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Senior World Magazine: George Montgomery

by James MacArthur

George Montgomery started making movies in 1939. He stopped in 1972, but in those 33 years he made some 85 pictures. One of them was The Battle of the Bulge, shot for some five months in and around Madrid, Spain in 1964. I was also in this picture, which had an all-star cast, including Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, Robert Shaw, Telly Savalas, Charlie Bronson, and many others. But George and I had a special relationship in that he played the battled-hardened veteran sergeant who served under the snot-nosed young lieutenant -- ME! George was then, and is now, a big, strong guy, and he sure bellowed like a sergeant should! In the movie we both were involved in the Malmedy massacre, where scores of American soldiers were gunned down. I got away ... George was not so lucky, but he helped me, and I lived to participate at the end of the battle when we won. So, thanks again, George!

When I moved to the Coachella Valley, I looked forward to seeing George again. I knew that George, as a hobby, had made furniture. I knew this because when I bought a house in the San Fernando Valley in 1961, it contained a beautiful coffee table which he had done. And so, when my wife and I went to meet him at the beautiful Palm Springs Desert Museum, it was to look at what he has been doing since 1972.

We were to meet George at the site of his exhibition consisting of his furniture and sculpture, as well as his personal collection of art done by other artists. When we arrived at the museum, George was already there, standing erect and cane in hand, obviously enjoying himself talking to the visitors who were thrilled to be talking to the actor/artist himself. George greeted me with his iron grip handshake and a big smile. He was very proud of his work. The first sculpture we looked at was of John Wayne done in 1975. It was exquisitely done. I asked George how many years it had taken him to reach this plateau and be able to do this kind of work. His answer was astounding. He said, “I started sculpting in 1974.” I said, “Only one year then you did this?” He replied with a big smile, “Well, there is something known as talent.” And, by George, does he have it! His sculptures of horses and scenes of Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn are Remington-like.

As to his furniture, there was a beautiful table and 10-chair set done for Marie McDonald. This took him eight years to do ... but then nobody was in a hurry.

George was born in Montana in 1916, the family’s 15th and last child. Of course, he was married to Dinah Shore and happily has family nearby who visit him regularly. If you are in Palm Springs, do visit the museum and, who knows, you might run into George!

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