Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings (June 9, 1910 – December 2, 1990),[1] 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).[2] 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.[1] The motion picture star is at 6816 Hollywood Boulevard, the television star is on 1718 Vine Street.[3]

Early life

Cummings was born in Joplin, Missouri, a son of Dr. Charles Clarence Cummings and the former Ruth Annabelle Kraft.[4] 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.[5] Cummings' mother was an ordained minister of the Science of Mind.[4]

While attending Joplin High School, Cummings was taught to fly by his godfather, Orville Wright, the aviation pioneer.[2] His first solo was on March 3, 1927.[6] During high school, Cummings gave Joplin residents rides in his aircraft for $5 per person.[5] 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.[6][7]

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.[5] Since the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City paid its male actors $14 a week, Cummings decided to study there.[8]

Acting career

Cummings studied drama for two years before appearing on Broadway in 1931.[5]

Blade Stanhope Conway

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.[8][5] His credits include The Roof by John Galsworthy with Henry Hull which ran from October to November 1931.[9]

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.[10]

He had a small role in Sons of the Desert (1933) and in the musical short Seasoned Greetings (1933).

Bruce Hutchens

In 1934, he changed his name to "Brice Hutchens", having assumed the persona of a wealthy Texan.[8][5][11] He appeared under this name in Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 which ran from January to June in 1934.[12]


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).[13]

He had his first major role in Millions in the Air (1935).[5][14]

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.[15]

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


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

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).

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.[16] He won.[17]

World War II

In November 1942, Cummings joined the United States Army Air Forces.[18] During World War II, he served as a flight instructor.[2][5] After the war, Cummings served as a pilot in the United States Air Force Reserve, where he achieved the rank of Captain.[19] 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 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.[20]

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.[21]

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.

There were 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.[22]

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 a musical at Warners, Lucky Me (1954).[23]

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.[24]

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.[2][5]

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.[25] 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.)[5]

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 [1] her face.[26]

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.[citation needed] 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.[5]


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.[27] 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.[28]

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.

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.[29]

He also appeared in 1979 as Elliott Smith, the father of Fred Grandy's Gopher on ABC's The Love Boat.[30]

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."[31] He was a staunch advocate of natural foods and published a book on healthy living, Stay Young and Vital, in 1960.[32]

In 1953 Cummings was sued for damages[why?] by a sheriff who had tried to serve him with papers.[33] This was settled in 1954, along with another lawsuit against Cummings by the producer of My Hero, who had been fired.[34]

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."[35][36] 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.[37]

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.[35]

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.[35]

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).[38]

Cummings was a supporter of the Republican Party.[39]

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.[32]

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.[40][41][42]


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

Stage work

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

Television credits

Radio credits



  1. ^ a b Oliver, Myrna. "Robert Cummings". Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1990.
  2. ^ a b c d Wise and Wilderson 2000, p. 189.
  3. ^ "Robert Cummings Hollywood Walk of Fame". www.walkoffame.com. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  4. ^ a b FilmReference.com
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Christensen 1999, p. 225.
  6. ^ a b Greenwood 1960, p. 45.
  7. ^ "The Life Story Of: ROBERT CUMMINGS". Voice. 23, (35). Tasmania, Australia. 2 September 1950. p. 4. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  8. ^ a b c Lyon et al. 1987, p. 164.
  9. ^ "CBC: Life And Times". CBC.ca. November 12, 2002. Retrieved July 25, 2012. 
  10. ^ Tucker 2011, p. 185.
  11. ^ "LIKEABLE ROBERT CUMMINGS". Voice. 15, (34). Tasmania, Australia. 22 August 1942. p. 3. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/ziegfeld-follies-of-1934-11815
  13. ^ By, Paul H. "Greta Garbo and Hepburn used Guile." The Washington Post (1923-1954), Aug 29, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, https://search.proquest.com/docview/150943442.
  14. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. "Luise Rainer and William Powell, "Escapade" Stars, United for "Ziegfeld"." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Aug 26, 1935, pp. 19, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/163390829.
  15. ^ Read, Kendall. "Around and about in Hollywood." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Jul 10, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/164766154.
  16. ^ ACTOR ROBERT CUMMINGS SUES OVER'MINOR ROLES'." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Sep 24, 1943, pp. 13, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/165469900.
  17. ^ By, FRED S. "HOLLYWOOD MULLS COURT DECISIONS." New York Times (1923-Current file), Mar 26, 1944, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/106872448.
  18. ^ Ashbu 2006, p. 265.
  19. ^ "Cummings, Robert Orville ('Bob'), Capt." Togetherweserved.com. Retrieved: March 15, 2015.
  20. ^ THEATER MOGUL WITH $568,143 TOP '45 EARNER: Betty Grable's $208,000 Leads Women Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 26 Aug 1947: 5
  21. ^ By A.H. WEILER. "BY WAY OF REPORT." New York Times (1923-Current file), Oct 17, 1948, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/108258717.
  22. ^ https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/faithfully-yours-1966
  23. ^ "Hollywood Diary". The World's News (2727). New South Wales, Australia. 27 March 1954. p. 27. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  24. ^ McGivern 2006, p. 82.
  25. ^ Drama: Indie Setups Announced by Cummings, Chandler; Hello, Barry Fitzgerald Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 21 Nov 1955: 41.
  26. ^ http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2012/07/20/27519/disneylands-1955-opening-was-a-disaster-and-why-wa/
  27. ^ Gilmore 2006.
  28. ^ https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/the-wayward-stork-3280
  29. ^ "AIRSTREAM" written by Robert Landau and James Phillippi, published in 1984 by Gibbs M. Smith Inc and Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City
  30. ^ Maltin 1994, p. 189.
  31. ^ Woog 1991, p. 192.
  32. ^ a b Flint, Peter B. "Robert Cummings is dead at 82; Debonair actor in TV and films." The New York Times, December 4, 1990.
  33. ^ "Robert Cummings Sued for $20,341 by Sherif." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Apr 07, 1953, pp. 2, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune, https://search.proquest.com/docview/178434716.
  34. ^ "$119,600 Suits Against Robert Cummings Settled." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Aug 04, 1954, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/166673744.
  35. ^ a b c Lertzman and Birnes 2013, pp. 83–89.
  36. ^ Bryk, William (September 20, 2005). "Dr. Feelgood - The New York Sun". New York Sun. 
  37. ^ Lertzman and Birnes 2013, pp. 79–82.
  38. ^ "Robert Cummings Divorced." New York Times (1923-Current file), Jan 16, 1970, pp. 33, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, https://search.proquest.com/docview/118877797.
  39. ^ Critchlow 2013, p. 130.
  40. ^ "Bob Cummings (1910 - 1990) - Find A Grave Memorial". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  41. ^ "Dr Charles C Cummings (1868 - 1932) - Find A Grave Memorial". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  42. ^ "Ruth Kraft Cummings (1876 - 1950) - Find A Grave Memorial". www.findagrave.com. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  43. ^ "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (2): 32–39. Spring 2013. 
  44. ^ Kirby, Walter (April 27, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved May 9, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read


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