George Montgomery (actor)

George Montgomery (born George Montgomery Letz, August 29, 1916 – December 12, 2000) was an American actor, painter, director, producer, writer, sculptor, furniture craftsman, and stuntman who is best remembered as an actor in Western film and television.

George Montgomery
1940s photo
George Montgomery Letz

(1916-08-29)August 29, 1916
DiedDecember 12, 2000(2000-12-12) (aged 84)
Resting placeForest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) and
Highland Cemetery (Great Falls, Montana)
Alma materUniversity of Montana
OccupationActor, stuntman, director, producer, writer, painter, sculptor, wood craftsman
Years active1935–1985
Dinah Shore
(m. 1943; div. 1963)
Partner(s)Ann Lindberg (last 20 yrs)[1]


Montgomery was born George Montgomery Letz in 1916, the youngest of 15 children of Ukrainian immigrant parents, who were ethnic Germans from near Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine. He was born in Brady, in Pondera County, northern Montana near Great Falls.[2][3] He was reared on a large ranch, where he learned to ride horses and work cattle as a part of daily life.[4]

Letz boxed as a heavyweight for a short while before enrolling in the University of Montana in Missoula. He was active in school athletics and majored in interior design, but he left after one year.[4][5]

Acting career

Montgomery was more interested in a career in film than in a college education. Therefore, he left Montana for Hollywood. Two days after his arrival there, he was working as a stunt man on a Greta Garbo film at MGM, Conquest (1937).[6]

Republic Pictures

At Republic Pictures, his cowboy skills gained him stunt work and a small acting part at the age of 18 in a 1935 Gene Autry film, The Singing Vagabond.[4]

He followed this with bit parts and additional stunt work as "George Letz" in mostly low-budget films. These included Springtime in the Rockies (1937) with Autry; The Purple Vigilantes (1938) with Robert Livingston; the serial The Lone Ranger (1938); Outlaws of Sonora (1938) with Livingston; The Old Barn Dance (1938) and Gold Mine in the Sky (1938) with Autry; Under Western Stars (1938), with Roy Rogers; Pals of the Saddle (1938) with John Wayne; Billy the Kid Returns (1938), Come On, Rangers (1938) and Shine On, Harvest Moon (1938) with Rogers.[7]

Those had all been Westerns. He was in an African adventure tale Hawk of the Wilderness (1938) with Herman Brix and the bigger-budgeted Army Girl (1938).

In 1938, he appeared as one of the six men suspected of being the titular hero in The Lone Ranger. That year, Life included him in a photo montage of "Hollywood's Movie-struck Kids" and described Montgomery, still using his full name, as "6 ft. 3 in. tall, weighs 210 lb., rides well, is superlatively handsome."[8]

He went back to Westerns in Southward Ho (1939) and The Arizona Kid (1939) with Rogers. He was in some non-Westerns such as The Mysterious Miss X (1939), S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939), and I Was a Convict (1939), but mostly it was films such as South of the Border (1939) and In Old Monterey (1939) with Autry, Saga of Death Valley (1939); Wall Street Cowboy (1939), Frontier Pony Express (1939), Rough Riders' Round-up (1939) and In Old Caliente (1939) with Rogers; The Night Riders (1939) with John Wayne. He worked on Republic's (relatively) big budget Man of Conquest (1939).[4]

20th Century Fox

In 1939, he signed with 20th Century Fox, which billed him as George Montgomery.[4]

His first film at the studio was The Cisco Kid and the Lady (1939), the first of the Cisco Kid series. Montgomery was billed fourth. He had a small role in Star Dust (1940), and a bigger one in Young People (1940), Shirley Temple's last film for Fox.

Montgomery was fourth-billed in a "B" about pilots, Charter Pilot (1940) with Lloyd Nolan and Lynn Bari, and third-billed in Jennie (1940).[9]

Leading man

Montgomery was promoted to leading roles in a melodrama written by Dalton Trumbo, Accent on Love (1941). Fox then starred him in some B Westerns: Last of the Duanes (1941), Riders of the Purple Sage (1941), and The Cowboy and the Blonde (1941).

Montgomery was teamed with Carole Landis in Cadet Girl (1941). He was given the lead in an "A" when he top-lined Orchestra Wives (1942) with Ann Rutherford, a film best remembered today for giving a co-star role to Glenn Miller.

He starred in Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942) with Maureen O'Hara, playing a role originally intended for Tyrone Power.[10]

He was Ginger Rogers' love interest in Roxie Hart (1942) and played opposite Gene Tierney in China Girl (1942) for Henry Hathaway. All these films were popular at the box office.[11]

The following year, Montgomery starred with Betty Grable in the Walter Lang-directed film Coney Island, which was his biggest hit to date. According to one obituary, "The actor's vocal mannerisms were often uncannily reminiscent of Clark Gable, and when he grew a moustache his similarities to the greater star were even more apparent. This was never more so than in" Coney Island.[7]

He also starred in Bomber's Moon (1943).

World War Two

Montgomery was announced for several films originally intended for Fox leading men Tyrone Power, who had joined the Marine Corps, and Henry Fonda, who had joined the Navy, including Down the Sea to the Ships and Bird of Paradise with Tierney.[12] However, Montgomery wound up joining the Air Force in 1943.

He returned to Fox in 1946, and played the lead in a musical Three Little Girls in Blue (1946). Fox then cast him as Philip Marlowe in The Brasher Doubloon (1947), a B picture version of the novel The High Window by Raymond Chandler.

Montgomery was unhappy at Fox. The song "This is Always", Montgomery's major duet (albeit dubbed) with June Haver in Three Little Girls in Blue, was cut, and he was assigned to a minor Western, Belle Starr's Daughter (1948). Montgomery left Fox in September 1947 unhappy with his roles.[13]

Low-budget action star

Montgomery appeared in Lulu Belle (1948) and The Girl from Manhattan for Benedict Bogeaus.[7]

In 1950, he starred as the title role in Davy Crockett, Indian Scout for Edward Small. He went back to Fox for Dakota Lil (1950) and made The Iroquois Trail (1950) and The Texas Rangers (1951) for Small.

Montgomery tried a swashbuckler at Fox, The Sword of Monte Cristo (1951), then returned to Small for Indian Uprising (1951) and Cripple Creek (1952), Gun Belt (1953), and The Lone Gun (1954). For Sam Katzman he made The Pathfinder (1952), Fort Ti (1952), Jack McCall, Desperado (1953), The Battle of Rogue River (1954), and Seminole Uprising (1955).[14][15]

Montgomery worked for other producers: Robbers' Roost (1955); Huk! (1956), a war movie shot in the Philippines; Canyon River (1956); Pawnee (1957); Black Patch (1957); Gun Duel in Durango (1957) for Small; Street of Sinners (1957) a rare non Western; Last of the Badmen (1957); Man from God's Country (1958); The Toughest Gun in Tombstone (1958); and Badman's Country (1958) as Pat Garrett.


In the 1958–59 season, Montgomery starred in his own 26-episode NBC Western series, Cimarron City as Mayor Matt Rockford, with co-stars John Smith and Audrey Totter through his own production company Mont Productions. Montgomery claimed to have turned down the lead roles in the Western television series Gunsmoke and Wagon Train.[16] Cimarron City ran one season.

Montgomery made an Imperial adventure for MGM, Watusi (1959), a sequel to King Solomon's Mines (1950). He followed it with King of the Wild Stallions (1959).


Montgomery turned director with The Steel Claw (1961), a war film shot in the Philippines, which he also co-wrote and starred in.

He was in Samar (1962), From Hell to Borneo (1963), and Guerillas in Pink Lace (1964).

He was going to make Outlaw of Red River for Robert Lippert in Spain, but it appears to have not been made.[17]

As an actor, he was in Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Django the Condemned (1966). He was in Hallucination Generation (1967) an anti-LSD movie. Montgomery was in Bomb at 10:10 (1967), Hostile Guns (1967), Warkill (1968), and Strangers at Sunrise (1970) (shot in South Africa).[18] He also worked the dinner and stock theatre circuit, appearing in productions of Two for the Seesaw and A Hole in the Head.[19]

He planned to make a Vietnam War film The Ho Chi Minh Trail in Bangkok and the Philippines, but the film was cancelled.[20]


Montgomery acted in and directed Satan's Harvest (1970) in South Africa and made Ride the Tiger (1970) and Leo the Harvest. He helped produce The Proud and Damned (1972).

The Daredevil (1972), and made guest appearances on a number of television shows, including NBC's Bonanza and The Gisele MacKenzie Show.


In 1981 he published a book The Years of George Montgomery.[21]

Family life

Montgomery was briefly engaged to Hedy Lamarr.

On December 5, 1943, Montgomery married singer Dinah Shore.[22] They had one child, Melissa Ann "Missy" Montgomery (born 1948). George and Dinah also adopted a son, John "Jody" David Montgomery, in 1954. They divorced in 1963. Missy Montgomery also became an actress.

In 1963, Montgomery's private life made headlines when his housekeeper was charged in a failed attempt to kill him. Allegedly suffering from a fanatical attraction to her employer, the woman planned to shoot Montgomery, then take her own life.[23]

Other interests

As a boy, George Montgomery had developed excellent craftsmanship with wood. As an adult, he began building furniture, first for himself and then for a few friends. His skill was such that his hobby became a full-fledged cabinet-making business, in which he employed as many as 20 craftsmen.[24][4]

Montgomery oversaw the furniture business for more than 40 years, and expanded his interest to house design. He became involved with the building of 11 homes for friends and family. His artistic instincts included learning how to sculpt in bronze. Self-taught, he sculpted upwards of 50 bronze sculptures of subjects such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry, Randolph Scott, and Ronald W. Reagan. He received renown in particular for a sculpture he did of Custer's Last Stand.[6][4]

His sculpture of his former wife, Dinah Shore, and their children is displayed at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.[25]

Death and honors

Montgomery died at home in the presence of his daughter Melissa, his companion Ann Lindberg and his friend Patrick Curtis.[26]

After cremation, Montgomery's ashes were divided and interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near his Palm Springs home[27] and at the Highland Cemetery in Great Falls, Montana, near his birthplace.

For his contribution to the television industry, George Montgomery has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6301 Hollywood Blvd. In 1995, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated in his honor.[28] He is also honored with a statue in the square of Plentywood, Montana.



  • Montgomery, George The Years of George Montgomery Sagebrush; 1st edition (1981)


  2. Martynowych, Orest T. The Showman and the Ukrainian Cause: Folk Dance, Film, and the Life of Vasile Avramenko, University of Manitoba Press, 2014, pg. 190
  3. Tribune Staff. "125 Montana Newsmakers: George Montgomery". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  4. George Montgomery, Dashing Cowboy, Is Dead at 84: [Obituary (Obit)] Lyman, Rick. New York Times 15 Dec 2000: C.15.
  5. "George Montgomery", The Times, 15 Dec 2000: 25.
  6. Wong, Herman (2 April 1985). "George Montgomery Visits His Fans : A Folksy Matinee For Old-time Actor". LA Times. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
  7. Obituary: George Montgomery: [FOREIGN Edition] Vallance, Tom. The Independent 15 Dec 2000: 6.
  8. "These are Hollywood's Movie-struck Kids". Life. 1938-06-06. p. 34. Retrieved December 8, 2011.
  9. UP FROM THE RANGE: A Word on George Montgomery, Recently Of Mr. Zanuck's Finishing School New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]24 May 1942: X4.
  10. SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Fox Buys 'My Friend Flicka' as Roddy MacDowall Vehicle New York Times. 14 November 1941. p. 29.
  11. George Montgomery Is Chosen for a Lead Role With Gene Tierney in 'China Girl': New York Times 12 May 1942: 17.
  12. DRAMA: Montgomery Handed Plum Roles at 20th Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (10 Sep 1942: 18.
  13. By THOMAS F BRADY Special to The New York Times. (1947, Oct 04). JOHN PAYNE ENDS CONTRACT AT FOX. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  14. DINAH and GEORGE A BUSY, HAPPY COUPLE: She Stars on Television, He in the Movies, but Their Successful Careers Have Not Wrecked Their 10-Year Marriage, a Fate Usual in Hollywood, Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923–1963) [Chicago, Ill] 27 Dec 1953: c10.
  15. Montgomery Will Star in 'Pathfinder;' Tucker Plays Mutineer Pirate Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]18 Jan 1952: 19.
  16. Montgomery, George The Years of George Montgomery Sagebrush; 1st edition (1981)
  17. FILMLAND EVENTS: George Montgomery to Do Film in Spain Los Angeles Times 24 Dec 1964: C5.
  18. Doris Day Giving Up the Chase for New Western Dorothy Manners:. The Washington Post, Times Herald 10 Nov 1966: D24.
  20. p.390 Parish, James Robert & DeCarl, Lennard George Montgomery in Hollywood Players: The Forties Arlington House Publishers, 1976
  21. George Montgomery; Low-Budget Film Actor; 60-Year Career Included Westerns, TV: [FINAL Edition] The Washington Post 15 Dec 2000: B07.
  22. "Dinah Shore Married to George Montgomery", Los Angeles Times, 6 Dec 1943: A1.
  23. Breznican, Anthony. "Western Star George Montgomery Dies", Associated Press, December 13, 2000
  24. Ryon, Ruth. "George Montgomery: Ex-Leading Man Takes to Role of Renaissance Man", Los Angeles Times, 10 Mar 1985: i1.
  25. Oliver, Myrna. "GEORGE MONTGOMERY WESTERNS MOVIE STAR, DIRECTOR, SCULPTOR", Pittsburgh Post - Gazette; 14 Dec 2000: C-18.
  26. Oliver, Myrna. Obituaries; "George Montgomery; Actor, Sculptor, Furniture Maker", Los Angeles Times, 14 Dec 2000: B8.
  27. Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0762741014. OCLC 70284362.
  28. Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
Preceded by
Agnes Moorehead and Dick Powell
20th Academy Awards
Academy Awards host
21st Academy Awards
Succeeded by
Paul Douglas
22nd Academy Awards
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