|Robert Montgomery, the
noted Hollywood actor and director,
recalls his career in
radio. Born Henry Montgomery
Jr. in Beacon, New York, his early childhood was one of privilege,
since his father was President of the New York Rubber Company. When his
father died, the family's fortune was gone, and young Robert went to
New York City to try his hand at writing and acting. Sharing a stage
with George Cukor gave him an in to Hollywood, where, in 1929, he
debuted in So This is College. In his early career, from the late
'20s to the early '40s, Montgomery was an amiable light comedian and
dramatic actor, appearing in almost 40 sound films before 1935. He
starred opposite Norma Shearer in Private Lives (1931), Joan Crawford
in The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937), Carole Lombard in Hitchcock's
comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) and was nominated for an Academy Award
for Night Must Fall (1937) and Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). His career
took a more serious turn after his stint in World War II. For his first
film after returning, They Were Expendable (1945), Montgomery not only
starred but assisted John Ford in the direction. He also starred in and
directed the Raymond Chandler detective thriller Lady in the Lake,
noted for its unique first-person point of view.
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, and again in 1942 for Here Comes Mr. Jordan. During World War II, he joined the Navy, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
In 1945 he returned to Hollywood, making his uncredited directing debut with They Were Expendable. His first credited film as director was Lady in the Lake (1947), in which he also starred, and which brought him mixed reviews. He was a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. He hosted a popular television series, Robert Montgomery Presents, in the 1950s.
Montgomery has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for movies at 6440 Hollywood Blvd., and one for television at 1631 Vine Street. He was a longtime summer resident of North Haven, Maine. In the '50's his attentions turned to politics and television. Montgomery gave "friendly" testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and by the mid '50s was a consultant to Republican President Eisenhower. As a prestigious television producer, he supervised the '50s dramatic anthology series Eye Witness (1953) and Robert Montgomery Presents (1950-57), which offered his daughter Elizabeth her acting debut and which won him an early Emmy Award in 1952.
He died of cancer at the age of 77 in New York City. His daughter was actress Elizabeth Montgomery, who also died from cancer in 1995 at the age of 62. ~ All Movie Guide