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 prewar spy for the GRU after the decryption of Venona messages, but this has never been confirmed. His brother of identical background Ewen Montagu was a spy for MI6, author of The Man Who Never Was and mastermind of the highly successful counter-Nazi Operation Mincemeat.
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)
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