Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Odd Couple

Bob Montgomery was one of three very close friends of James Cagney (Pat O’Brien and Frank McHugh were the other two). Bob and Jimmy's friendship began when they worked side by side establishing the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and spanned five decades. Biographer John McCabe wrote in “Cagney”--one of the better star bios by the way IMHO--that the unlikely pair “complemented each other effectively”:
"His connection with Montgomery made for a matchlessly comfortable equation of friendship: the rich boy who wanted to be tough, the tough boy who wanted to be rich. More, it was the conflux of two basic American types: Cagney, the archetypal city boy who idolized America; Montgomery, also a great patriot, the blue-blood patrician type that first imagined, then led this country. Each man sought something from the other.

Although indirectly, this was expressed in their acting. Early on Cagney’s hoodlum image had typecast him…he needed to show his innate gentleness and reveal his variety as an actor...Montgomery had the opposite yet the same problem. He fairly reeked of breeding—an American Noel Coward type. Like Cagney, Montgomery began to rebel at his image. He considered it undramatic, effete, and morally worthless. ‘I’ve always yearned to play gutty parts,’ he said. ‘That’s why I did Night Must Fall and The Earl of Chicago, the former successfully, the latter not.’

Jim admired Bob since the early days of the SAG: ‘Lots of screen actors may well not know how much they owe Bob…He became our leader in the fight against the producers, and Bob fought them no holds barred, knowing full well he was putting his career right on the line. It was Bob who bearded those all-powerful producers in their comfortable dens.’"

Jimmy, who enjoyed reading and writing verse, often spent evenings with Bob reading poetry aloud. One of Jimmy's poems was inspired when huntsman Bob in mid-conversation turned to a pheasant sounding in the woods and said “very, very affectionately ‘I hear you, I hear you’” :
A pheasant called in a distant thicket,
And lovingly my old friend said,
“I hear you, I hear you.”
And he loved that bird, till he gunned him dead.

Hmmm, I wonder if Bob ever saw "Rules of the Game."


stellypippin said...

That is just so cute - I can picture them both reading poetry to each other, lmao - Kodak moment there, lol

Bantaskin said...

Yep, what a sight it must've been, Bob and Jimmy in wing chairs and roaring fire in the background. I'd like to know who their favorite poets were--I bet T. S. Eliot was at the top of Bob's list.