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TomJH

Montagu Love - A Character Actor's Character Actor

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Many old film buffs will probably better recognize the face than the name but Montagu Love had a long and distinguished career as a film character actor. One source says that he appeared in about one hundred silents alone. It was during that era that he specialized in playing villains - usually over-the-top, unsubtle portrayals by modern standards of acting but totally appropriate for the kinds of ripe lush romantic melodramas, often of a swashbuckling nature, in which they were set.

He was memorable as the lecherous (he was lecherous a lot in these films) Count Donati, the greatest swordsman in Borgia Italy, when he opposed John Barrymore's Don Juan. A swine in every sense of the word, Love will even be unsporting enough to give Don Juan the false impression that virginal Mary Astor is his mistress, disgusting the legendary lover who had previously been interested in Astor as "an ideal woman." The film will famously climax with a duel between Barrymore and Love that will include daggers, as well as swords. It's an impressive duel, intercuting closeups of the two principal actors, and ending with a long shot of Don Juan leaping from the top of a staircase onto the Count.

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That same year (1926) Love would be up to more dastardly deeds in Rudolph Valentino's last feature, Son of the Sheik. First introduced with the sub title, "Ghabar, the Moor, whose crimes outnumber the sands," Love lived up (or down, depending upon your point of view) to the billing throughout the film. At one point, annoyed with assistant Snitz Edwards, he decides to playfully terrorize him by using him for near miss target practice with a series of knives landing in the wood around his body and head.

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He will later lie to Rudy, the latter crazy in love with dancing girl Vilma Banky, by telling him that she was used as bait to lure him into a trap. This will set Valentino off on a trail of vengeance against Banky. Love will spend much of the film looking at Banky will lust in his eyes. Ironically it will be the film's hero, not Love, who will rape her.

Soon afterward Love was reunited with Banky and the same director, George Fitzmaurice, for more costume villainy in the lavish Night of Love. In this one Love plays the dastardly Duke de la Garda, a ruthless 17th Century Spanish aristocrat with unlimited power over his vassals. One of the most cruel of these powers is the "droit de seigneur" by which the lord can take the bride of any man in his domain on her wedding night and have her for himself. Love chooses to execute this law, of course, with the bride of gypsy Ronald Colman. This girl feels so disgraced by the rape that follows at Love's hands that she kills herself. Love sends the dead body back to Colman.

Later in the film Colman will turn the tables on Love, capturing both him and his bride (Vilma Banky) and taking them back to his mountain hideout. Love, afraid that he will be killed, falls to his knees before Colman and Banky, telling the gypsy "Take her - revenge yourself on her" then actually pleads with Banky to use her influence to try to save his miserable life.

Later in the film, though, restored back to his castle, Love will have half naked dancing girls perform before him at a feast, telling them, with pure lechery on his grinning face, that they should have a dance contest with the winner getting a prize - him!

Love's first name, by the way, Montagu, was spelled with an "e" at the end of it during the silent era. During the upcoming years that "e" would be dropped.

These kind of lush romantic costume dramas became passe with the coming of sound, and with it Montagu Love's kind of unbridled lustful villainy. But with his deep resonant voice and British accent Love still had years ahead in character support, even if his roles became smaller.

In fact, towards the end of the '30s and early '40s he appeared in no fewer than five of the all time great costume adventure films. He had a very small role as one of the minions of Black Michael (Raymond Massey) in 1937's Prisoner of Zenda. He had a much bigger part, however, as the Bishop of the Black Canons in The Adventures of Robin Hood, leading the coronation procession at the end of the film, with Robin, in disguise as a monk, prodding him along with a dagger in his back.

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Next he was a colonel with a stiff upper lip in George Stevens' legendary Gunga Din. Soon afterward he would be the ambitious King Philip of Spain, in Warners' The Sea Hawk, with his shadow literally falling over a map of Europe on a wall in one scene.

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That same year he played a good guy, for a change, in Fox's The Mark of Zorro. Here he was Don Diego's father, disgusted over the fact that he mistakenly believed his son to be a fop. By the end of the film, however, when he realizes the truth, Love with be dueling side by side with his son (Tyrone Power), now revealed as the masked title character.

Just prior to these films, however, Love got what may well have been his best role of the talkies when Warner Brothers cast him as King Henry VIII in their lavish adaption of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper (1937). With his booming voice and regal manner Love, despite receiving only 15th billing, dominated all his scenes, conveying the hardness and ruthlessness of his character.

Love was given some rich dialogue in this film which, blessed with his commanding voice, he relished.

"A king may answer to no man, not even himself," he tells his young son, the prince, played by Bobby Mauch, "To have a conscience is to have a c h i n k in your armor. Never trust so much, love so much or need anyone so much that you can't betray them with a smile. That's the paradox of power."

Love's Henry VIII is a man who has connived, betrayed and had people killed, all in the name of power. It is appropriate that one of the screen's great villains would play this role with so much understanding. And, at the end, as Henry is dying, collapsing back into his throne, Love has a wonderful final line that he says with his gasping final breath:

"And now . . . to face them . . . all."

It's a wonderful screen moment, and a lasting tribute to Montagu Love's power as an actor.

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This is a performer who may not be as well remembered as some of the other villains and character actors of his time, but with the length of his career and the strength of so many of his characterizations he clearly deserves recognition.

Anyone else with any Montagu Love anecdotes or memories?

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A great classical actor who was a wonderful villain in DR. EHRLICH'S MAGIC BULLET.

Not sure if it was due to post-preview editing but he was almost invisible in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR.

He made his Broadway debut in 1913.

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30 minutes ago, Ray Faiola said:

A great classical actor who was a wonderful villain in DR. EHRLICH'S MAGIC BULLET.

Not sure if it was due to post-preview editing but he was almost invisible in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR.

He made his Broadway debut in 1913.

Montagu Love, a classically trained stage actor who appeared in a remarkable number of outstanding films, even if his roles were often small in them.

It's been years since I saw Ehrlich so I don't recall Love's portrayal. I assume he was part of the medical establishment which opposed the doctor.

I enjoyed Love's relatively low key performance as Peterson, a villainous opponent, in 1929's Bulldog Drummond.

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Here is Love (unrecognizable at right) in the play "The Ware Case," which ran in NYC in December 1915. The two ladies are Maude Hannaford and Gladys Hanson.

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10 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

Here is Love (unrecognizable at right) in the play "The Ware Case," which ran in NYC in December 1915. The two ladies are Maude Hannaford and Gladys Hanson.

eUpMiFA.png

I'll say he's unrecognizable though I see he had a thing for the ladies then, as well. He'd be a little rougher with them in the movies.

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18 minutes ago, TomJH said:

I'll say he's unrecognizable though I see he had a thing for the ladies then, as well. He'd be a little rougher with them in the movies.

I think he is chewing her ring off, as Curley was prone to do. 

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Now we're talking. A true cinema stalwart to admire with a noteworthy career and memorable in so many films though today's audience probably doesn't even know his name sadly, except for some here. I remember Seastrom's The Wind fondly due to his Love's performance with Gish.


 

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On 12/4/2018 at 9:09 AM, TomJH said:

...Next he was a colonel with a stiff upper lip in George Stevens' legendary Gunga Din

 

Wait a sec here, Tom. THAT'S all you have to say about Love's presence in this flick?

Sure, his part is rather small in it, but who would Stevens entrust with reciting in the final closing moments of the film the last stanza of Kipling's poem upon which this film was based, I ask? Nope, not the mellifluously voiced Doug Jr. or Cary, nor the gravelly voiced McLaglen.

(...yep, that's right...ol' Montagu himself, and with as you called it earlier, that "regal" voice of his)  

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Also I have seen him on TCM in Outward Bound (1930), where he had to remind everyone that he was Mr. Lingley, of Lingley Limited.  What's wrong with all you people, doesn't anyone know who I am?!!  I'm IMPORTANT!  (or something along those lines)

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2 hours ago, Dargo said:

Wait a sec here, Tom. THAT'S all you have to say about Love's presence in this flick?

Sure, his part is rather small in it, but who would Stevens entrust with reciting in the final closing moments of the film the last stanza of Kipling's poem upon which this film was based, I ask? Nope, not the mellifluously voiced Doug Jr. or Cary, nor the gravelly voiced McLaglen.

(...yep, that's right...ol' Montagu himself, and with as you called it earlier, that "regal" voice of his)  

I forgot about Love's recitation of the poem, Dargo. Thanks for the reminder.

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    Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,   
    By the livin' Gawd that made you,   
    You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

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1 hour ago, GordonCole said:

Now we're talking. A true cinema stalwart to admire with a noteworthy career and memorable in so many films though today's audience probably doesn't even know his name sadly, except for some here. I remember Seastrom's The Wind fondly due to his Love's performance with Gish.


 

Love's final moments with Gish in The Wind are quite memorable.

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