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(Courtesy of Patrick Curtis)
George Montgomery

Real name: George Montgomery Letz

1916 - 2000


Special thanks to guest commentator Patrick Curtis for providing photos and authoring the biography on his friend, George Montgomery.


George Montgomery, the youngest of 15 children, was born on August 27, 1916, and spent his formative years on a Montana homestead south of the Canadian border, not far from the areas where Charles Russell painted so vividly. During Montgomery's first year at the University of Montana, he left his architecture studies and moved to Hollywood. He became a film idol to millions, during the motion Picture industry's "golden years", following in the footsteps of actor and fellow Montanan, Gary Cooper. In addition to a demanding acting career, George found the time and energy to design and build a number of exceptional homes; craft fine furniture, create bronze sculpture and collect Western American artwork.

George's film career spanned almost six decades. He starred in 87 films and numerous television shows, including the lead role as 'Matt Rockford' in the CIMARRON CITY TV series, which ran on NBC in 1958.

His earliest film work --- as George Letz --- occurred in the mid to late 1930s at Republic Pictures where he did bit parts and supporting roles in about thirty films, most of which were B westerns and serials.  During this period, his most remembered role was as 'Jim Clark', one of the five Rangers in the 1938 cliffhanger, THE LONE RANGER.  It was in late 1939, around the time that he exited Republic and signed with 20th Century Fox, that George Letz became George Montgomery.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above are the 5 Texas Rangers, one of whom would turn out to be the masked rider of the plains, in THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) serial.  From L-to-R are Lee Powell, George Letz (Montgomery), Wally Wales (Hal Taliaferro), Lane Chandler and Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is a re-release lobby card from Gene Autry's GOLD MINE IN THE SKY (Republic, 1938). From left to right are Smiley Burnette, Autry, a young George Montgomery (peering over Champion's saddle), partial face may be Frankie Marvin, unidentified player with his back to the camera. The moustached guy on the far right is John Beach. Crop/blowup below showing Montgomery (left) and Beach (right).


In 1939, while under contract to 20th Century Fox, he starred in two remakes of Zane Grey Westerns, LAST OF THE DUANES and RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. Soon he was starring in major productions with some of the most important figures in Hollywood: ORCHESTRA WIVES with Glenn Miller, TEN GENTLEMEN FROM WEST POINT with Maureen O'Hara, CHINA GIRL with Gene Tierney, ROXIE HART with Ginger Rogers, CONEY ISLAND with Betty Grable, and many others.



(From Old Corral image collection)
From left to right are Mary Beth Hughes, Montgomery, Fuzzy Knight and Alan Mowbray in THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE (20th Century Fox, 1941).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Montgomery, Kane Richmond and Mary Howard in a crop from a lobby card from RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (20th Century Fox, 1941).


In 1943, Montgomery's career was put on hold, when he joined the Army Air Corps. That same year, he married singer/actress, Dinah Shore.  George and Dinah were married for nearly twenty years, and they had a daughter and son, Melissa and John.

Upon his return from World War II duty, he appeared in several more films for 20th Century Fox. He then became one of Hollywood's first and most successful free lance actors, gravitating toward Westerns and action/adventure productions. He was soon established as one of the industry's top Western Stars and box office draws.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above, the buckskinned Montgomery with Brenda Marshall in THE IROQUOIS TRAIL (UA, 1950).


His hobbies of architecture and designing and crafting furniture for Hollywood friends soon expanded. He established a cabinet shop and worked with as many as 20 carpenters and cabinetmakers for nearly 40 years. At the same time he continued to direct and star in at least six films a year.

A true Renaissance man and art collector for many years, influenced by the great work of Charles Russell and the sculpture of fellow Montanan, Bob Scriver, George began creating sculpture himself. A self-taught artist, he has made bronze sculpture of fellow actors Randolph Scott, Clint Eastwood and Ronald Reagan. In 1976, he completed a bronze of John Wayne for an ABC TV Wayne tribute. It was followed by other trophies: the Ralph Morgan Award for the Screen Actors Guild, Fairplex's Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap Award, and the Hollywood Westerners Hall of Fame, Ronald Reagan Award. This last award was recently presented by George to the Queen of the West, Dale Evans Rogers, who's first film role was with George in ORCHESTRA WIVES.

He recently completed heroic sized bronze statues of two of Palm Springs' favorite people, Charlie Farrell and Dinah Shore. Farrell's tennis playing likeness greets visitors who arrive at Palm Springs Airport. Dinah's is prominently displayed at Mission Hills Country Club, home of the world famous Nabisco-Dinah Shore Golf Tournament.

George passed away on December 12, 2000.




(Courtesy of Patrick Curtis)
George with daughter Melissa and son John.


George (what a great smile) with Ann Lindberg, his companion and love for the past twenty years.
(Courtesy of Patrick Curtis)



(Courtesy of Patrick Curtis)
George sandwiched between two old pals, Patrick Curtis on the left and John Bianchi (of Bianchi Gun Leather fame) on the right.



The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s.  With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars.  In most cases, the winners were what you would expect --- Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc.  George Montgomery was ranked during the end of the B western era in the Boxoffice poll.

Popularity Rankings of George Montgomery
Year Boxoffice Poll Ranking
1953 5th
1954 5th
1955 4th


George Montgomery Filmography
Westerns and Serials only
Special thanks to Les Adams for providing this filmography


Date Title Company Director Star Role Leading
Lady
12/11/35 SINGING VAGABOND, THE Republic Carl Pierson Gene Autry Rider N/A
11/15/37 SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES Republic Joseph Kane Gene Autry Townsman at dance N/A
1/24/38 PURPLE VIGILANTES, THE Republic George Sherman Three Mesquiteers Gambler N/A
1/29/38 OLD BARN DANCE, THE Republic Joseph Kane Gene Autry Cowhand N/A
2/12/38 LONE RANGER, THE (Serial) Republic Wm. Witney & John English Lee Powell Jim Clark N/A
4/14/38 OUTLAWS OF SONORA Republic George Sherman Three Mesquiteers Bank Teller N/A
4/20/38 UNDER WESTERN STARS Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Bit N/A
7/5/38 GOLD MINE IN THE SKY Republic Joseph Kane Gene Autry Cowhand N/A
9/16/38 BILLY THE KID RETURNS Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Henchman N/A
11/25/38 COME ON, RANGERS! Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers A Ranger N/A
12/16/38 HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS (Serial) Republic Wm. Witney & John English Herman Brix Tom Horn N/A
12/30/38 SHINE ON HARVEST MOON Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Rustler N/A
3/13/39 ROUGH RIDERS ROUND-UP Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Ranger Joe N/A
4/12/39 FRONTIER PONY EXPRESS Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Lieutenant Harris N/A
5/15/39 MAN OF CONQUEST Republic George Nicholls Richard Dix Jackson Aide N/A
5/19/39 SOUTHWARD HO! Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Soldier N/A
6/19/39 IN OLD CALIENTE Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Rider N/A
8/6/39 WALL STREET COWBOY Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Cowhand N/A
8/15/39 IN OLD MONTEREY Republic Joseph Kane Gene Autry Soldier N/A
9/29/39 ARIZONA KID, THE Republic Joseph Kane Roy Rogers Raider N/A
12/15/39 SOUTH OF THE BORDER Republic George Sherman Gene Autry Vaquero N/A
12/29/39 CISCO KID AND THE LADY, THE 20th-Fox Herbert Leeds Cesar Romero Tommy Bates N/A
4/10/40 HI-YO SILVER (Feature version of LR serial) Republic Wm. Witney & John English Lee Powell Jim Clark N/A
5/16/41 COWBOY AND THE BLONDE, THE 20th-Fox Ray McCarey Mary Beth Hughes Lank Garrett Mary Beth Hughes
9/26/41 LAST OF THE DUANES 20th-Fox James Tinling George Montgomery Buck Duane Lynne Roberts
10/10/41 RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE 20th-Fox James Tinling George Montgomery Jim Lassister Mary Howard
11/15/47 BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER 20th-Fox Lesley Selander George Montgomery Marshal Tom Jackson Ruth Roman
1/6/50 DAVY CROCKETT, INDIAN SCOUT United Artists Lew Landers George Montgomery Davy Crockett Ellen Drew
2/1/50 DAKOTA LIL 20th-Fox Lesley Selander George Montgomery Tom Horn Marie Windsor
6/17/50 IROQUOIS TRAIL, THE United Artists Phil Karlson George Montgomery Hawkeye Brenda Marshall
6/1/51 TEXAS RANGERS, THE Columbia Phil Karlson George Montgomery Johnny Carver Gale Storm
1/2/52 INDIAN UPRISING Columbia Ray Nazarro George Montgomery Capt. Case McCloud Audrey Long
7/1/52 CRIPPLE CREEK Columbia Ray Nazarro George Montgomery Brett Ivers Karin Booth
12/9/52 PATHFINDER, THE Columbia Sidney Salkow George Montgomery Pathfinder Helena Carter
4/1/53 JACK McCALL, DESPERADO Columbia Sidney Salkow George Montgomery Jack McCall Angela Stevens
5/1/53 FORT TI Columbia William Castle George Montgomery Capt. Jedidiah Horn Joan Vohs
9/24/53 GUN BELT United Artists Ray Nazarro George Montgomery Billy Ringo Helen Westcott
3/1/54 BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER, THE Columbia William Castle George Montgomery Major Frank Archer Martha Hyer
4/25/54 LONE GUN, THE United Artists Ray Nazarro George Montgomery Cruze Dorothy Malone
12/1/54 MASTERSON OF KANSAS Columbia William Castle George Montgomery Bat Masterson Nancy Gates
5/1/55 SEMINOLE UPRISING Columbia Earl Bellamy George Montgomery Lieut. Cam Elliott Karin Booth
5/30/55 ROBBERS ROOST United Artists Sidney Salkow George Montgomery Tex Sylvia Findley
8/5/56 CANYON RIVER Allied Artists Harmon Jones George Montgomery Steve Patrick Marcia Henderson
2/17/57 LAST OF THE BADMEN Allied Artists Paul Landres George Montgomery Dan Barton(Jack Bruce) Meg Randall
5/1/57 GUN DUEL IN DURANGO United Artists Sidney Salkow George Montgomery Dan Tomlinson Ann Robinson
9/7/57 PAWNEE Republic George Waggner George Montgomery Paul Fletcher Lola Albright
9/15/57 BLACK PATCH Warners Allen H. Miner George Montgomery Clay Morgan Diane Brewster
2/9/58 MAN FROM GOD'S COUNTRY Allied Artists Paul Landres George Montgomery Dan Beattie Randy Stuart
5/14/58 TOUGHEST GUN IN TOMBSTONE United Artists Earl Bellamy George Montgomery Matt Sloane Beverly Tyler
8/2/58 BADMANS' COUNTRY Warners Fred F. Sears George Montgomery Pat Garrett Karin Booth
5/17/59 KING OF THE WILD STALLIONS Allied Artists R. G. Springsteen George Montgomery Randy Burke Diane Brewster
12/1/67 HOSTILE GUNS Paramount R. G. Springsteen George Montgomery Gid McCool Yvonne De Carlo




(Courtesy of Vern Knuckles, Dale Crawford & Jim Sorensen)
Thanks to Jim Sorensen, Dale Crawford and Vern Knuckles for the photo of the tribute marker for George Montgomery at the Palm Springs Mortuary and Mausoleum, Cathedral City, California.


LINKS

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on George Montgomery: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0599787/

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Montgomery at the Highland Cemetery, Great Falls, Montana: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6261001

Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a section on the westerns of George Montgomery: http://www.westernclippings.com/westernsof/georgemontgomery_westernsof.shtml

You may want to visit the Golden Boot award page on the Old Corral. George Montgomery received his Gold Boot award at the 1986 ceremonies.

Brian's Drive-In Theater site has a Montgomery section: http://www.briansdriveintheater.com/georgemontgomery.html

The Great Falls Tribune (Great Falls, Montana) newspaper website has a biography and some photos on Montgomery: http://www.greatfallstribune.com/multimedia/125newsmakers5/montgomery.html

The Los Angeles Times newspaper website has a biography on Montgomery: http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/george-montgomery/

The New York Times newspaper website has an obituary on Montgomery: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/15/arts/george-montgomery-dashing-cowboy-is-dead-at-84.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm



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