From time to time in my childhood, usually when visiting or staying with Granny and Pop Glassbrook at 1, St. Judes Rd., I would overhear a comment such as, " There's Percy again, " or " Percy's made another film ." Of course it meant little or nothing because no one explained who it was being talked about, but I remember this was the late 1940's to early 1950's and television, though new and incredibly expensive, was beginning to crop up in people's homes and thus show films for free. Unheard of! So my grandparents had the first TV set I ever saw, and there, apparently, was Granny's cousin Percy in living black and white on a nine or twelve-inch screen; the screen, in turn, covered by an ugly and bulbous magnifying glass which made the whole thing look more like a fish bowl.
Percy Marmont was born on the suburban west side of London on 25th November 1883. He was a stage actor in the UK and America, and in 1916 had a part in his first film, "Die Voortrekkers," which, of course, was silent. During his early career years he appears to have been living in Hollywood and New York and fathered a daughter, Patricia (who later became a theatrical agent in London after acting on screen a little), born in Long Island, N.Y. in 1922. In 1928 Percy returned to his native London, but by this time he was well established and had been racking up roles in five or six films a year. The first full talkie film of his was probably "The Squeaker" in 1930 in which he played the part of Captain Leslie. Making films both in England and Hollywood, he was getting third, fourth and fifth billing roles, often as a romantic lead, no less, and appearing alongside such notables as Ray Milland, Madeleine Carroll, Maureen O'Hara, Claude Rains and a very young Sir John Gielgud in 1936. His directors were often Alfred Hitchcock or Ray Milland.
I did contact Gielgud in December of 1999 through his London agent, enquiring of any detail or remembrances he might have of Percy, but a letter came back on Gielgud's home notepaper from a personal secretary with a double barreled name stating that " Sir John does not feel, however, that he can contribute in any detail to your request." He died about two months later.
Percy went on to complete 86 films, his last being in 1968 and titled "Hostile Witness" as Justice Gregory. More than half of his films were made during the silent era. He also is recorded as having directed one film, "The Captain's Table," in 1936. Obviously his niche was acting! He died in a suburban London hospital on March 3, 1977.
The six foot tall, good looking Percy Marmont got into films at just the right time, I would guess, because his career seems to have rocketed after his first appearance at 32 years old. By the time he left Hollywood in 1928, he had done around 50 films and had a Hollywood street named after him, Marmont Lane, forking off Sunset Boulevard and leading to the infamous Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. The Marmont opened on February 1, 1929, at 8221 Sunset Boulevard and was built to resemble a gothic chateau. It is a place where actors, filmmakers, rockers and the like have stayed and played for decades, and its own publications make it clear that all the top names in the industry have dallied within its walls; photographic evidence and script to prove the point! Just recently (2002) I heard the Chateau being noted as one of the three favourite places for those in the entertainment lark. Today you can experience it first-hand or lounge and imagine the stars of yesteryear for $300 to $3000 per night. The opening date for the Chateau precludes our Percy having stayed there on a permanent basis, although I have no doubt he did on occasion, if only to reflect on how well things were going for him.
In 1929 rent would have peaked at $750 per month, which seems pretty rich. On a sadder note, John Belushi died in 1982 in one of the Chateau bungalows, as they call them, of a drug overdose. For the record, it is noted in the Chateau Marmont publicity handbooks that Marmont Lane was indeed named for Percy Marmont.
Having now seen cousin Percy on video, plus an early promotional photograph, there is no doubt in my mind he is one of "our" Marmonts. The likeness to my grandmother (nee Marmont), two of her children, but more particularly my Uncle Jack (brother to my mother and still living in Dartmouth, England) and also Jack's daughter, Valerie, is quite striking. There is some conflict in the spelling of Marmont (or Marment), in that I have seen both on official records: some went one way, some went the other, but surely there were volumes of clerical errors in those days of handwritten everything. MarMONT seems to reinforce the notion of a French family connection, but it would not be the first word of foreign origin to be Anglicized, in this case I am suggesting, to MarMENT. I will rest it there.
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