Payday Loans
Robert Montgomery (1904-1981)

  1. James Hall, So This Is Heaven, 1928.     After four Broadway plays, producer Samuel Goldwyn announced Bob among  the support of Vilma Banky, then changed  his mind.  “His neck is too long, his collars too small.”  Yet the  same  test  led  to MGM signing him for $350 a week, kicking off with the similarly titled So This Is College.
  2. John Barrymore, Arséne Lupin, 1931.     Montgomery and John Gilbert were also in the suggestions box but when the film opened, Barrymore and brother Lionel were on Time’s cover. This was the first time they’d acted together since The Jest play in 1919. John was the gentleman thief (a French take on the UK’s AJ Raffles), Lionel was Guerchard. They made three other films as a unit.  
  3. Gary  Cooper,  Design For Living,  1933.      Coop in a Noel Coward  piece...  Oh,  Hollywood!
  4. Franchot Tone, Dancing Lady, 1932.     Too busy trying to stay wed to  Helen Hayes in Another Language to join Clark Gable, Joan  Crawford and, in his top hat and  tails debut, Fred Astaire. Furious with Gable taking so long to recover from appendicitis, MGM loaned him out to Columbia for It Happened One Night.  Result: an Oscar. Some punishment!
  5. Franchot Tone, Moulin Rouge, 1933.     Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck wanted Montgomery as the tunesmith caught between his wife, her twin sister and a Broadway revue. MGM would only agree to a 24 day loan. Fox needed 15 more. “But you can have Tone for 39 days, OK?”    Poor DFZ. He also lost Paramount’s Charles Laughton that year for The Affairs of Cellini.
  6. Franchot Tone, Dancing Lady, 1933. Change of Tod Newton as  Montgomery was still shooting Another Language.  This musical is best remembered for  (a) Clark Gable being forever  ill - or “ill” - so MGM punished him by sending  him to Columbia for what, of course, proved an Oscar-winning turn in  It Happened One Night and (b) Fred Astaire’s debut - yes, in top hat and tails. (Joan Crawford was his first movie dancing partner). 
  7. Clark Gable, It Happened One Night, 1934. “It’s the worst script I’ve ever read,” Montgomery told director Frank Capra.  To get the kind of stars he lacked for his film,  the crude  Columbia chief  Harry Cohn offered MGM the use of Capra.  “But Herschel,” LB Mayer told him, “Montgomery says there's too many bus pictures. And, Herschel, no offence, stars don’t like changing their address from MGM to Gower Street. But Herschel,  you caught me in a good mood.  I got an actor here who’s being a bad  boy.  Wants more money. And I’d like to spank him.  You  can have  Clark Gable.”  Result:  Gable, who had taken far too long to recover from appendicitis (asccording to Mayer) won an  Oscar. Some punishment! Seven years later,  Montgomery clung tight to  Capra’s Here Comes Mr Jordan
  8. Franchot Tone, Mutiny on the Bounty, 1934.   First choice for Midshipman Roger Byam - opposite Clark Gable’s Fletcher and  Charles Laughton’s Bligh - was busy shooting No More Ladies before sticking to the letter of his new MGM contract about a  three months summer vacation.  Tone had an affair with the Tahitian leading lady, Movita, who later wed Marlon  Brando, the Tahiti-lover from  Nogales, Arizona. He also wed his co-star Tarita (Movita’s successor) in the 1961 re-make.  And had a son and a daughter with each of them.
  9. Joel McCrea, Private Worlds, 1935.     Producer Walter Wanger did not want McCrea in Charles Boyer's Hollywood debut. “I can get Montgomery. McCrea isn't as good an actor as Montgomery or Fairbanks Jr.” “He will be with me,” boasted director Gregory La Cava. Joel started shooting minus a contract. “Don't worry,” said La Cava. “If they don't pay you, I'll pay you out of my salary.” Wanger paid -  double. And producer Sam Goldwyn signed McCrea for five years.
  10. Ronald Colman, A Tale of Two Cities, 1935.   For the fourth version of the Charles Dickens classic (the others were dated 1910, 1917, 1921 producer David O Selznick searched for his heroic Sydney Carton among Montgomery, Warner Baxter, Leslie Howard and Clark Gable. Whether they were also due as Carton’s lookalike saviour, Charles Darney, was never mentioned. Colman refused, due said DOS, to“a dread of dual roles.”     Yet he doubled up the  following year in MGM’s Prisoner of Zenda!

  11. Robert Taylor, Small Town Girl, 1935.   Montgomery and Jean Harlow suddenly became Taylor and Janet Gaynor in the MGM rom-com from William A Wellman and an uncredited Robert Z Leonard. Z is right. Taylor took over when Montgomery was being considered for Shakespeare.  
  12. Leslie Howard, Romeo and Juliet, 1935.   Nobody’s perfect! MGM’s production genius Irving Thalberg thought Montgomery should play the young Montague. This was Thalberg’s last film before his shock death at 37 - the premiere was being staged the night he died. As a swansong, this was one ugly duckling. With Shakespeare’s teenage lovers farcically played by Howard and Norma Shearer (Thalberg’s widow) - aged, 42 and 33! Montgomery was 31.
  13. Joel McCrea, These Three, 1936.     “You know, I didn't want you,” director William Wyler told McCrea after a week. “Yeah, Goldwyn told me.”  “He did? I didn't tell him to tell you. But now that I've worked with you, I want you -  you're great!”
  14. Clark Gable,  Love on the Run, 1936. MGM bought the short story, Beauty and the Beat, because it was  like a new spin on Clark Gable’s It Happened One Night.  Myrna Loy and  Montgomery were set as the runaway bride and undercover reporter. Then, Jean Harlow and Montgomery, or Harlow and Robert Taylor, and finally: Gable and Crawford… on-off lovers during 30 years and several marriages.
  15. Cary Grant, Suzy, 1937.     All the MGM big boys - Clark Gable, Montgomery, William Powell, Robert Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Robert Young - were  too big to play third fiddle to Jean Harlow and Franchot Tone. So Metro went shopping at  Paramount's superstarmarket.
  16. Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby, 1938.     Director Howard Hawks  switched leading ladies from Carole Lombard to Katharine Hepburn and then searched through Harold Lloyd, Frederic March, Ray Milland, Robert Montgomery for her leading man. It proved  yet another perfect role for  perfect Grant.
  17. Melvyn Douglas, Arséne Lupin Returns, 1937.      Having lost the first Lupin film to John Barrymore, Montgomery was short-listed again for the second. Plus Douglas and William Powell.
  18. Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Gunga Din, 1937.     Arriving at RKO, Howard Hawks - The Silver Fox - wanted Montgomery,Spencer Tracy and Robert Donat (or Roger Livesey) as his three Kipling heroes. However, the director’s RKO screwballer, Bringing Up Baby, flopped. He was out, George Stevens was in. According to critic Pauline Kael, he made it “one of the most enjoyable nonsense-adventure movies of all time” - second only to Gone With The Wind in 1939.
  19. Walter Pidgeon, Stronger Than Desire, 1938.   Montgomery was set for the lead but, well, director Leslie Fenton was wed to co-star Ann Dvorak. Like who’d get the best close-ups, lines, breaks… MGM squashed that issue by switching to its Society Lawyer duo: Pidgeon and Virginia Bruce.
  20. Ronald  Colman, The Light That Failed, 1940.      Gary Cooper also refused Kipling.

  21. Cary Grant, Suspicion, 1941.      Before Alfred Hitchcock, Before The Fact by Francis Iles, was planned for Louis Hayward, Montgomery or even Laurence Olivier.  None would have been any more believable as a killer than Grant.
  22. Joseph Cotten, Journey Into Fear, 1941.  Universal  planned the WWII thriller for Michèle Morgan and  Montgomery, Fred MacMurray… or even Fred Astaire (!) as the Nazi-hunted US businessman.    At RKO, Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten rewrote it for themselves, several back-room staff at Mercury Productions (including Welles’ secretary. Herb Drake) and Orson’s lover, Dolores Del Rio. He also produced and possibly directed some scenes. Rapidly. Before shooting off to Brazil to make It’s All True, while still editing The Magnificent Ambersons. He lost control of them all - and the  affair. Soon as the film opened, Dolores was gone. It was that bad - even at a low 68 minutes. “I designed the film but can’t properly be called the director,” said Welles, adding that the ledge climax was directed by… whoever was closest to the camera.
  23. Robert Mitchum, Desire Me, 1946.     “Nobody desired anybody,” said Mitchum of this MGMess. It was bad enough when Montgomery was Greer Garson’s husband betrayed by Mitchum, but when  Montgomerydee-deed (to play Phillip Marlowe in Lady in the Lake - and direct it, utilising the subjective camera technique) .and  Mitchum was moved into his place, oppoosite an unknown (still)  Richard Hart in Bob’s old role, it was completely askew. Director George Cukor quit, Mervyn LeRoy took over (followed by Jack Conway) and it became Metro’s first film without a director credit. That’s when  Mitchum gave up being serious about movies... “around the time Greer Garson took 125 takes to say:  No.”
  24. Gregory Peck, Twelve O'Clock High, 1948.     "Duke told me he'd turned it down," said Peck. "And I seized it!"   Just not that fast… Clark Gable was extremely keen on General Frank Savage. At first, Peck thought it was too similar to Command Decision (which Gable made). He read it again. "A fine film, much honoured and respected, about the psychological stress of total involvement of these men with the bombing of a ball-bearing works in Frankfurt." Just too honest for such a gung-ho movie-hero as Duke. This Peck's finest hour (forget To Kill A Mockingbird). Also in the Brigadier General Savage loop: Dana Andrews, Ralph Bellamy, James Cagney, Van Heflin, Burt Lancaster, Edmond O’Brien and Roberts Montgomery, Preston and Young. I saw it at age 11 and it marked me for life.
  25. Richard Todd, The Hasty Heart, 1949. Fifth film and  first starring role (and Oscar nomination) for the Irish-born Todd - beating off Hollywood’s Montgomery and John Dall to the Scottish corporal Lachlan MacLachlan.  Dying in a  1945 British military hospital in Burma, Lachie rejects all compassion from fellow patients like Ronald Reagan’s Yank. Dall was Lachie in the first TVersion, 1953.
  26. Arthur Kennedy, Bright Victory, 1951.      Plan A was Montgomery directing himself as the war-blinded soldeir learning to cope… Plan B was Mark Robson helming Kennedy (wearing black contact lenses) to a an Oscar nomination.
  27. Peter Finch, Network, 1976.        After tenuous thoughts about real TV News anchors (John Chancellor and the venerable Walter Cronkite),  the film’s Oscar-winning writer Paddy Chayefsky wrote to Paul Newman. “You and a very small handful of other actors are the only ones I can think of with the range for this part.”  The others were Cary Grant,  old pals Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart, Gene Hackman,  Sterling Hayden - for the  “mad prophet of the airwaves,” Howard Beale. (“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”). Oh, and Montgomery - who  doubled as  President Eisenhower’s  image consultant. “If Nixon  had  used him,” said Ike, “he would have beaten Kennedy.” Finchey won the first posthumous acting Oscar. Ironically, the second was also for an Aussie,  Heath Ledger, for The Dark Knight... 33 years later.

 





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