You might remember him in cowboy movies, but George Montgomery started out as a leading man to some of the top stars at 20th Century Fox.

When our pal, Donald Gordon took this candid of George he was starring opposite Ginger Rogers in Roxie Hart.

But first, permit us this:

Back in the mid 70’s, Joe was in restaurant in San Diego with a friend who suddenly showed a great deal of interest in a charismatic gentlemen at the next table. He was well into his 50s, and the young woman with him couldn’t have been more than 25.

Yes, Joe said to his companion. Don’t you know who he is?”  Montgomery had been off the screen for years by then and was a successful designer of furniture.

George Montgomery Letz was the youngest of 15 children of an immigrant Russian farmer, and was born in Montana in the summer of 1916. He knew Hollywood was his destiny, and ventured there as soon as he could and started as a stunt man in westerns when he was 18.

After a few years doing bit parts at Republic he was signed by 20th Century Fox and starred opposite Gene Tierney in China Girl, with Rogers in Roxie Hart, as mentioned, and Betty Grable in Coney Island.

He and Ginger had a torrid romance. Later, he was engaged to Hedy Lamarr. The guy certainly got around.

World War II interrupted Montgomery’s career. He served in the Army Air Corps. In the 1950s his career was mainly in TV. However his interest in cabinetry, and sculpture surpassed his interest in show business, and his career veered in those directions.

He had married singer Dinah Shore (above) in 1943. They had a daughter and adopted a son. They divorced in 1963, and though he had serious long term relationships with others after that, he never remarried.

Among others, Montgomery sculpted his wife and children, and his pals, John WayneGene AutryRandolph Scott, and Ronald Reagan.

Montgomery died at 84 in 2000.

One of Joe’s favorite George Montgomery films is 1947’s The Brasher Doubloon in which he plays famed detective Philip Marlowe.  It’s not a great film but it’s fun.

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