Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings (June 9, 1910 – December 2, 1990), mostly known professionally as Robert Cummings but sometimes as Bob Cummings, was an American film and television actor.
Cummings performed mainly in comedies, but was effective in his few dramas, especially two Alfred Hitchcock films, Saboteur (1942) and Dial M for Murder (1954).
Early life and career
Bob 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 inWebb 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 3 March 1927. During high school, Cummings gave Joplin residents rides in his plane 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 Technologyin 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.
He studied drama for two years before appearing on Broadway in 1931. As British actors were heavily 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 anEnglishman.
In 1933, he met and married his second wife, the actress Vivian Janis. They were both appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies, with Cummings as the male lead opposite comedian Fanny Brice. In 1934, he moved to Hollywood, where he acted at first under the name Bruce Hutchens, having assumed the persona of a wealthy Texan. He made his film debut the following year in The Virginia Judge.
Cummings then began to use his own name, acting throughout the 1930s as a contract player in a number of supporting roles.
Robert Cummings in the trailer forSaboteur
He achieved stardom in 1939 in Three Smart Girls Grow Up, opposite Deanna Durbin. His many film comedies include: The Devil and Miss Jones(1941) with Jean Arthur, and The Bride Wore Boots (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck and Moon Over Miami (1941).
Cummings gave memorable performances in three notable dramas. In Kings Row (1942), he played the lead role Parrish Mitchell alongside friend Ronald Reagan, Claude Rains, Ann Sheridan and an all-star cast. In spite of its mixed critical reaction, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture.
Robert Cummings also starred in the spy thriller Saboteur (1942) with Priscilla Lane and Norman Lloyd. He played Barry Kane, an Aricraft worker wrongfully accused of murder, trying to clear his name.
He appeared in another Hitchcock film: Dial M for Murder (1954), in which he played Mark Halliday with Grace Kelly and Ray Milland. The film was a box-office smash. Cummings also starred in You Came Along (1945), which featured 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.
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's flying experience. However, director William A. Wellman overruled Wayne and hired Robert Stack for the part.
Cummings made his mark in the CBS Radio network's dramatic serial entitled 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.
World War II
In November 1942, Cummings joined the United States Army Air Corps. 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. For a time he was the owner of aPorterfield 35-70 aircraft, named "Spinach", which is still airworthy in the USA.
Cummings began a long career on television in 1952, starring in the comedy My Hero. He received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his portrayal of "Juror Number Eight," in the first televised performance of Twelve Angry Men, a live production which aired in 1954 (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.
From 1955 through 1959, Cummings starred on a successful NBC sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show (list of episodes) (known as Love That Bob in reruns), in which he played Bob Collins, an ex-World War II pilot who became a successful professional photographer. As a bachelor in 1950's Los Angeles, the character Bob Collins considered himself to be quite the ladies' man. This sitcom was noted for some very risque 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, and Dwayne Hickman, as his nephew, Chuck MacDonald. Cummings also was a guest on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood.
Bob Cummings and Julie Newmar in a publicity still for My Living Doll
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 (list of episodes) followed on CBS for one season, from 1961 to 1962. Cummings is depicted as the owner and pilot ofAerocar N102D and this aircraft was featured on his show.
He also starred in 1964-1965 on another CBS sitcom, My Living Doll (list of episodes), which co-stars Julie Newmar as Rhoda the robot. Cummings' last significant role was the 1973 television movie, Partners in Crime, co-starring Lee Grant. He also appeared in 1979 as Elliott Smith, the father of Fred Grandy's Gopher on ABC's The Love Boat.
In 1986, he hosted the televised 15th Anniversary Celebration of Walt Disney World in Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.
Robert Cummings' last public appearance was on The 35th Anniversary Special of Disneyland in 1990.
Cummings married five times and fathered seven children. He was a staunch advocate of natural foods and a healthy diet and in 1960 authored a book, Stay Young and Vital, which focuses upon health foods and exercise.
Cummings' son, Tony Cummings, played Rick Halloway in the NBC daytime serial Another World in the early 1980s.
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 was interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.