Sunday 21 February 2016

Whatever Happened To ... Bruce Montgomery?

Bruce Montgomery is another forgotten figure from the glorious Carry On legacy. While Eric Rogers is the Carry On music supremo, Montgomery was the original composer for the series and deserves some credit for setting the tone.

Bruce Montgomery is credited with providing the musical scores for the first six Carry On films. He is responsible for creating that iconic theme tune which graced all the films from Sergeant to Cruising, with modifications along the way. I love the original theme tune and although I can see why they changed it over time, the jazzed up version which introduced Teacher, Constable and Regardless remains a firm favourite for me.

Montgomery also provided the musical scores for several other Rogers and Thomas productions at around the same time. The scores for Please Turn Over (1959), Watch Your Stern (1960) and Twice Round The Daffodils (1962) are also down to Bruce. Not only that, but the score and the screenplay for the 1961 film Raising The Wind came from the original Carry On music man. Montgomery certainly made a significant contribution to the early years of Carry On.

In addition to these credits, Bruce Montgomery also composed music for films produced by Peter Rogers' wife, Betty Box. Those included four of the famous Doctor films - Doctor in the House in 1954, Doctor at Sea the year after, Doctor at Large in 1957 and finally Doctor in Love in 1960. He was a busy man at Pinewood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So what caused Montgomery and Peter Rogers Productions to part ways? 

Apparently Montgomery decided to stop working on the Carry On compositions as he was, by the early 1960s, struggling to achieve the right contemporary sound Rogers and Thomas were looking for. Enter Eric Rogers for the next 22 films! Sadly, Bruce Montgomery was also suffering from illnesses relating to alcohol, something which was plague the final years of his life. 

Apart from his love of music, Bruce Montgomery also had a second fruitful career as an author of crime fiction. Under the pseudonym of Edmund Crispin, he produced nine detective stories and two collections of short stories. His titles included The Case of the Gilded Fly (1944); The Moving Toyshop (1946); Love Lies Bleeding (1948) and The Long Divorce (1952). As Crispin, he also edited seven volumes entitled Best Science Fiction, published during the 1950s.

Sadly, Montgomery's output in both careers began to falter as the 1960s dawned. He did continue to review books for The Sunday Times, but other than that he faded into obscurity. The last decade of his life saw him move to Devon, latterly the village of Dartington. In 1976 he married his long-term secretary, Ann. However they would only enjoy two years of married life together before his death at the age of just 56. Years of heavy drinking had taken its toll on Montgomery.

I think it's a shame that Bruce Montgomery's contribution to the Carry On legacy isn't always given the credit it is due. Although Eric Rogers was a master at creating the right musical backdrop to the onscreen antics of the gang, Montgomery also crafted some excellent pieces of music for those more innocent, early black and white Carry On films. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan

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