Robert Montgomery Jr, Cole Porter Lawyer, Dead at 77

News   Robert Montgomery Jr, Cole Porter Lawyer, Dead at 77 Robert Montgomery Jr., the entertainment lawyer who for many years helped preserve and promote the work of Cole Porter, died Sept. 2 in Sag Harbor, NY, according to The New York Times.

Robert Montgomery Jr., the entertainment lawyer who for many years helped preserve and promote the work of Cole Porter, died Sept. 2 in Sag Harbor, NY, according to The New York Times.

Mr. Montgomery was 77. The cause of death was lung cancer.

Since the late 1950s, Mr. Montgomery helped oversee Broadway songwriter Porter's legal affairs, including negotiating contracts related to his many songs and musicals. If a theatre company or a major producer wanted to restore or rewrite or revive a Porter show, they eventually talked to Mr. Montgomery. Indeed, the lawyer pushed for 20 years to see a Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate, and finally got his wish in 1999 when Roger Berlind and Roger Horchow mounted the Porter smash (and won the Tony Award for Best Revival). The show is currently running at the Martin Beck Theatre and a tour will commence in spring 2001.

Over the past two decades, others had asked to stage the 1948 show for a New York revival, and those requests were apparently nixed by the agent, who was a senior partner for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Mr. Montgomery, a passionate theatre lover, first worked as an associate with the firm's Porter lawyer John Wharton and eventually succeeded Wharton as trustee of Porter's business.

"Bob had an incredible taste for theatre," record producer Hugh Fordin told Playbill On-Line. "He wasn't just a lawyer." Since 1977, Mr. Montgomery was trustee of the Cole Porter Musical and Literary Property Trusts, taking over from Wharton. Coincidental to Mr. Montgomery death, Peter Felcher had succeeded Mr. Montgomery as the Porter trustee.

Alongside Wharton, Mr. Montgomery worked personally with Porter until the composer's death in 1964. Among Mr. Montgomery's other illustrious clients in the entertainment industry were Marilyn Monroe, film director Louis Malle and the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. He was also trustee of the composer Samuel Barber's estate. He was lawyer for Mike Nichols and others involved in the smash Broadway musical, Annie, as well. Mr. Montgomery is credited with expanding his firm's scope, into motion pictures and television.

"Bob was not musician but he had a great knowledge of the performing arts," said colleague Robert Kimball, the musical theatre author and historian.

Kimball, editor of "The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter" (Knopf), told Playbill On-Line that Mr. Montgomery opened doors for him -- archives, libraries, associates -- when he was working on the book devoted to Porter's frisky verse.

"In every Cole Porter project I did, I always sought his guidance, his advice, his wisdom," said Kimball. "He was very perceptive, very low key. He understood when to do things and when not to."

When the idea of the lyrics book was presented to Mr. Montgomery, Kimball said, the agent asked, "How can I help? What can I do?" The book is a favorite among show fans and, like three other Kimball-edited "Complete Lyrics" books, essential for students of musical theatre literature.

Mr. Montgomery was born is Boston and was educated at Harvard and Columbia Law School. He served in the Army during World War II, decoding messages in Japanese. His friends knew the story of how he was on duty to decipher news of the Japanese surrender in 1945.

He is survived by his wife, Henriette, a son, Samuel, a daughter, Margaret and two grandchildren. A public memorial service in Manhattan is expected in the fall.

Porter trustee Felcher told Playbill On-Line it could not be overemphasized "how extraordinarily well respected he was throughout the industry. Many people refer to him as dean of the entertainment lawyers. There was a uniform respect, no matter if you were on his side..."

Felcher said Mr. Montgomery was very open to exploiting the Porter catalog. "During his time as trustee, he really read treatments and scripts and revised books and had something to say about them," said Felcher. And, Felcher said, he was not afraid to say no to project ideas.

Over the years, Mr. Montgomery was involved in allowing stage versions and/or concert versions and/or recordings of Porter's High Society (for Broadway), Out of This World (for the Encores! series), Nymph Errant (for England) and the upcoming revised revival of Red, Hot and Blue for the Goodspeed Opera House.

As to the current revival of Kiss Me, Kate, Mr. Montgomery worked 20 years to get the staging done "right," said Felcher, adding, "It was just wonderful that he could see it open."

-- By Kenneth Jones