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Ivor Montagu - Biography

The Honorable Ivor Goldsmid Samuel Montagu (23 April 1904, London, England – 5 November 1984, London) was a British filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, film critic, writer, table tennis player and apparent Soviet spy. He has received some credit for the development of a vibrant intellectual film culture in Britain during the interwar years.


Life and career

Montagu was the third son of the 2nd Baron Swaythling. He attended Westminster School and King's College, Cambridge, where he contributed to Granta. He became involved in zoological research. His directorial career began in the late 1920s with a short film about table tennis.

With Sidney Bernstein he established the London Film Society in 1925, the first film club devoted to showing art films and independent films. Montagu became the first film critic of The Observer and the New Statesman. He did the post-production work on Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger in 1926 and was hired to Gaumont-British in the 1930s, working as a producer on a number of the Hitchcock thrillers.

Montagu joined the Fabian Society in his youth, then the British Socialist Party and then the Communist Party of Great Britain. This brought him into contact with Russian film makers. In 1930 he accompanied his friend Sergei Eisenstein to New York and Hollywood; later in the decade Montagu made a number of compilation films, including Defence of Madrid (1936) and Peace and Plenty (1939) about the Spanish Civil War. He directed also the documentary Wings Over Everest (1934) with Geoffrey Barkas. As a political figure and for a time a communist, much of his work at the time was on low budget, independent political films. By World War II, however, he made a film for the Ministry of Information. After the war Montagu worked as a film critic and reviewer.

In 1933, Montagu was a founder member of the Association of Cinematograph and Television Technicians, holding various positions in the union until the 1960s. He also held post on the World Council of Peace. He was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1959.

Montagu was identified as a World War II era spy for the Soviet GRU, code name “Intelligentsia”, after the decryption in the 1960s of Venona telegraphs from March 1940 through April 1942. A July 25, 1940 cable from Simon Davidovitch Kremer, Secretary to the Soviet Military Attaché in London specifically identified him as the head of the X Group spy ring “Ivor Montagu, the well known local communist, journalist and lecturer.”

His brother Ewen Montagu was a Naval Intelligence Officer RNVR in MI6, during the Second World War, one of the masterminds of the highly successful deception Operation Mincemeat, and author of The Man Who Never Was.

Table tennis

Montagu was a champion table tennis player, representing Britain in matches all over the world. He also helped to establish and finance the first world championships in London in 1926.

In 1926 Montagu initiated the creation of the International Table Tennis Federation, and served as its first president for 41 years until 1967. The ITTF began with four member countries, and grew to 160 national associations during his leadership. The constitution and laws of the sport of table tennis were adopted and the World Table Tennis Championships established during a meeting at the family home of Lord and Lady Swaythling, Montagu’s parents.

At age 18, he was a founder of the English Table Tennis Association (ETTA), and served as its chairman from 1923–29, from 1932–33, and again from 1936-58. He was also the ETTA’s president from 1927–31 and 1958-66.


He also wrote two books, Table Tennis Today (1924) and Table Tennis (1936) which were both part of the impetus he gave to the sport. He wrote many pamphlets, and his other books include: Film World (1964), With Eisenstein in Hollywood (1968), The Youngest Son (1970)

Hall of Fame

Montagu was inducted into the International Table Tennis Foundation Hall of Fame in 1995.

See also

  • List of select Jewish table tennis players

External links

The article is about these people: Ivor Goldsmid Samuel Montagu

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