Robert Cummings

For other people named Robert Cummings, see Robert Cummings (disambiguation).
Robert Cummings

Robert Cummings, 1956
Born Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings
(1910-06-09)June 9, 1910
Joplin, Missouri, USA
Died December 2, 1990(1990-12-02) (aged 80)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death Renal failure; pneumonia
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Other names Bob Cummings
Blade Stanhope Conway
Bruce Hutchens
Alma mater American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Occupation Actor
Years active 19311990
Political party Republican[1]
  • Emma Myers (m. 1931–33)
  • Vivi Janiss (m. 1933–45)[2]
  • Mary Elliott (m. 1945–70)
  • Gina Fong (m. 1971–87)[2]
  • Martha Burzynski (m. 1989–90)

Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings, known as Bob Cummings (June 9, 1910 December 2, 1990),[3] 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).[4] 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.[3] The motion picture star is at 6816 Hollywood Boulevard, the television star is on 1718 Vine Street.[5]

Early life

Cummings was born in Joplin, Missouri, a son of Dr. Charles Clarence Cummings and the former Ruth Annabelle Kraft.[6] 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.[7] Cummings' mother was an ordained minister of the Science of Mind.[6]

While attending Joplin High School, Cummings was taught to fly by his godfather, Orville Wright, the aviation pioneer.[4] His first solo was on March 3, 1927.[8] During high school, Cummings gave Joplin residents rides in his aircraft for $5 per person.[7] 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.[8]

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.[7] Since the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City paid its male actors $14 a week, Cummings decided to study there.[2]

Acting career

Cummings studied drama for two years before appearing on Broadway in 1931.[7] 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.[2][7]

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.[9] In 1934, he moved to Hollywood, where he acted at first under the name "Bruce Hutchens", having assumed the persona of a wealthy Texan.[2] He made his film debut the following year in The Virginia Judge.[7]

Cummings then began to use his own name, acting throughout the 1930s as a contract player in a number of supporting roles.[7]

Achieving stardom

Robert Cummings in Saboteur, 1942

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, Moon Over Miami (1941), and The Bride Wore Boots (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck.

Cummings gave memorable performances in three notable dramas. In Kings Row (1942), he played the lead role, Parris 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.

Cummings starred in the spy thriller Saboteur (1942) with Priscilla Lane and Norman Lloyd. He played Barry Kane, an aircraft worker wrongfully accused of espionage, trying to clear his name. Cummings starred in another Hitchcock film, Dial M for Murder (1954), as Mark Halliday, co-starring with Grace Kelly and Ray Milland.

World War II

In November 1942, Cummings joined the United States Army Air Forces.[10] During World War II, he served as a flight instructor.[4][7] After the war, Cummings served as a pilot in the United States Air Force Reserve, where he achieved the rank of Captain.[11] Cummings would play aircraft pilots in several of his postwar film roles.

Postwar stardom

In 1945 he starred in You Came Along (1945), 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.

In 1947, Cummings had reportedly earned $110,000 in the past 12 months.[12]

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.[13]

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 smash.[4][7]

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.[14] However no film resulted.

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

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.[15]

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. 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 that aired in 1954 (Henry Fonda played the same role in the feature film adaptation).[7] Cummings was one of the anchors on ABC's live broadcast of the opening day of Disneyland on July 17, 1955.

In 1955 Cummings announced he was setting up his own production company, Laurel, named after his daughter Laurel Ann .[16] 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 1950s Los Angeles, the character Bob Collins considered himself to be 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.[7]

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 of Aerocar N102D and this aircraft was featured on his show.[17]

In 1964–65 Cummings starred in another CBS sitcom, My Living Doll (list of episodes), which co-starred 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.[18]

In 1986, Cummings 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 Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Special in 1990.

Personal life

Cummings married five times and fathered seven children. He remained an avid aviator and owned a number of planes (all named "Spinach").[19] He was a staunch advocate of natural foods and a healthful diet and in 1960 wrote a book, Stay Young and Vital, which focused upon Health foods and exercise.[20]

Despite his interest in health, Cummings was a methamphetamine addict from the mid-1950s until the end of his life. Cummings began receiving injections from Max Jacobson, the notorious "Dr. Feelgood", in 1954 during a trip to New York to star in the TV production of Twelve Angry Men.[21]

Rose and Cummings' 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.[22]

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 divorce from his third wife Mary, and his divorce from his fourth wife, Gina Fong.[21]

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.[21]

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.[20]

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.[23][24][25]


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







  1. Critchlow 2013, p. 130.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Lyon et al. 1987, p. 164.
  3. 1 2 Oliver, Myrna. "Robert Cummings". Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1990.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Wise and Wilderson 2000, p. 189.
  5. "Robert Cummings | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  6. 1 2
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Christensen 1999, p. 225.
  8. 1 2 Greenwood 1960, p. 45.
  9. Tucker 2011, p. 185.
  10. Ashbu 2006, p. 265.
  11. "Cummings, Robert Orville ('Bob'), Capt." Retrieved: March 15, 2015.
  12. 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
  13. McGivern 2006, p. 82.
  14. 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.
  15. "AIRSTREAM" written by Robert Landau and James Phillippi, published in 1984 by Gibbs M. Smith Inc and Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City
  16. 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.
  17. Gilmore 2006.
  18. Maltin 1994, p. 189.
  19. Woog 1991, p. 192.
  20. 1 2 Flint, Peter B. "Robert Cummings is dead at 82; Debonair actor in TV and films." The New York Times, December 4, 1990.
  21. 1 2 3 Lertzman and Birnes 2013, pp. 83–89.
  22. Lertzman and Birnes 2013, pp. 79–82.
  23. "Bob Cummings (1910 - 1990) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  24. "Dr Charles C Cummings (1868 - 1932) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  25. "Ruth Kraft Cummings (1876 - 1950) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2016-06-27.
  26. "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (2): 32–39. Spring 2013.
  27. Kirby, Walter (April 27, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 48. Retrieved May 9, 2015 via


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  • Gilmore, Susan. "Tired of the commute? All you need is $3.5 million". The Seattle Times, September 5, 2006.
  • Greenwood, James R. "Meet Bob Cummings...Pilot, Actor, Businessman". Flying, 66:3, March 1960, pp. 44–46, 54, 56.
  • Lertzman, Richard A. and William J. Birnes. Dr. Feelgood: The Shocking Story of the Doctor Who May Have Changed History by Treating and Drugging JFK, Marilyn, Elvis, and Other Prominent Figures. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1-62087-589-6.
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  • Woog, Adam. Sexless Oysters and Self-Tipping Hats: 100 Years of Invention in the Pacific Northwest. Sasquatch Books, 1991. ISBN 978-0-91236-547-3.
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