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Robert Cummings

Robert Cummings

American film and television actor
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American film and television actor
Countries United States of America
Occupations Television actor Film actor Actor Stage actor
A.K.A. Bob Cummings
Gender male
Birth June 9, 1908 (Joplin, Missouri, U.S.A.)
Death December 2, 1990 (Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California)
Politics Republican Party
Education American Academy of Dramatic Arts
The details
Biography

Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings, known as Bob Cummings (June 9, 1910 – December 2, 1990), was an American film and television actor known mainly for his roles in comedy films such as The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) and Princess O'Rourke (1943), but was also effective in dramatic films, especially two of Alfred Hitchcock's thrillers, Saboteur (1942) and Dial M for Murder (1954). Cummings received five Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Single Performance in 1955. On February 8, 1960, he received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture and television industries. The motion picture star is at 6816 Hollywood Boulevard, the television star is on 1718 Vine Street.

Early life

Cummings was born in Joplin, Missouri, a son of Dr. Charles Clarence Cummings and the former Ruth Annabelle Kraft. His father was a surgeon, who was part of the original medical staff of St. John's Hospital in Joplin. He was the founder of the Jasper County Tuberculosis Hospital in Webb City, Missouri. Cummings' mother was an ordained minister of the Science of Mind.

While attending Joplin High School, Cummings was taught to fly by his godfather, Orville Wright, the aviation pioneer. His first solo was on March 3, 1927. During high school, Cummings gave Joplin residents rides in his aircraft for $5 per person. When the government began licensing flight instructors, Cummings was issued flight instructor certificate No. 1, making him the first official flight instructor in the United States.

Cummings studied briefly at Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, but his love of flying caused him to transfer to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied aeronautical engineering for a year before he dropped out because of financial reasons, his family having lost heavily in the 1929 stock market crash. Since the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City paid its male actors $14 a week, Cummings decided to study there.

Acting career

Cummings studied drama for two years before appearing on Broadway in 1931. As British actors were in demand, Cummings traveled to England and learned to mimic an upper-class English accent. He had a brief career on Broadway under the name Blade Stanhope Conway, posing as an Englishman. His credits include The Roof by John Galsworthy (Oct-November 1931).

In 1933, Cummings met and two years later married his second wife, Vivi Janiss, a native of Nebraska, with whom he appeared (billed as "Brice Hutchins") in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934.

He had a small role in Sons of the Desert (1933).

Bruce Hutchens

In 1934, he moved to Hollywood, where he acted at first under the name "Bruce Hutchens", having assumed the persona of a wealthy Texan.

Paramount

Cummings then began to use his own name, acting throughout the 1930s as a contract player in a number of supporting roles.He was at first under contract to Paramount. He made his film debut in The Virginia Judge (1935), at Paramount. This was followed by So Red the Rose (1935).

He had his first major role in Millions in the Air (1935).

He had a good role in the Western Desert Gold (1936) then was in Forgotten Faces (1936), Border Flight (1936), Three Cheers for Love (1936), Hollywood Boulevard (1936), The Accusing Finger (1936), Hideaway Girl (1936), Arizona Mahoney (1936), and The Last Train from Madrid (1937).

Most of these were "B"s. He had a small role in an A, Souls at Sea (1937), then was in Sophie Lang Goes West (1937), Wells Fargo (1937), College Swing (1938), You and Me (1938) (directed by Fritz Lang), The Texans (1938), and Touchdown, Army (1938).

In the mid 1930s he and his mother received $1 million from mining stock left to them by Cummings' father which was once thought to be worthless.

He left Paramount to play the lead in a crime movie for Republic, I Stand Accused (1938).

Universal

Cummings signed with Universal. He was a romantic lead in Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939), with Deanna Durbin for producer Joe Pasternak. Then he supported Gloria Jean in The Under-Pup (1939).

He supports Basil Rathbone and Victor McLaglen in Rio (1939) then was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to romance Sonia Henie in Everything Happens at Night (1939). He was over to MGM for And One Was Beautiful (1940).

Back at Universal he was in a comedy, Private Affairs (1940), then romanced Durbin in Spring Parade (1940).

Cummings made his mark in the CBS Radio network's dramatic serial titled Those We Love, which ran from 1938 to 1945. Cummings played the role of David Adair, opposite Richard Cromwell, Francis X. Bushman, and Nan Grey.

A Series of Classic Films

He was one of the leads in the comedy One Night in the Tropics (1940), the film that introduced Abbott and Costello. MGM borrowed him for Free and Easy (1941), then he was over to RKO for one of his most popular movies, The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), as Jean Arthur's love interest, from a script by Norman Krasna and directed by Sam Wood.

20th Century Fox borrowed him for Moon Over Miami (1941), an enormously successful Betty Grable musical. Pasternak used him in It Started with Eve (1941), from a script by Krasna, opposite Deanna Durbin, and another big hit.

Cummings was borrowed by Warner Bros, who were making a film of Kings Row (1942), directed by Sam Wood. It provided Cummings with one of his best roles.

Robert Cummings in Saboteur, 1942

Cummings starred in the Alfred Hitchcock spy thriller Saboteur (1942), made at Universal, with Priscilla Lane and Norman Lloyd. He played Barry Kane, an aircraft worker wrongfully accused of espionage, trying to clear his name.

He followed it with Between Us Girls (1942) a comedy with Diana Barrymore and Princess O'Rourke (made 1942, released 1943), Krasna's directorial debut.

Cummings was meant to be in Fired Wife with Teresa Wright, Charles Coburn and Eddie Anderson However when he found out these actors would not be in the film he pulled out. Universal put him on suspension. Cummings argued that Universal tried to put him in minor roles to hurt his career. He later sued the studio. He won.

World War II

In November 1942, Cummings joined the United States Army Air Forces. During World War II, he served as a flight instructor. After the war, Cummings served as a pilot in the United States Air Force Reserve, where he achieved the rank of Captain. Cummings played aircraft pilots in several of his postwar film roles.

During the war service he had small roles in the all-star Forever and a Day (1943) and Flesh and Fantasy (1943).

Postwar career

In 1945 he starred in You Came Along (1945) for Hal Wallis, directed by John Farrow with a screenplay by Ayn Rand. The Army Air Forces pilot Cummings played ("Bob Collins") died off camera, but was resurrected ten years later for his television show.

The Bride Wore Boots (1946) was a comedy at Paramount with Barbara Stanwyck. He had the lead in two films for Nero Films, releasing through United Artists: a film noir, The Chase (1946) and a Western, Heaven Only Knows (1947). In 1947, Cummings had reportedly earned $110,000 in the past 12 months.

The Lost Moment (1947) was a film noir for Walter Wanger at Universal based on The Aspern Papers by Henry James. It was a big flop a the box office. Sleep, My Love (1948) was more successful; another noir, directed by Douglas Sirk.

Producer

Cummings formed his own company, United California Productions. Their first film, Let's Live a Little (1948) was a romantic comedy with Hedy Lamarr, and released through United Artists. Cummings announced a series of projects: Ho the Fair Wind, The Glass Heart, Poisonous Paradise, Jungle, Password to Love, and a remake of Two Hearts in Three Quarter Time. Cummings was also trying to interest Norman Krasna into writing the story how Cummings broke into acting.

He did The Accused (1949) for Hall Wallis at Paramount, supporting Loretta Young. Reign of Terror (1949) was a thriller set in the French Revolution for director Anthony Mann and Eagle Lion, co produced by Cumming's company.

Then it was comedies: Free for All (1949) at Universal; Tell It to the Judge (1949), with Rosalind Russell, at Columbia.

Paid in Full (1950) was a drama for Hal Wallis at Paramount and The Petty Girl (1950) was a musical at Columbia with Joan Caulfield. He supported Clifton Webb in For Heaven's Sake (1950) at Fox, then played a con man in The Barefoot Mailman (1950) at Columbia.

He was in a Broadway play Faithfully Yours which had a short run in late 1951.

At Columbia he was in The First Time (1952) one of the first films of Frank Tashlin.

Cummings was one of the four stars featured in the short-run radio version of Four Star Playhouse.

Television career

Robert Cummings and Julie Newmar in a publicity still for My Living Doll

Cummings began a long career on television in 1952, starring in the comedy My Hero (1952–53) which ran for 33 episodes.

He was in Marry Me Again (1953), at RKO for Tashlin, then supported Doris Day in Lucky Me (1954) at Warners.

Cummings was chosen by producer John Wayne as his co-star to play airline pilot Captain Sullivan in The High and the Mighty, partly due to Cummings' flying experience; however, director William A. Wellman overruled Wayne and hired Robert Stack for the part.

Cummings starred in another Hitchcock film, Dial M for Murder (1954), as Mark Halliday, co-starring with Grace Kelly and Ray Milland. The film was a box-office success.

In 1955 Cummings announced he would form his own production company, Laurel (named after his daughter and the street he lived in, Laurel Way). He intended to make a film called The Damned from a novel by John D. MacDonald directed by Frank Tashlin. However no film resulted.

He received the 1955 Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Single Performance for his portrayal of Juror Number Eight in Westinghouse Studio One's live production of Twelve Angry Men. (Henry Fonda played the same role in the feature film adaptation).

Cummings was one of the anchors on ABC's live broadcast of the opening day of Disneyland on July 17, 1955.

He was reunited with Betty Grable in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955).

The Bob Cummings Show

From 1955 through 1959, Cummings starred on a successful NBC sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show (known as Love That Bob in reruns), in which he played Bob Collins, a former World War II pilot who became a successful professional photographer. As a bachelor in 1950s Los Angeles, the character considered himself quite the ladies' man. This sitcom was noted for some very risqué humor for its time. A popular feature of the program was Cummings' portrayal of his elderly grandfather. His co-stars were Rosemary DeCamp as his sister, Margaret MacDonald, Dwayne Hickman, as his nephew, Chuck MacDonald and Ann B. Davis, in her first television success, as his assistant Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz. Cummings also was a guest on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.

1960s

In 1960 Cummings starred in "King Nine Will Not Return", the opening episode of the second season of CBS's The Twilight Zone.

The New Bob Cummings Show followed on CBS for one season, from 1961 to 1962. Cummings is depicted as the owner and pilot of Aerocar N102D and this aircraft was featured on his show. It only lasted 22 episodes.

Cummings returned to films with support roles in My Geisha (1962), written by Krasna. He was top billed in Beach Party (1963) although the film is better remembered today for introducing the teaming of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

He had good roles in The Carpetbaggers (1964) and What a Way to Go! (1964).

In 1964–65 Cummings starred in another CBS sitcom, My Living Doll, which co-starred Julie Newmar as Rhoda the robot. It lasted 26 episodes and Cummings left after 21.

He has supporting roles in Promise Her Anything (1966) and the remake of Stagecoach (1966) (playing the embezzler). He had the lead in Five Golden Dragons (1967) for producer Harry Alan Towers and supported in Gidget Grows Up (1969). He was in another Broadway play, The Wayward Stork which had a short run in early 1966.

Cummings' last significant role was the 1973 television movie Partners in Crime, co-starring Lee Grant.

Later career

During the 1970s for over 10 years Cummings traveled the US performing in dinner theaters and short stints in plays while living in an Airstream Travel Trailer. He relayed those experiences in the written introduction he provided for the book "AIRSTREAM" written by Robert Landau and James Phillippi in 1984.

He also appeared in 1979 as Elliott Smith, the father of Fred Grandy's Gopher on ABC's The Love Boat.

In 1986, Cummings hosted the 15th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World on The Wonderful World of Disney.

Robert Cummings' last public appearance was on The Magical World of Disney episode "The Disneyland 35th Anniversary Special" in 1990.

Personal life

Cummings married five times and fathered seven children. He was an avid pilot and owned a number of airplanes, all named "Spinach." He was a staunch advocate of natural foods and published a book on healthy living, Stay Young and Vital, in 1960.

In 1953 Cummings was sued for damages by a sheriff who had tried to serve him with papers. This was settled in 1954, along with another lawsuit against Cummings by the producer of My Hero, who had been fired.

Despite his interest in health, Cummings was a methamphetamine addict from the mid-1950s until the end of his life. In 1954, while in New York to star in the Westinghouse Studio One production of Twelve Angry Men, Cummings began receiving injections from Max Jacobson, the notorious "Dr. Feelgood." His friends Rosemary Clooney and José Ferrer recommended the doctor to Cummings, who was complaining of a lack of energy. While Jacobson insisted that his injections contained only "vitamins, sheep sperm, and monkey gonads", they actually contained a substantial dose of methamphetamine.

Cummings continued to use a mixture provided by Jacobson, eventually becoming a patient of Jacobson's son Thomas, who was based in Los Angeles, and later injecting himself. The changes in Cummings' personality caused by the euphoria of the drug and subsequent depression damaged his career and led to an intervention by his friend, television host Art Linkletter. The intervention was not successful, and Cummings' drug abuse and subsequent career collapse were factors in his divorces from his third wife, Mary, and fourth wife, Gina Fong.

After Jacobson was forced out of business in the 1970s, Cummings developed his own drug connections based in the Bahamas. Suffering from Parkinson's Disease, he was forced to move into homes for indigent older actors in Hollywood.

Cummings was divorced in 1970. Their communal property was estimated as being worth from $700,000 to $800,000.

Cummings' son, Tony Cummings, played Rick Halloway in the NBC daytime serial Another World in the early 1980s.

Death

On December 2, 1990, Cummings died of kidney failure and complications from pneumonia at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.

He is interred in the Great Mausoleum in the same niche as his parents, Charles C and Ruth Cummings, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Filmography

Robert Cumming and Peggy Moran, Spring Parade (1940).

Stage

  • The Roof (1931)
  • Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 (1934)
  • Faithfully Yours (1951)
  • The Wayward Stork (1966)

Films

  • Seasoned Greetings (1933, short subject) as Lita's Beau / Husband in Sunny Weather Number (uncredited)
  • Sons of the Desert (1933) as Steamship Announcement Witness (uncredited) (credited as "Blade Stanhope Conway")
  • So Red the Rose (1935) as George Pendleton
  • The Virginia Judge (1935) as Jim Preston
  • Millions in the Air (1935) as Jimmy
  • Desert Gold (1936) as Fordyce 'Ford' Mortimer
  • Forgotten Faces (1936) as Clinton Faraday
  • Border Flight (1936) as Lt. Bob Dixon
  • Three Cheers for Love (1936) as Jimmy Tuttle
  • Hollywood Boulevard (1936) as Jay Wallace
  • The Accusing Finger (1936) as Jimmy Ellis
  • Hideaway Girl (1936) as Mike Winslow
  • Arizona Mahoney (1936) as Phillip Randall
  • The Last Train from Madrid (1937) as Juan Ramos
  • Souls at Sea (1937) as George Martin
  • Sophie Lang Goes West (1937) as Curley Griffin
  • Wells Fargo (1937) as Dan Trimball - Prospector
  • College Swing (1938) as Radio Announcer
  • You and Me (1938) as Jim
  • The Texans (1938) as Alan Sanford
  • Touchdown, Army (1938) as Cadet Jimmy Howal
  • I Stand Accused (1938) as Frederick A. Davis
  • Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) as Harry Loren
  • The Under-Pup (1939) as Dennis King
  • Rio (1939) as Bill Gregory
  • Everything Happens at Night (1939) as Ken Morgan
  • Charlie McCarthy, Detective (1939) as Scotty Hamilton
  • And One Was Beautiful (1940) as Ridley Crane
  • Private Affairs (1940) as Jimmy Nolan
  • Spring Parade (1940) as Corporal Harry Marten
  • One Night in the Tropics (1940) as Steve Harper
  • Free and Easy (1941) as Max Clemington
  • The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) as Joe
  • Moon Over Miami (1941) as Jeffrey Boulton
  • It Started with Eve (1941) as Jonathan 'Johnny' Reynolds Jr.
  • Kings Row (1942) as Parris Mitchell
  • Saboteur (1942) as Barry
  • Between Us Girls (1942) as Jimmy Blake
  • Forever and a Day (1943) as Ned Trimble
  • Flesh and Fantasy (1943) as Michael (Episode 1)
  • Princess O'Rourke (1943) as Eddie O'Rourke
  • You Came Along (1945) as Maj. Bob Collins
  • The Bride Wore Boots (1946) as Jeff Warren
  • The Chase (1946) as Chuck Scott
  • Heaven Only Knows (1947) as Michael, aka Mike
  • The Lost Moment (1947) as Lewis Venable
  • Sleep, My Love (1948) as Bruce Elcott
  • Let's Live a Little (1948) as Duke Crawford
  • The Accused (1949) as Warren Ford
  • Reign of Terror aka The Black Book (1949) as Charles D'Aubigny
  • Free for All (1949) as Christopher Parker
  • Tell It to the Judge (1949) as Peter B. 'Pete' Webb
  • Paid in Full (1950) as Bill Prentice
  • The Petty Girl (1950) as George Petty aka Andrew 'Andy' Tapp
  • For Heaven's Sake (1950) as Jeff Bolton
  • The Barefoot Mailman (1951) as Sylvanus Hurley
  • The First Time (1952) as Joe Bennet
  • Marry Me Again (1953) as Bill
  • Lucky Me (1954) as Dick Carson
  • Dial M for Murder (1954) as Mark Halliday
  • How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955) as Fillmore 'Wedge' Wedgewood
  • My Geisha (1962) as Bob Moore
  • Beach Party (1963) as Professor Sutwell
  • The Carpetbaggers (1964) as Dan Pierce
  • What a Way to Go! (1964) as Dr. Victor Stephanson
  • Promise Her Anything (1966) as Dr. Philip Brock
  • Stagecoach (1966) as Henry Gatewood
  • Five Golden Dragons (1967) as Bob Mitchell

Television

  • My Hero (1951–1952) as Robert S. Beanblossom
  • Justice ("The Crisis") (1954)
  • Disneyland (1954) as Himself
  • Studio One in Hollywood (1954–1956) as George Lumley / Juror #8
  • The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show ("A Marital Mix-Up") (1957) as Bob Collins / Bob Cummings
  • General Electric Theater ("Too Good with a Gun") (1957) as Russ Baker
  • The Bob Cummings Show (1955–1959) as Bob Collins / Grandpa Josh Collins / Josh Collins
  • The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957–1960) ("The Ricardos Go To Japan") (1959) as Himself
  • The Twilight Zone ("King Nine Will Not Return") (1960) as Capt. James Embry
  • Zane Grey Theater ("The Last Bugle") (1960) as Lt. Charles Gatewood
  • The New Bob Cummings Show (1961–1962) as Bob Carson
  • My Living Doll (1964–1965) as Dr. Robert McDonald
  • The Flying Nun ("Speak the Speech, I Pray You") (1969) as Father Walter Larson
  • Gidget Grows Up (1969) as Russ Lawrence
  • Love, American Style (1969–1973) as Walding (segment "Love and the Secret Spouse") / Grandpa (segment "Love and the Second Time") / Bert Palmer (segment "Love and the Pill")
  • Hollywood Squares (1970) as Guest Appearance
  • Green Acres ("Rest and Relaxation") (1970) as Mort Warner
  • Here Come the Brides ("The She-Bear") (1970) as Jack Crosse
  • Bewitched ("Samantha and the Troll") (1971) as Roland Berkley
  • Partners in Crime (1973) as Ralph Elsworth
  • The Love Boat ("Third Wheel/Grandmother's Day/Second String Mom") (1979) as Eliott Smith
  • Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color ("Walt Disney World's 15th Anniversary Celebration") (1986) as Host / Narrator / Himself
  • Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Special (1990) as Himself

Radio

  • Screen Directors Playhouse ("Bachelor Mother" (1951)
  • Cavalcade of America ("Going Up") (1952)
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Early life Acting career World War II Postwar career Television career 1960s Later career Personal life Death Filmography
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