Charles Clarence Robert Orville 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.
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.
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 with Henry Hull which ran from October to November 1931.
He had a small role in Sons of the Desert (1933) and in the musical short Seasoned Greetings (1933).
In 1934, he changed his name to "Brice Hutchens", having assumed the persona of a wealthy Texan. He appeared under this name in Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 which ran from January to June in 1934.
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 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' pictures. He had a small role in an 'A' picture, 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, once thought to be worthless, which was left to them by Cummings' father.
He left Paramount to play the lead in a crime movie for Republic, I Stand Accused (1938).
He supported 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1945 he starred in You Came Along (1945) for Hal B. 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 at the box office. Sleep, My Love (1948) was more successful; another noir, directed by Douglas Sirk.
Cummings formed his own company, United California Productions. Its first film, Let's Live a Little (1948) was a romantic comedy with Hedy Lamarr, and was released through United Artists. Cummings announced a series of projects: Ho the Fair Wind from a novel by IAR Wylie, The Glass Heart by Mary Holland, Poisonous Paradise (a docu-drama for which some footage had been shot called Jungle), Password to Love by Howard Irving Young, and a remake of Two Hearts in Three Quarter Time. Cummings was also trying to interest Norman Krasna into writing the story of 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. Eagle Lion was co-produced by Cummings' company.
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.
Cummings was one of the four stars featured in the short-run radio version of Four Star Playhouse.
Cummings began a long career on television in 1952, starring in the comedy My Hero (1952–53) which ran for 33 episodes.
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.
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 hosts on ABC's live broadcast of the opening day of Disneyland on July 17, 1955, along with Ronald Reagan and Art Linkletter. On that day, during ABC's live broadcast of the grand opening of Disneyland in 1955, Bob Cummings realized the camera was on him, when, just moments before, he'd been passionately embracing the young woman in a bonnet with the stricken look on  her face.
He was reunited with Betty Grable in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955).
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.
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 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.
In 1964, he was a guest star as a beauty pageant judge in The Beverly Hillbillies episode titled "The Race for Queen." He was credited as Robert Cummings.
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.
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[why?] 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.
In 1970, when Cummings divorced his third wife, former actress Mary Elliott, their communal property was estimated as being worth from $700,000 to $800,000 ($4.4 to $5.0 million today).
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.
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