Hume Cronyn, one of five children, was born in London, Ontario, Canada, the son of Hume Blake Cronyn, Sr., a businessman and a Member of Parliament for London (after whom the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory and asteroid (12050) Humecronyn
are named) and Frances Amelia (née Labatt), an heiress of the brewing company of the same name.
Hume Cronyn was the first Elmwood School boarder (at the time Elmwood was called Rockliffe Preparatory School) and boarded at Elmwood between 1917 and 1921. After leaving Elmwood, Cronyn went to Ridley College in St. Catharines, and McGill University in Montreal, where he became a member of The Kappa Alpha Society.
Early in life, Cronyn was an amateur featherweight boxer, having the skills to be nominated for the 1932 Canadian Olympic Boxing Team.
Subsequent to graduating from Ridley College, Cronyn switched majors, from pre-law to drama, while attending McGill University, and continued his acting studies thereafter, under Max Reinhardt and at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1934, he made his Broadway debut as a janitor in Hipper's Holiday and became known for his versatility, playing a number of different roles on stage. He won a Drama Desk Special Award in 1986. In 1990, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
His first Hollywood film was Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). He later appeared in Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) and worked on the screenplays of Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949). He was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance inThe Seventh Cross (1944) and won a Tony Award for his performance as Polonius opposite Richard Burton's Hamlet (1964). Cronyn bought the screenplay What Nancy Wanted from Norma Barzman — later blacklisted with her husband Ben Barzman — with the idea of producing the film and starring Tandy. However, he sold the screenplay to RKO which later filmed it as The Locket (1946). Cronyn also made appearances in television,The Barbara Stanwyck Show, the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Kill With Kindness" (1956) and Hawaii Five-O episodes "Over Fifty, Steal" (1970) and "Odd Man In" (1971).
In 1990 he won an Emmy award for his role in the TV Movie Age Old Friends.
Cronyn and Tandy
Cronyn married the actress Jessica Tandy in 1942, and appeared with her in many of their more memorable dramatic stage, film and TV outings, including The Green Years, The Seventh Cross, The Gin Game, Foxfire, *batteries not included, Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return.
The couple starred in a short-lived (1953–1954) radio series, The Marriage (based on their earlier Broadway play, The Fourposter), playing New York attorney Ben Marriott and his wife, former fashion buyer Liz, struggling with her switch to domestic life and their raising an awkward teenage daughter (future soap opera star Denise Alexander). The show was scheduled to move from radio to television, with Cronyn producing as well as acting in the show. However, Tandy suffered a miscarriage and the show's debut was delayed a week. The series premiered in July 1958 to "warm and enthusiastic reviews." It ran one season.
The couple had a daughter, Tandy, and a son, Christopher. Cronyn and Tandy lived on Children's Bay Cay in the Bahamas, then at a lakeside estate in Pound Ridge, New York, and, finally, in Easton, Connecticut, in a two-story Dutch colonial house on five acres. Jessica Tandy died in 1994.
After he was widowed, Cronyn married author/playwright Susan Cooper (with whom he had co-written Foxfire) in July 1996. His 1991 autobiography was titled A Terrible Liar).
In 1988, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. Cronyn was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 1999. He died in 2003 of prostate cancer, aged 91.