The Robert Montgomery Collection [4 Discs] [DVD]

This box set pays homage to suave and debonair Hollywood lead Robert Montgomery (1904-81), with a sequence of eight movies that he toplined between 1931 and 1940. Contents include: The Man in Possession (1931), Shipmates (1931), Faithless (1932), But the Flesh is Weak (1932), Lovers Courageous (1932), Made on Broadway (1933), Live, Love and Learn (1937) and The Earl of Chicago (1940).
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Overview

Synopsis

The Man in Possession
Robert Montgomery plays an aimless young man who secures a job as a bailiff's deputy. Montgomery is assigned to guard a house under writ, but when he falls for the lady of the house (Irene Purcell), the boy decides to serve as her butler to keep up her family's appearances. Throughout the film, Montgomery assumes several more disguises to keep the family's legal reverses from becoming public. P. G. Wodehouse adapted H. M. Harwood's play The Man in Possession for this brisk film version. The story was Americanized in 1937 as Personal Property, with Robert Taylor and Jean Harlow in the leads. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Lovers Courageous
Lovers Courageous represents a rare direct-to-screen original by Frederick Lonsdale, the playwright responsible for such drawing-room comedies as The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. Robert Montgomery and Madge Evans plays the titular lovers, Willy and Mary. After living a peripatetic existence all over the world, Willy settles in South Africa, where he goes to work for a tobacconist. Here he meets Mary (Madge Evans), the daughter of an aristocratic ex-admiral (Frederick Kerr). The story then develops into a "reverse Cinderella," with the rough-hewn Willy transforming himself into a gentleman, all for the love of "Princess Charming" Mary. Jackie Searl, one of the screen's best "nasty kids," is amusingly if incongruously cast as the younger Willy. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Made on Broadway
Heroine Mona (Sally Eilers) is "made" in more ways than one in this free-wheeling spoof of the press-agent business. A would-be suicide, Mona is rescued by public-relations whiz Jeff (Robert Montgomery), who decides to turn the girl into a celebrity -- and line his own pockets in the process. But if she's been used by Jeff, Mona knows how to be a user as well, and soon she's manipulating Jeff, relying on his expertise to save her from a nasty murder rap. Eventually, Jeff gets wise to Mona's game and returns to his sweetheart Claire (Madge Evans), virtually the only 100% honest character in the picture. The film's unsubtle double-edged title was made even more so in England, where it was changed to The Girl I Made. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Live, Love and Learn
Starving artist Robert Montgomery could care less if his paintings sell, so long as he's happy. Montgomery falls in love with Rosalind Russell, an heiress who's gone "slumming" in Greenwich Village. Russell becomes Montgomery's patroness as well as his wife, urging him to make his paintings more commercial. He becomes a success following her advice, but popularity goes to his head and soon Russell realizes she's created a monster. She walks out, he gets his act together, she comes back, and they return to their blissful hand-to-mouth existence. Live, Love and Learn scores its biggest laughs unintentionally with MGM's prettified concept of what a "run down" Greenwich village apartment looks like. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

But the Flesh Is Weak
Ivor Novello's elegant stage play The Truth Game was the source for MGM's But the Flesh is Weak. C. Aubrey Smith and Robert Montgomery star as Florian and Max, father-and-son fortune hunters whose ethics and integrity wax and wane throughout the picture. Eventually, Florian outsmarts himself and ends up broke and heavily in debt. To save his father from committing suicide, Max agrees to marry wealthy Lady Joan (Heather Thatcher). Will he be saved from this rash act in time by his true love, poor but proud widow Rosine (Nora Gregor)? In cold print, But the Flesh is Weak may seem like a stark tragedy, but is in fact a witty, polished polite comedy. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Earl of Chicago
The schizophrenic screenplay of The Earl of Chicago is rendered even more bizarre by the uneven performance by Robert Montgomery. He plays Silky Kilmont, a Runyonesque American gangster who inherits a British title (Earl of Gorley) and mansion. Taking charge of his new estate, Silky has an amusing time trying to acclimate himself to the customs of the "landed gentry". Things take a sinister turn when Silky discovers that his trusted attorney Doc Ramsey (Edward Arnold) is actually a bigger crook than he is. In a rage, Silky murders Ramsey, then goes into what appears to be a catatonic shock, refusing to defend himself at his murder trial. Blood finally tells at the climax when Silky Kilmont, aka the Earl of Gorley, meets his fate with a dignity and decorum worthy of his aristocratic forebears. The queasy atmosphere of the film is heightened by its utter lack of romance; outside of character actress Norma Varden, there are barely any women in the film at all. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Faithless
Tallulah Bankhead plays a giddy 1920s heiress who spurns the affections of executive Robert Montgomery because he makes a "mere" $20,000 per year. Tallulah is impoverished by the Depression, as is Montgomery. She refuses again to marry him now that they are equals, preferring to maintain her lifestyle by becoming the mistress of a clloddish millionaire (Hugh Herbert). Her new benefactor behaves atrociously, prompting Tallulah to run to the arms of Montgomery, who is now a blue-collar worker. Again stripped of her wealth, Tallulah marries Montgomery, who is promptly incapacitated in a violent labor dispute. Desperate to keep up her husband's medical bills, Tallulah takes to the streets. She is about to hit upon her first "John" when she is stopped by the kindly beat cop, who sends her back to her husband--and presumably a new lease on life. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Shipmates
Actor Robert Montgomery would serve as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve during WWII, but he was just a lowly seaman in the 1931 MGM programmer Shipmates. When he's not being pushed around by chief petty officer Ernest Torrence, naval recruit Jonesy (Montgomery) is busily wooing Kit (Dorothy Jordan) the daughter of Admiral Corbin (Hobart Bosworth). After several reels of irresponsibility, Jonesy proves his worth by preventing an arsenal ship from being destroyed by a burning oil tanker. Cliff Edwards provides the requisite comic relief as a goofy gob named Bilge. Though Shipmates could hardly qualify as Robert Montgomery's best film, it was the picture in which he was finally afforded top billing, thereby increasing his salary to a daunting $2100 per week. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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