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Film Cowboy Learned the Ropes Young

VALLEY 200: To commemorate the bicentennial of the San Fernando Mission and the San Fernando Valley, for 200 days we will feature people --some famous, some notorious-- who left their mark on the area.

May 25, 1997|JULIE TAMAKI

His trick roping skills have won this former Northridge honorary mayor fame and acclaim for more than seven decades.

Always the consummate showman, Montie Montana, 86, learned rope tricks from his dad, Edgar Owen, as a boy in Montana. Father, son and his mother, Mary Edna Harlan, were billed as the Montana Cowboys when they performed on the rodeo circuit in the early 1920s.

In 1929, Montana joined the Buck Jones Wild West Co. before becoming a movie cowboy. He got a fast horse, some fancy clothes and learned to smile for an audience.

By the 1930s, Montana was on his own with his new last name honoring his home state. He trick-roped his way to Hollywood where he waited with other movie cowboys near Gower Street and Sunset Boulevard to be hired to work for the day in a Western film.

He displayed his skills in more than 20 movies, including "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "The Cowboy"' and "Down Dakota Way." Montana rubbed shoulders with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Leo Carrillo.

Montana spent most of his adult life in the San Fernando Valley, living in North Hollywood and Van Nuys before moving to a horse ranch in Northridge in the early 1940s. He was one of a group of riders including Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan who began riding around the Valley when it was still mostly farmland.

But by the 1970s, the people, encroaching buildings and taxes had gotten too much for him and he bought his current ranch across from Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, which he shares with his second wife, Marilee, whom he married in 1987.

Montana is perhaps best known for his annual appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade. He appeared in 60 consecutive parades before declining to ride in 1995, though he continues to perform throughout the country.

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