In June, 1963, George Montgomery came to the Akron area to star in "King of Hearts" at the Canal Fulton Summer Theater. Interest in Montgomery was high, but not because of his acting. He and Dinah Shore, his wife of nearly 20 years, had just gotten a divorce. Montgomery was portrayed as the villain in the split.
"There's no doubt my divorce was one-sided," he said, "but I wouldn't want it any other way."
Miss Shore filed for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty. After the split became public Montgomery was rumored to be dating almost every eligible woman in the country.
"I've read about my dates," he said, "and most of them have been with girls I've never even met."
Meanwhile, about two weeks after the divorce became final, Dinah Shore remarried, to one Maurice F. Smith. They were divorced about a year later. Down the road for her was a long relationship with Burt Reynolds.
When I asked Montgomery why he was doing summer stock, he said, "I understood there was money in it. Besides, I wanted people to see I can do something besides ride a horse."
He said he didn't have much theater experience.
"I played George Washington crossing the Delaware when I was in third grade. That was the extent of my stage experience before last year."
Montgomery was 47 years old at the time. As a young man he majored in architecture and interior design at the University of Montana, but was more interested in boxing. That took him to Hollywood, but he never turned pro. Instead he became a movie stunt man for a Lone Ranger film. Montgomery was a rugged man, standing six-foot-three. He went from stunt man to actor, appearing in lots of Westerns in the late 1930s, but he also did a few comedies and musicals.
"I really didn't know what to do, especially in those musicals," he said. "I just sort of stood there and smiled at the camera."
Montgomery went off to war in 1942 and when he returned in 1946 he promptly fell into a cowboy rut. He had one Western TV series, "Cimarron City," which ran for 26 episodes during the 1958-59 season.
He continued to work in movies and television until the early 1970s. Among his last roles were guest appearances on "Alias Smith and Jones" (1971), "The Six Million Dollar Man" (1974) and "The Odd Couple." He had one of his best movie roles in 1965 when he played a sergeant in "Battle of the Bulge."
He also was a skilled furniture and cabinet maker and ran a cabinet shop for 40 years. He never remarried. Montgomery died in 2000 at the age of 83.