Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dear Kasper ...

Whoever cast Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon (1941) is a hero of mine.  It is the perfect casting of an excellent actor in a great role.  And the success of that movie, largely thankful to Mr. Greenstreet, enabled him to take over other great roles, particularly Alexander Yardley in Christmas in Connecticut (1945).  I just love the Sydney Greenstreets, the Peter Lorres, the James Gleasons, and the long list of great character actors that have made a movie great, or at least for brief moments on the screen have dazzled us with their greatness.

                      Sydney Greenstreet, b. December 27, 1879

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Merry (Cough) Christmas 1950s Style

Except for my maternal grandfather, I cannot think of an adult male that I knew as a youth in the 1950s that did not smoke.  Cigarette ads were aplenty, not trying to get you to smoke but to smoke their brand.  And giving a carton of cigarettes as a Christmas gift was perfectly acceptable, preferred if you got the brand right!

Of course, celebrities highlighted many a cigarette ad ...

And Bob was one of the many ...

Even Santa smoked his Prince Albert!

There have been many changes over the past six decades, a few even for the better ...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Isn't He Just Too Cute!

Theoretically, Bob had a pilot's license, obtained in July of 1930 along with good pal Chester Morris.  They went to Georgia for flying lessons and obtained their licenses at that time as well.  (Fast learners, our boys.) Then they flew their planes back to California.  There are photos of Bob on his return, thanks to the MGM publicity department.  And that's the first and last mention of his being a flyer.  Well, he did dabble in flying miniature planes in the 1930s.  And the man flew commercial planes extensively, liked to take naps on his flights.  But ...

Hmm ... perhaps he decided it was not a sufficient challenge or it simply did not appeal to him or he was too busy to continue with flying.  Perhaps the young and ambitious Mr. Montgomery participated in a complete fabrication by the studio.  Maybe Betty just said no. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fun With Photos, Course 101A For No Credit

It's just me playing with photos, which I enjoy, particularly when they are of Mr. Montgomery.  I used to think the two photos below were by Ted Allan, but I now believe they are by Harvey White who worked briefly for MGM.  IMDB gives him only one movie credit as the still photographer, which was Dinner at Eight (1933) and I ran across a photo credit for the first photo as being by White in 1933.  They are very distinctive photos, unlike others credited to Allan.

Whatever (you think!), the copy I have of the first photo is actually a vintage poster, about 11x15.  I also have a larger 38x25 poster which I looked at once and thought to myself:  "Why did you spend good money on something you may well never look at again?!"  And I haven't.  But, still, it is a Bob. 

This second photo is your basic 8x10.  I love White's use of background for his subject.  Nifty photos. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Fairbanks, Jr., One Dapper Gentleman

Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was born December 9, 1909.  By 1925 (and only 15) he is playing young beau roles in the silents and supporting his mother and an assortment of her friends and family.  At the age of 19 he marries 23-year-old (at least) Joan Crawford.  A rather precocious young man was he. 

                               Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. at 15 ...

Doug and Bob were good friends, meeting while Joan and Bob were making Untamed in 1929.  They spent a lot of late nights and weekends hitting the Los Angeles speakeasies.  In his first autobiography, The Salad Days, Fairbanks describes an interesting vacation with Bob and Lawrence Olivier.  The three rented Cecil B. DeMille's huge yacht, crew and all, for a cruise along the coast of Mexico.  One can only imagine ... 

                                          ... and at 39

Doug and Bob joined the navy together, Doug would become a highly decorated naval officer.  After the war he and Bob would grow apart, in part because of different political views.  What a silly reason to lose a friend.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Bob Entertains the Gallery

It is 1931 (my best guess!), and Bob is spending another day at the races.  Being a sports enthusiast, as well as a man who enjoyed the casinos of Monte Carlo, horse racing must have been doubly attractive to him.  And it would appear by the big grin on his face in the photo below, that the social aspects of the event were also to his liking. 

I love the looks of the ladies that comprise his audience.  The three laughing ladies have obviously been won over by his banter.  However, the young lady behind them wearing the glasses seems underwhelmed by his performance.  I guess even Bob couldn't win over all of them!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

All Is Now Right With The World!

Ran across a photoplay book of Three Live Ghosts (1929), which was Bob's first movie.  While MGM had him under contract, they had not yet assigned him a picture.  So Bob sought one on his own and came up with a role in this film produced by a small production company.  It is the only film of Bob's that has been lost**, only a few lobby cards and stills have survived.  And this book!

I am including all the photos, along with their captions.  The first picture is of Bob and Joan Bennett, the young lovers.  Joan, with already six movie credits at 19, got fourth billing.  The totally unknown Bob was given seventh.  And, yes, So This Is College is usually listed as Bob's first movie, but it is the second one he made.  College was simply released before Ghosts

                   The "Three Live Ghosts" ask for their back pay.

                       "I've been looking a long time for you."

              "They were given to me by a very kind gentleman."

                   "Jolly little chick -- Took to me right away."

               Scotland Yard quizzes everyone suspected of the
                          jewelry robbery and kidnapping.
                Spoofy displays the treasures he has annexed
                                        at Lord Leicester's.

And --- saving the best for last --- this final photo is a real treasure find for me.  I have always thought of this movie as being a non-tuxedo film of Bob, since all the stills I had seen before show him in a tattered suit and scarf.   But NO! it actually is both the first appearance of Bob and the first time we see Bob in his trademark tux!  All is now right with the world. 


 ** Letty Lynton (1934) is only lost legally.  Some day a miracle could happen and we will be able to see a clear print ... some day.            

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Only 26+ Days Until Christmas ... Eek!!

I rather like the publicity shots of Bob taken for Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941).  They are a great combination of Columbia Studios photographer, M. B. Paul and the subject matter, the quite handsome 36-year-old Mr. Montgomery.  Wonder who or what he is looking at so intently.  Kinda wish it were me. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

No More Ladies ... Just Joan! ***

For you early risers, TCM is showing No More Ladies (1935) this morning at 10:30 ET/7:30 PT.  It is definitely not one of Bob's better movies, a waste of a good cast.  If nothing else, there is the opportunity to simply watch Bob, one of my favorite pastimes!  There are some nifty publicity shots of Bob and Joan, and Bob, Joan and Franchot Tone.  In this photo, I like the way Bob and Joan are definitely not looking longingly into each other's eyes.  It probably sums up their relationship.

                 Bob and Joan Crawford in No More Ladies (1935)

*** Oh, I know that's not very nice, but I just couldn't help myself!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Dick Powell: Pretty Boy to Tough Guy

Dick Powell was born on November 14, 1904, in Mountain View, Arkansas.  From musicals to tough-guy roles to director and producer, Mr. Powell had one very successful show business career.

He had such a pleasant tenor voice in his musical days in the 1930s.  And was so very, very cute.  Look at the photo below with Dick sandwiched between Alice Faye and Madeleine Carroll.  The ladies just highlight how cute young Mr. Powell was. 

                  Faye, Powell & Carroll in On the Avenue (1937)

Ten years later, Powell has aged sufficiently to play the big time gambler Johnny O'Clock.  Besides being a good career move, I'm sure the experience of playing tough guys helped him in his transition to producer! 

             Lee J. Cobb and Dick Powell in Johnny O'Clock (1947)

There are a number of similarities between Powell and our Mr. Montgomery.  Both were typecast by their studios and fought for serious roles.  Both played detective Philip Marlowe on the screen, Powell in Murder, My Sweet (1944) and Bob in Lady in the Lake (1947).  Both transitioned into directing and production, and were staunch Republicans.  They were born in 1904, each had two marriages to short, cute wives and, unfortunately, both died of cancer.  Powell was only 58, young enough that you always wonder what more he could have accomplished in his career.  

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Veterans Day is November 11th

Don't forget to display your flag!!

Most Elegantly Dressed Boxer Award Goes To ...

Another excellent Bob movie is being shown this coming Monday, the 13th on TCM.  Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) is a delight, particularly when James Gleason as Max Corkle, Joe Pendleton's boxing manager, is stealing scenes from all present. 

          Bob and James Gleason in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)

Trivia Question No. 37:  Who is Bob imitating for his Joe Pendleton character?  

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Bob Is Expended Once Again

Okay, most of you have already seen They Were Expendable (1945), probably even have a DVD of it.  I know, I know.  And you're not excited about it being shown again on TCM (this Thursday at 5:30 ET/2:30 PT).  Sorry, folks, please bear with me while I urge the remainder of you to give this movie a try, or a second viewing if you did not care for it the first time.

It is, after all, one of Mr. Montgomery's best movies.  True, it is not your typical Bob movie.  He never once wears civvies,  much less a tuxedo.  No double entendres, no ladies on his arm and never more than a slight smile for the entire movie.  This is one of the very few times he was given the chance at a serious role in an "A" movie.  And he does such an excellent job of it.

Now, the class of the man still shows through.  Take the scene where Sandy (Donna Reed), Rusty's (John Wayne) girl visits the camp and is feted by the officers.  They are served biscuits to go with the soup.  Bob (excuse me, Brick) takes his and with some effort breaks it into.  To save Sandy the same bother, he places the pieces of his biscuit on her plate and sets hers aside.  That wasn't scripted.  That was just class.  

If that's a bit on the minutiae side of appreciating a movie, take note of two scenes that help establish the basic theme of the movie, that most were expendable, being asked to "lay down the sacrifice to let others hit the home runs."  In the first scene, the war has just begun.  Brick goes to headquarters for orders, and is left to stand to the side and watch as others rush off with their assignments. 

Later, Brick is called to headquarters for new orders.  His hopes of action are trounced on when he is informed his unit will be little more than a messenger service.  The disappointment is overwhelming, the silent Brick is almost in tears.  Great scenes, fun to watch Mr. Montgomery in his understated performance.

There are just so many reasons to enjoy They Were Expendable.  It's a John Ford movie.  One of the best war movies ever made.  An excellent musical score.  John Wayne finds love in Bataan.  AND it has Robert Montgomery!!!

TCM, this Tuesday, 5:30 ET/2:30 PT.  Do hope you give it a try.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Birthday Greetings to Mr. McCrea!

 Joel McCrea was born on November 5th, 1905.  That makes him only one year younger than Mr. Montgomery.  For some reason, I have always thought of him as coming from a younger generation of actors, perhaps because Bob's last movie performance was in 1950 while Joel kept busy in the 1950s and took the occasional role into the 1970s.  I'm glad he kept working.  Ride the High Country (1962) was just a superb movie.

My, but wasn't he a handsome lad ...
         Joel McCrea & Dorothy Jordan in The Lost Squadron (1932)

This does not have much to do with Joel, but I love the cast of The Lost Squadron.  It is a perfect example of actors being typecast in their roles.  The principle actors in alphabetical order are Robert Armstrong, Richard Dix, Hugh Herbert, Joel McCrea and Erich von Stroheim.  The roles portrayed consist of three stunt pilots, a dictatorial director and a comic relief named Fritz.  Almost needless to say, casting directors were not a big deal back then.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween, 1936 Style

And the finalists in the Best Halloween Costume Contest are:

 **** Clark Gable as Blackie Norton, Barbary Coast saloon keeper and earthquake survivor in San Francisco;

**** Robert Montgomery as Crown Prince Florizel of Carovia in Trouble for Two;

**** Lionel Barrymore as Paul Lavond, escaped convict and cross-dresser in The Doll-Devil; and

**** Paul Muni as Wang, a poor Chinese farmer in The Good Earth. 

And the winner is:  Bob Montgomery, as Prince Florizel   Well, it is his blog, after all!!  Besides, the mustache just makes the costume ...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Man And His Toys ...

"Scott News" was an in-house publication of Scott Radio Laboratories which produced hand-made luxury radios from the 1920s to the 1940s.   Of course Bob would want a special order for his new Beverly Hills home in 1938. 

Bob designed a radio/record-player that would fit in with the Colonial style furnishings of his new home.  I'm guessing  a combination radio and record-player was rather a new concept at the time.  I like all the drawer fronts, wonder if they are really drawers or if it is just a fake front.  They would be handy for storing the records.

The following two pictures are of the room in which Bob has his new toy.  The furniture arrangement seems strange to me.  With both a piano and radio/record-player, it appears set up for parties.  The furnishing is simple, everything in it could be easily moved, including the rug.  Having a room for large parties, a requisite for the Montgomery social circle.

I do not think the balding gent came with the room ...  Check out the fireplace "snug" in the photo below.  Just room enough for a wing back chair.  Looks like a great place for a snooze on a cold winter's night.  Wonder how much use he got out of it in Los Angeles.  Of course, it might have been Betty's quiet place in the house.  Hey, what with two kids, a nanny, cook, chaufeur/valet, plenty of day help and visiting grandmothers, even mansions can seem crowded! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Jonesey & Kit Spend a Day at the Beach

Ah ... it's such a romantic scene from Shipmates (1931).  Seaman John Paul Jones alias Jonesey alias Bob Montgomery gazes lovingly at Kit, the Admiral's daughter, played by Dorothy Jordan.  Such a handsome couple, everything is just perfect.

Then there is another take.  Jonesey and Kit are still on the beach.  In real time, this is February and most likely a tad chilly on the beach.  Can't really see the two, you say ... lets enlarge them a bit.

Voila!  One cold, wind-blown duo, not in a very romantic mood.  A bit more realism than the director had hoped for, or at least more than Bob and Dorothy could overcome.  Yeah, lets go with the first shot.  Now, the two just need to figure out how to get off the ledge with only their hairdos as the casualties for the day.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Promise In Her Eyes Was Worth the Risk!

For you very early birds ... The Secret Land (1948) is being shown this morning on TCM.  Bob is one of the narrators of this documentary, along with Robert Taylor and Van Heflin.  I rather enjoy just listening to Bob's voice (a huge plus for The Gallant Hours), but this documentary is hardly early morning fare.  Get that taping going and go back to bed!! 

TCM is showing Yellow Jack (1938) this coming Monday, another a.m. viewing.  It has been ages since I have seen this movie.  I had meant to watch it again before writing this post, but ... hey, so I forgot!  (I'm amazed I remember to do my twice-weekly posts!)  Anyway, critics knock the movie for inserting a fictional love interest in a semi-historical movie, which was unfortunately typical of the time.  And, of course, Virginia Bruce's mascara was not permitted to run, even though the movie is based in the tropics.  Then there's the criticism of Bob's Irish brogue, suggesting it was over-the-top and unnecessary for the role.  I would argue an Irish-American soldier in 1898 would most likely have one, but whether Bob's was good or not, I have to admit to a bad ear for accents.  I just enjoy hearing that voice. 

It is too bad movie heralds are no longer a part of the moving-going experience.  They made great souvenirs and were an interesting art form, summing up a movie in such a small format.  Note the header of the above page:  "The Strangest Tale of Terror And Mystery Ever Lived By A Man and A Girl!"  Your basic Hollywood hyperbole! 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How To Keep The Boss Happy ...

Of course we have all seen The Man in Possession (1931) ... right??!  I mean, it is one of Bob's best movies and a classic pre-code comedy.  Raymond (Bob) and Crystal (Irene Purcell) make a delightful couple, knowing right away what they want from each other!  Claude (Reginald Owen) just did not have a chance with Crystal once Raymond arrived on the scene. 

      Bob, Reginald Owen and Irene in The Man in Possession (1931)

Irene Purcell was primarily a stage actress, making only seven feature films in 1931-32.  She was already 35 when Man was made, a credit to her youthful looks and acting ability that she was hired to make any movies at all.  At the time, turning 30 was a death knell for actresses, so entering movies at 35, well, lets hear it for Irene!  She was the oldest of Bob's ladies, born in 1896, eight years his senior.

In 1941, Irene married Herbert F. Johnson, Jr., as in the Johnson Wax Company.  Herbert whisked her away to his 14,000 sq. ft. home in Racine, WI, where they remained married until her death in 1972.  During this time, Johnson Wax would sponsor Robert Montgomery Presents, making Irene the wife of Bob's boss, of sorts.  Which brings us to the photo below.

It is Herbert and Irene on November 8, 1956.  They are at the Bresler Art Gallery in Milwaukee, it is opening night and all 17 of Irene's paintings being shown have been sold to raise money for the Actor's Fund of America.  The painting on the wall behind the couple, titled "Marguerites", was purchased by ... ta-da ... Robert Montgomery! 

Took a while to get there ...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sincerely, Your Favorite Star

I just love fan cards.  I can only imagine the thrill it was for a young fan in the 1920s - 1940s to finally receive that photo for which they had been waiting forever!  They were all so nicely done, definitely worth the wait.  And even "signed" by the star!  Wow. 

Hopalong Cassidy was a favorite of mine, always seemed like such a nice man.  Growing up and discovering William Boyd, I was not disappointed, having read only good things about the gentleman.  A handsome gent he was.  Love the hat!

Joan Blondell was always a favorite.  The ultimate wisecracking blonde who quite often did not get the handsome lead, but one always wondered why.  Loved her in Desk Set (1957), it's great to watch an old pro strut her stuff.  And she continued to do it for two more decades! 

Have not always been a big Lew Ayres fan, but he was such a gorgeous young man.  I like the oh-so-very serious look he has assumed in this photo, an unusual 8"x10" fan card, as gorgeous as its subject!  One very lucky fan. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Churchill, Hemingway and ... Bob?

This is a photo taken out of a magazine (the June 4th, 1949 issue of Collier's Magazine).  The original photo is by Karsh, the portrait photographer of the 20th Century, famous for great photos of Churchill, Hemingway, Einstein and so many other notable people.  Of course Robert Montgomery had to have his portrait done by Karsh. 

One can only imagine how striking the original photo must be.  The black background, the light playing on his face and fingers.  And Bob is holding his glasses, definitely a Bob signature.  Great touch.  Bob was evidently rather nearsighted, spent a lot of time whipping his glasses off whenever a camera was aimed his way. 

So, it is Bob in the harsh light of a Karsh photo, without the makeup, no covering up of the wrinkled forehead, the crow's feet.   Still, one imposing and handsome middle-aged gent. 

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Bob And Mukluks ... God's Gifts To Us All

It is Monday, January 20th, 1936.  Mr. Montgomery is scheduled to begin his 36th movie in seven years.  7 years of very long days under the extremely hot lights of the time.  7 years of photo shoots, rehearsals, wardrobe tests and being polite to VIP visitors to the set.  And it is another comedy ... but at least the script is decent and good pal Myrna Loy will be suffering through it with him. Wearing outdoorsy clothing instead of the usual tux, not bad.  But furry mukluks?  What, you think this is funny?  You have no idea how close you are to having the camera shoved into your face! 

                   Robert Montgomery in Petticoat Fever (1936)

I just love this photo.  It is Mr. Montgomery without any pretense.  He is not playing a role, nor is he wearing a face for public viewing.  It is Bob, the hard-working actor, not particularly happy about where he is at the moment, daring anyone to push him any further.  Snarly.  And he can't help it, but so extremely handsome with his tousled locks, day's growth of facial hair and glaring blue eyes!  I have been using this cropped photo as my wallpaper for some time now.  Thanks, Mr. Montgomery, for making my day.