjamin Herries
1935No More LadiesSheridan Warren
1936Petticoat FeverDascom Dinsmore
1936Trouble for TwoPrince FlorizelAlternative title: The Suicide Club
1936Piccadilly JimJames 'Piccadilly Jim' Crocker, Jr.
1937Last of Mrs. Cheyney, TheThe Last of Mrs. CheyneyLord Arthur Dilling
1937Night Must FallDannyNominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
1937Ever Since EveFreddie Matthews
1937Live, Love and LearnBob Graham
1938First Hundred Years, TheThe First Hundred YearsDavid Conway
1938Yellow JackJohn O'Hara
1938Three Loves Has NancyMalcolm 'Mal' Niles
1939Fast and LooseJoel Sloane
1940Earl of Chicago, TheThe Earl of ChicagoRobert Kilmount
1940Busman's HoneymoonLord Peter WimseyAlternative title: Haunted Honeymoon
1940Door with Seven Locks, TheThe Door with Seven LocksCraig the butlerAlternative title: Chamber of Horrors
1941Mr. & Mrs. SmithDavid Smith
1941Rage in HeavenPhilip Monrell
1941Here Comes Mr. JordanJoe PendletonNominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
1941Unfinished BusinessTommy Duncan
1945They Were ExpendableLt. John BrickleyAlso directed during illness of John Ford (uncredited)
1947Lady in the LakePhillip MarloweAlso directed film
1947Ride the Pink HorseLucky GaginAlso directed film
1948Saxon Charm, TheThe Saxon CharmMatt Saxon
1948June BrideCarey Jackson
1949Poet's PubDancerUncredited
1949Once More, My DarlingCollier 'Collie' LaingAlso directed film
1950Your WitnessAdam HeywardAlso directed film
1960Gallant Hours, TheThe Gallant HoursNarratorAlso directed film
1950–57Robert Montgomery PresentsHost
1958Navy LogHostEpisode: "The Butchers of Kapsan"



  1. ^ Variety obituary, September 30, 1981.
  2. ^ a b c R.E. Lee. "Robert Montgomery Biography". The Earl of Hollywood. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Montgomery's Family Tree." Retrieved: August 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "3 Drwn in Hudson ..." The New York Times, July 3, 1922.
  5. ^ a b c d "Garbo's Lover in 'Inspiration' Was Lucky Role for Montgomery". The Milwaukee Journal, March 22, 1945, p. 1.
  6. ^ "Behind the Scenes: Robert Montgomery." The New York Times, March 1, 1956.
  7. ^ "Elizabeth Allen a Bride". The New York Times, April 15, 1928, p. 27.
  8. ^ "R. Montgomery Marries". The New York Times, December 12, 1950, p. 47.
  9. ^ Pilato 2012, p. XV.


  • Pilato, Herbie J. Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. ISBN 978-1-58979-749-9.
  • Wise, James. Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1997. ISBN 1-55750-937-9. OCLC 36824724

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