George Montgomery: Shot and Shot At

George Montgomery (George Montgomery Letz, 1916-2000) has sort of fallen through the cracks, perhaps partially because of the similarity of his name to, oh, Robert Montgomery on the one hand, and George Murphy, George Macready, et al., on the other. His best known films include Roxie Hart (1942, opposite Ginger Rogers, with whom he was romantically involved for a time), Coney Island (1943) with Betty Grable, and the all star Battle of the Bulge (1965). From 1958 to 1959 he starred in the TV western series Cimarron City. And from 1943 to 1963 he was married to Dinah Shore. But that’s not the whole story!

Montgomery was of German-Ukrainian stock and raised on a Montana ranch, acquiring the western skills that world serve him so well in the movies. He attended the University of Montana for a year, majoring in, of all things, arhcitecture and interior design! But he had a knack for these things and he never dropped these interests. During his years as a Hollywood star, he designed, manufactured and sold custom furniture, built a dozen houses, and created bronze sculptures. He was also a heavyweight boxer for a time, and was coached by Jim Jeffries.

1935 was when Montgomery began working in Hollywood as a stunt man and bit player in B movie westerns starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, et al. It took four or five years before he began to get real parts, working his way to leading man status, though few of the movies he starred in were classics. By the ’50s he was back down to the Bs, inevitably leading him to the small screen and his boomtown oater Cimarron City (59-60).

In 1961 Montgomery entered a new phase of his career when he directed, co-wroted and starred in several independent action/ war pictures made in, and set in the Phillipines and environs: The Steel Claw (1961), Samar (1962), Guerillas in Pink Lace (1964), and Hell in Borneo (1967). In 1970 he made Satan’s Harvest in Africa with Tippi Hedren and British pop singer Matt Monro. That same year, he directed the CBS made-for-tv movie Ride the Tiger, also shot in the Phillipines, his last project as director. His last film as an actor was a low-budget action picture called Ransom (1988).

Oh! You were wondering about the picture above. Apparently, Montgomery’s ex-housekeeper Ruth Wenzel was obsessed with him, stalked him for two years and then tried to shoot him with a gun, missing him by inches. The “assault with intent to kill” went down in 1963, the same year he and Dinah Shore divorced. In addition to Shore and Ginger Rogers, Montgomery had serious relationships with Heddy Lamarr and Carole Landis. His memoirs were published in 1981.