May 21st, 2008

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The magnificent Montgomery: Happy birthday, Bob



Today marks the 104th anniversary of Robert Montgomery, Carole Lombard's co-star in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" (the two are shown hamming it up on the set). That film won't be part of today's nine-film Montgomery celebration on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S., but as TCM shows it fairly frequently, no big deal.

Montgomery hasn't really fallen through the cracks of movie history, but he should be better appreciated for his work. He was a handsome, reliable leading man who often might not have been the first choice for the role (Lombard biographer Larry Swindell says Carole, who unofficially produced "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," initially sought Cary Grant as her leading man), but nevertheless usually found a way to make it his own.

Compared to Tuesday's James Stewart marathon, these films are generally obscure, just waiting to be discovered by modern audiences. Moreover, six of the nine are pre-Codes (including one from 1929!), films whose sensibilities often more parallel our own than the generally sanitized post-Code product.

Here's the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 7 a.m. -- "Their Own Desire" (1929). A young couple's affair is complicated by her father's relationship with his mother. With Norma Shearer and Lewis Stone.

* 8:15 a.m. -- "Love In The Rough" (1930). A shipping clerk bluffs his way into a country club to romance an heiress. With Dorothy Jordan and J.C. Nugent; this film also reportedly has a musical sequence or two.



* 9:45 a.m. -- "The Easiest Way" (1931). A slum girl discovers the joys of life as a kept woman until she falls in love. With Constance Bennett (above, with Montgomery), Anita Page (who's still with us at age 97) and Clark Gable (in a supporting role); directed by Jack Conway.

* 11 a.m. -- "Strangers May Kiss" (1931). A sophisticated woman risks her marriage for love of a ruthless schemer. With Norma Shearer and Neil Hamilton.

* 12:30 p.m. -- "Another Language" (1933). A newlywed discovers that she and her husband's snobby family speak different languages. With Helen Hayes and Louise Closser Hale.

* 2 p.m. -- "Lovers Courageous" (1932). A failed playwright falls for an admiral's daughter. With Madge Evans and Roland Young.

* 3:30 p.m. -- "Live, Love And Learn" (1937). A bohemian artist and a society girl try to adjust to marriage. With Rosalind Russell and Robert Benchley.

* 5 p.m. -- "Hide-Out" (1934). Farmers take in an injured racketeer and try to reform him. With Maureen O'Sullivan and Mickey Rooney; directed by W.S. Van Dyke.

* 6:30 p.m. -- "No More Ladies" (1935). A society girl tries to reform her playboy husband by making him jealous. With Joan Crawford and Charlie Ruggles.

If you're not that familiar with this early part of Montgomery's career, several of these films might be worth checking out.

Let me also put in a good word for a blog whose style closely parallels my own in that it focuses on one star, but also looks at classic Hollywood in general. It's called "Classic Montgomery," and it's been around since the spring of 2006 (a little over a year before I set up shop). There's a lot of good info and pictures there, and I recommend it without a qualm. You can find it at http://classicmontgomery.blogspot.com/
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