Robert Cummings

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]

Robert Cummings
Robert Cummings, 1956
Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings

(1910-06-09)June 9, 1910
DiedDecember 2, 1990(1990-12-02) (aged 80)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California
Other namesBob Cummings
Blade Stanhope Conway
Bryce Hutchens
Alma materAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active1931–1990
Political partyRepublican
  • Emma Myers
    (m. 1931; div. 1933)
  • Vivi Janiss
    (m. 1933; div. 1945)
  • Mary Elliott
    (m. 1945; div. 1970)
  • Gina Fong
    (m. 1971; div. 1987)
  • Martha Burzynski (m. 1989)

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 and 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][8]

Cummings became interested in acting while performing in plays at Carnegie Tech and decided to pursue that as a career.[9] Since the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City paid its male actors $14 a week, Cummings decided to study there.[10] He only stayed one season but later said he learned "three basic principles of acting. The first - never anticipate; second - take pride in my profession. And third - trust in God. And that last is said in reverence."[11]

Acting career

Blade Stanhope Conway

Cummings started looking for work in 1930, but was unable to find any roles, forcing him to get a job in a theatrical agency.[5] Seeing that at the time, "three quarters of Broadway plays were from England"[12] and English accents and actors were in demand, Cummings decided to cash in an insurance policy and buy a round trip to Britain.[13]

He was driving a motorbike through the country, picking up the accent and learning about the country. His bike broke down at Harrogate. While waiting for repairs, Cummings came up with a plan. He invented the name "Blade Stanhope Conway" and bribed the janitor of a local theatre to put on the marquee: "Blade Stanhope Conway in Candida". He then got a photograph taken of himself standing in front of this marquee, and did 80 prints. In London, he outfitted himself with a new wardrobe and did up a letter introducing the actor-author-manager-director "Blade" of Harrogate Repertory Theatre, and sent it off to 80 New York theatrical agents and producers.[12]

Cummings arrived in New York and managed to obtain several meetings.[10][5]

One of the producers to whom he sent letters, Charles Hopkings, cast him in a production of The Roof by John Galsworthy, playing the role of the Hon. Reggie Fanning. Also in the cast was Henry Hull.[14] The play ran from October to November 1931 and Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times listed "Conway" as among the cast who provide "some excellent bits of acting."[15]

In November 1932, "Conway" replaced Edwin Styles in the Broadway revue Earl Carroll's Vanities.[16] He had studied song and dance by correspondence course.[17]

Cummings later encouraged an old drama school classmate, Margaret Kies, to use a similar deception - she became the "British" Margaret Lindsay.[9] He later said pretending to be Conway broke up his first marriage, to a girl from Joplin. "She couldn't stand me."[18]

He was an extra in Sons of the Desert (1933)[19] and in the musical short Seasoned Greetings (1933).

Bryce Hutchens

Cummings decided to change his approach, when in the words of one report, "suddenly the bottom dropped out of the John Bull market; almost overnight, demand switched from Londoners to lassoers."[12]

In 1934, Cummings changed his name to "Bryce Hutchens".[10][5][20] He appeared under this name in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, which ran from January to June in 1934.[21][22] He had a duet with Vivi Janiss, a native of Nebraska, with whom he sang "I Like the Likes of You".[23] Cummings and Janiss went with the show when it went on tour after the Broadway run, and they married towards the end of the tour.[8]


The tour of Ziegfeld ended in Los Angeles in January 1935. Cummings enjoyed the city and wanted to move there.[24][8] He returned to New York, but then heard King Vidor was looking for Texan actors for So Red the Rose (1935) and auditioned pretending to be Texan. He practised his Texan accent by listening to cowboy bands on the radio.[12]

The ruse was exposed, but Vidor cast him anyway, under his real name.[17][25][13] (Reviewing the film later, the New York Times said Cummings "does a fine bit" and "has the only convincing accent in the whole film."[26])

He followed it with a part in Paramount's The Virginia Judge (1935).[27] In July, the studio signed Cummings to a long-term contract.[28] Before his first two Paramount films had even been released, he was given a leading part in Millions in the Air (1935).[5][29]

Cummings had a good role in the Western Desert Gold (1936) then was given leads in Forgotten Faces (1936) and Three Cheers for Love (1936),[30] He was also in Beyond Flight (1936), Hollywood Boulevard (1936), The Accusing Finger (1936), Hideaway Girl (1936), Arizona Mahoney (1936), and The Last Train from Madrid (1937).[31][17]

In the mid 1930s, his mother and he reportedly received $1 million from mining stock, once thought to be worthless, which was left to them by Cummings' father.[32]

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), and College Swing (1938). He had a small role in You and Me (1938) directed by Fritz Lang, and was in The Texans (1938), and Touchdown, Army (1938).

Eventually, Paramount dropped their option on him. "I was poison," he said. "No agent would look at me."[18] In June Paramount announced he would return for King of Chinatown with Anna May Wong but does not appear in the final film.[33] In September he was cast at Republic playing the lead in a crime movie, I Stand Accused (1938). Cummings says it was "a fluke hit. So at least I could get inside the casting agents again."[18]


In November 1938, Cummings auditioned for the romantic lead in Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939), starring Deanna Durbin, for producer Joe Pasternak.[34] He says Pasternak was reluctant to cast him because the producer wanted a musician, but Cummings told him, "I could fake it. I'd had a lot of experience faking things harder than that. He let me try it and he signed me up."[18]

On 21 November Cummings gave Universal an option on a seven-year contract starting at $600 a week, going up to $750 a week the following year, then ultimately up to $3,000 a week.[35] The film was a big success, and in March 1939, Universal took up their option on the actor. Three Smart Girls Grow Up was directed by Henry Koster who called Cummings "brilliant, wonderful. I made five pictures with him. I thought he was the best leading man I ever worked with. He had that marvelous comedy talent and also a romantic quality."[36] Reviewing the film the New York Times said Cummings "displays a really astonishing talent for light comedy - we never should have suspected it from his other pictures."[37]

Pasternak used him again, supporting another singing star, Gloria Jean, in The Under-Pup (1939).[38] (He was meant to reteam with Jean in Straight from the Heart but it appears to have not been made.[39]

In August 1939 Columbia wanted him for the lead in Golden Boy but could not come to terms with Universal.[40]

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). At Universal he had a key role in Charlie McCarthy, Detective (1939) then he was borrowed by MGM to play the lead in a B movie with Laraine Day, And One Was Beautiful (1940).

Back at Universal, Cummings was the romantic male lead in a comedy, Private Affairs (1940), then he romanced Durbin again 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

Cummings and Allan Jones were the two leads of the comedy One Night in the Tropics (1940), but the film was stolen by two comics who had supporting roles, Abbott and Costello.

MGM borrowed Cummings a second time to play opposite Ruth Hussey in Free and Easy (1941). At the same time, he was borrowed by a company established by Norman Krasna and Frank Ross, who were making a comedy from a script by Krasna for release through RKO: The Devil and Miss Jones (1941). Cummings played Jean Arthur's love interest, a union leader, under the direction of Sam Wood. Cummings shot the film at the same time as Free and Easy.[41] Free and Easy lost money for MGM, but Devil and Miss Jones was a critical and commercial success.

20th Century Fox borrowed him for Moon Over Miami (1941), starring Don Ameche and Betty Grable; Fox was willing to postpone the film so Cummings could finish Devil and Miss Jones.[42] In January 1941 Louella Parsons wrote that "is that boy going places in 1941. From the looks of things it's a Cummings year - because all his troubles with Universal are ironed out and almost every studio in town wants to borrow him.[43]

Back at Universal, Pasternak used Cummings as the romantic male lead in It Started with Eve (1941), from a script by Krasna, opposite Deanna Durbin and Charles Laughton.

Meanwhile, Sam Wood was directing an adaptation of the novel Kings Row (1942), over at Warner Bros, where the head of production was Hal Wallis. Wallis did not have any contract players at Warner Bros who were considered ideal for the role of Paris, and after trying desperately to get Tyrone Power tried to borrow Cummings, who had done an impressive test.[44]

However, Cummings was busy on It Started with Eve and the actor had to drop out. Then the schedule was rearranged and Cummings was able to make both films.[45] Production of Kings Row did have to be suspended for a week so Cummings could return to Universal to do reshoots for Eve.[46] Both films were huge successes. Hal Wallis said Cummings "was actually too old for the part" in King's Row "not quite right, but he was helped considerably by an extraordinary support cast."[47]

Back at Universal, 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.[48]

In December 1941, John Chapman said Cummings was among "the most sought-after leading men in town" and was one of his "stars for 1942".[49]

Universal announced Cummings for Boy Meets Baby with Deanna Durbin,[50] which became Between Us Girls (1942) with Diana Barrymore. He filmed it concurrently with a Hal Wallis movie at Warner Bros, and Princess O'Rourke (made 1942, released 1943), Norman Krasna's directorial debut.

Cummings was meant to be in We've Never Been Licked for Walter Wanger at Universal, but it appears to have not been made.[51]

World War II

In December 1941, Cummings joined the fledgling Civil Air Patrol, an organization of citizens and pilots interested in helping support the U.S. war effort. In February 1942, he helped establish Squadron 918-4 located in Glendale, California, at the Grand Central Air Terminal, becoming its first commanding officer. Two weeks later, he and other members of the squadron went in search of the Japanese submarine that had attacked the oil refinery at Goleta, California. During the war, Cummings participated in search and rescue missions, courier missions, and border and forestry patrols around the Western United States. For this work he used his own aircraft, Spinach I, a 1936 Porterfield, and Spinach II, a Cessna 165 Airmaster. The squadron he established still operates as San Fernando Senior Squadron 35 and is based at Whiteman Airport in Pacoima, Los Angeles.

In November 1942, Cummings joined the United States Army Air Forces.[52] 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.[53] 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), but he was effectively off screen for two years.[54]

Suspension from Universal

Cummings was meant to be in Fired Wife with Teresa Wright, Charles Coburn, and Eddie Anderson and a director "comparable with" Leo McCarey. However, when he found out these actors would not be in the film, and the director would be Charles Lamont, he refused to be in it. (Filming began in April 1943 with Robert Paige taking Cummings' role.[55]) Universal put him on suspension for five weeks, refused to give him a new part, or pay his weekly salary of $1,500 after the suspension had been lifted. Cummings notified the studio in May 1943 that he considered himself no longer under contract. In September 1943, Cummings sued the studio for withheld wages of $10,700, also arguing that for some time, Universal tried to put him in minor roles to "run him ragged" and "to teach him a lesson".[56]

In March 1944, the court ruled in Cummings' favor, saying Universal had voided its contract with the actor and owed him $10,700. This decision happened in the same fortnight as another court case involving Olivia de Havilland, which also ruled in the actor's favor.[57][58]

Hal Wallis

Cummings had been considered free of Universal since August 1944. In January 1945 Cummings signed a four-year exclusive contract with Hal Wallis, who had left Warners to become an independent producer.[59] Shortly after he took leave from the Air Force to star in You Came Along (1945) for Hal 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 10 years later for his television show. Cummings was under contract to Wallis for four years.[54][60]

Also for Wallis – who had now moved to Paramount – he did The Bride Wore Boots (1946), a comedy with Barbara Stanwyck. He was announced for Dishonorable Discharge for Wallis from a story by John Farrow, but it appears to have not been made.[61] Neither was Its Love Love Love, which was announced by RKO[62] or Dream Puss, which Wallis announced for Cummings at Paramount.[63]

In 1946, he said, "often I play the boyfriend of a girl young enough to be my daughter. I'm 36 and whenever I start drooping, I run one of my pictures and feel like a kid again."[64]

Around this time, Cummings also said he was more interested in producing and directing and hoped to only act in one film per year.[65]

United California Productions

Cummings had the lead in two films for Nero Films, a company of Seymour Nebenzal and Eugene Frenke, who released through United Artists: a film noir, The Chase (1946) and a Western, Heaven Only Knows (1947).

Cummings decided to form his own company with Frenke and Philip Yordan, United California (at one stage it was known as United World, but the name had to be changed, as it was too close to another company of that name.[66][67]). In December 1946, it was announced that Cummings had signed an exclusive contract with United California Productions, and that the deal with Wallis became to make one film a year for seven years.[68][69] They announced Bad Guy from a script by Yordan.[70] They were also going to do Joe MacBeth[71] (ultimately made by other people).

In 1947, Cummings had reportedly earned $110,000 in the past 12 months.[72]

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. He was meant to follow it The Big Curtain for Edward Alperson at Fox but it was never made.[73]

He did Sleep, My Love (1948), another noir, it was directed by Douglas Sirk and produced by Mary Pickford.

United California eventually brought in manufacturer Frank Hale as partner. 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 for United California: Ho the Fair Wind from a novel by IAR Wylie, The Glass Heart by Mary Holland, Poisonous Paradise (a docudrama for which some footage had been shot called Jungle), Passport 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, to be called Pardon My Accent.[74][75][76]

Cummings did The Accused (1949) for Hal Wallis at Paramount, supporting Loretta Young.

Reign of Terror (1949) was a thriller set in the French Revolution for director Anthony Mann; Eagle Lion co-produced with United California.[77]

He did a comedy at Universal, Free for All (1949).


In July 1949, Cummings signed a three-picture deal with Columbia.[78] He made Tell It to the Judge (1949), with Rosalind Russell, for them. He did one for Wallis at Paramount, Paid in Full (1950) (originally Bitter Victory), then went back to Columbia for The Petty Girl (1950) a musical with Joan Caulfield.

Cummings did announce he would make The Glass Heart for his own company and release through Columbia, but this did not happen.[79]

Cummings supported Clifton Webb in For Heaven's Sake (1950) at Fox, then played a con man in The Barefoot Mailman (1950), his third film for Columbia.

Cummings began working in television, appearing in Sure as Fate ("Run from the Sun") and Somerset Maugham TV Theatre ("The Luncheon").

He was in a Broadway play Faithfully Yours (originally The Philemon Complex), which had a short run in late 1951.[80][81]

At Columbia, he was in The First Time (1952), the first feature directed by Frank Tashlin. On TV, he was in Lux Video Theatre ("The Shiny People", "Pattern for Glory"), Betty Crocker Star Matinee ("Sense of Humor"), and Robert Montgomery Presents ("Lila My Love").

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

He was offered Battle in Spain, the story of El Cid, with Linda Darnell, but turned it down because it was too controversial.[82]

My Hero

Cummings starred in his first regular series on television in the comedy My Hero (1952–53), wherein he played a bumbling real-estate salesman. Cummings also wrote and directed some episodes.[83]

"It's tricky to come up with something every week that's tricky and believable," said producer Don Sharpe. "We hope that eventually the personality of Cummings will become so dominant to the viewer that the plots won't look bad."[84]

The series ran for 33 episodes before, it was reported, Cummings decided to end it and accept other offers.[85] In actual fact, the show had been axed. "After it was dropped, I was as dead as you could possibly get in show business," said Cummings. "I sat in my agent's office one day and heard a top producer tell him on the phone that nobody would buy me."[86] Out of work, he accepted the State Department's invitation to go on a goodwill mission to Argentina.[86] The show earned him an Emmy nomination.[87]

Cummings was in Marry Me Again (1953), at RKO for Tashlin, then went to England to star in another Hitchcock film, Dial M for Murder (1954), playing the lover of Grace Kelly, whose husband Ray Milland tries to kill her. The film was a box-office success.[2][5]

Cummings then supported Doris Day in a musical at Warner Bros, Lucky Me (1954).[88]

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.[89]

Twelve Angry Men

In 1954, he appeared in an original TV play for Westinghouse Studio One written by Reginald Rose and directed by Franklin Schaffner, Twelve Angry Men, alongside actors such as Franchot Tone and Edward Arnold. Cummings played Juror Number Eight, the role taken by Henry Fonda in the feature-film adaptation.[5] Cumming's performance earned him the 1955 Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Single Performance.[90]

Other television appearances included Campbell Summer Soundstage ("The Test Case"), Justice ("The Crisis"), The Elgin Hour ("Floodtide"), and a TV version of Best Foot Forward (1954).

In July 1954, Cummings formed his own production company, Laurel (named after his daughter and the street he lived on, Laurel Way). He intended to make a film called The Damned from a novel by John D. MacDonald directed by Frank Tashlin.[91] No film resulted, but Lauren would make The Bob Cummings Show.[92]

The Bob Cummings Show

From January 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.[5]

Cummings was seen on the show by Nunnally Johnson, who cast him opposite Betty Grable in How to Be Very, Very Popular (1955) at Fox, which turned out to be Grable's last film. Cummings' contract was amended to allow him time off to rehearse and record his show.[93]

Around this time, Cummings said he had made 78 films and, "I always had the feeling I was distinguished for none of them. Hollywood's never been really hot about me. I was always second choice. I used to say to my wife Mary 'Somebody's got to be sick someday - Bill Holden or maybe some boy not even born yet! I used to say 'If I could find another business where I could be successful!."[87]

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, Bob Cummings realized the camera was on him, when, just moments before, he had been passionately embracing the young woman in a bonnet with the stricken look on her face.[94]

Cummings' performance in The Bob Cummings Show earned him another Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Continuous Role in 1956.[95]

He turned down The Heavenly Twins for the Theatre Guild and was mentioned for Bewitched by Charles Bennett in England, but did not do it.[96]

During the series' production, Cummings still found time to play other roles. He returned to Studio One ("A Special Announcement"), and did episodes of General Electric Theater ("Too Good with a Gun"), The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, and Schlitz Playhouse ("One Left Over", "Dual Control").

He was also in "Bomber's Moon" for Playhouse 90 (1958), from a Rod Serling script directed by John Frankenheimer, who said "Bobby's a really fine dramatic actor, but people usually associate him only with comedy. Naturally enough I suppose. Directing an actor like this who feels immediately what the script wants and what the director wants makes you love this business."[97]

"It's a great life, acting," he said in 1959. "I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm a completely content actor."[98]

When the show ended in 1959, Cummings claimed it was his decision, as he was tired and wanted to take a year off. He was also keen to sell the show into syndication. "I don't think I'll do another comedy," he said.[99]

In 1960, Cummings starred in "King Nine Will Not Return", the opening episode of the second season of CBS's The Twilight Zone, written by Serling and directed by Buzz Kulik.

He guested on Zane Grey Theater ("The Last Bugle", directed by Budd Boetticher), The DuPont Show of the Week ("The Action in New Orleans"), The Dick Powell Theatre ("Last of the Private Eyes", co-starring Ronald Reagan), and The Great Adventure ("Plague").

The New Bob Cummings Show

The New Bob Cummings Show followed on CBS for one season, from 1961 to 1962. It was a variation of The Bob Cummings Show with Cummings as the owner and pilot of a plane who gets up to various adventures[100] It only lasted 22 episodes before being cancelled.[101]

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 support roles in two popular films The Carpetbaggers (1964) and What a Way to Go! (1964), and was in Theatre of Stars ("The Square Peg").

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.

My Living Doll

In 1964–65, Cummings starred in another CBS sitcom, My Living Doll, which co-starred Julie Newmar as Rhoda the robot and Jack Mullaney as his friend. After 21 episodes, Cummings asked to be written out of the show.[102] It only lasted five more episodes.

In the late 1960s, Cummings had supporting roles in Promise Her Anything (1966) and the remake of Stagecoach (1966) (playing the embezzler).

Cummings 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.[103] A review in the New York Times said Cummings "is not in top form. He sounded a bit hoarse and somewhat strained. Usually he is a quite acceptible, breezy farceur."[104]

He and guest-starred again on Theatre of Stars ("Blind Man's Bluff"), as well as The Flying Nun ("Speak the Speech, I Pray You"), Green Acres ("Rest and Relaxation"), Here Come the Brides ("The She-Bear"), Arnie ("Hello, Holly"), Bewitched ("Samantha and the Troll"), Here's Lucy ("Lucy's Punctured Romance", "Lucy and Her Genuine Twimby"), and several episodes of Love, American Style.[105]

Cummings' last lead roles on film were in a pair of TV movies, The Great American Beauty Contest (1973) and Partners in Crime (1973).

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.[106]

Cummings had a cameo in Three on a Date (1978) and appeared in 1979 as Elliott Smith, the father of Fred Grandy's Gopher on ABC's The Love Boat.[107]

In 1986, Cummings hosted the 15th-anniversary celebration of Walt Disney World on The Wonderful World of Disney.

In 1987, he said, "I wouldn't mind living until I'm 110. I still swim, do calisthenics, and keep fit. I've never been in hospital, except for a hernia operation at one time. People laugh about my using so many vitamins. When I tell them I take 50 liver pills a day, they look surprised, but whether they laugh or not, the thing works." He added, "I'm retired, I live on a pension" and "if I have a problem I get expert counsel, then ask the opinion of a good psychic."[108]

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. His first marriage was to Emma Myers, a girl from his hometown. His second marriage was to Vivi Janiss, an actress he met while performing in Ziegfeld Follies. His third wife, Mary Elliott, was a former actress and she ran Cummings' business affairs. They separated in 1968 and had a bitter divorce, during the course of which she accused him of cheating on her with his former secretary Regina Fond, and using methamphetamines which she said caused wild mood swings. She also claimed he relied on astrologers and numerologists to make financial decisions with "disastrous" consequences.[109] In 1970, when the divorce was finalized, their communal property was estimated as being worth from $700,000 to $800,000 (equivalent to between $4.5 million and $5.2 million in 2018).[110]


He was an avid pilot and owned a number of airplanes, all named "Spinach."[111] He was a staunch advocate of natural foods and published a book on healthy living, Stay Young and Vital, in 1960.[112]

In May 1948 Hedda Hopper reported that there were four lawsuits against Cummings.[113]

In 1952, Cummings was sued by a writer of My Hero who had been fired. In 1953, Cummings was served with papers concerning the suit by a sheriff; Cummings allegedly assaulted the sheriff and was then sued by the sheriff for damages.[114] Both cases were settled in 1954.[115]

In 1972 he was charged with fraud for operating a pyramid scheme involving his company, Bob Cummings Inc, which sold vitamins and food supplements.[116]

In 1975 he was arrested for being in possession of a blue box used to defraud the telephone company.[117] He avoided trial under the double jeopardy rule.[118]

Drug addiction

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".[119][120] 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.[121]

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.[119]

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.[119]


Cummings had seven children. His son, Tony Cummings, played Rick Halloway in the NBC daytime serial Another World in the early 1980s.

Political affiliation

Cummings was a supporter of the Republican Party.[122]


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.[112]

He is interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.[123]


Stage work

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

Television credits

Radio credits


  1. Oliver, Myrna. "Robert Cummings". Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1990.
  2. Wise and Wilderson 2000, p. 189.
  3. "Robert Cummings | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  5. Christensen 1999, p. 225.
  6. Greenwood 1960, p. 45.
  7. "The Life Story Of: ROBERT CUMMINGS". Voice. 23 (35). Tasmania, Australia. September 2, 1950. p. 4. Retrieved October 12, 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  8. THE LIFE STORY OF robert cummings. (1936, Dec 05). Picture show, 36, 20. Retrieved from
  9. By, P. H. (1937, Aug 29). Greta Garbo and Hepburn used guile. The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from
  10. Lyon et al. 1987, p. 164.
  11. Movie Mills Prove Real Grind, Says 'Old Hand' Bob Cummings: Bob Cummings Describes Screen Actors' Problems Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 1 Oct 1950: E1.
  12. $$Words$$. (1963, Feb 09). WHAT'S IN A NAME? Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  13. Wilkinson, L. A. (1939, Oct 29). HOAXER OF HOLLYWOOD. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  14. "CBC: Life And Times". November 12, 2002. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
  15. BROOKS, B. J. (1931, Oct 31). THE PLAY. New York Times
  16. NEW ROXY THEATRE PLANS ITS OPENING. (1932, Nov 23). New York Times
  17. Shaffer, R. (1936, Oct 18). Bob Cummings is a modern Horatio Alger in Hollywood. Chicago Daily Tribune
  18. By Frederick C Othman United Press, Hollywood Correspondent. (1939, Mar 29). Prize faker finally lands regular job. The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from
  19. "Features".
  20. "LIKEABLE ROBERT CUMMINGS". Voice. 15 (34). Tasmania, Australia. August 22, 1942. p. 3. Retrieved October 12, 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  21. "Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 – Broadway Musical – Original | IBDB".
  22. Bloom. (1934, Oct 14). CLEVER YOUNG FOLKS IN "FOLLIES". Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  23. Tucker 2011, p. 185.
  24. Comic trio will appear. (1935, Jan 23). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  25. 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,
  26. By, A. S. (1935, Nov 28). THE SCREEN. New York Times6
  27. Schallert, E. (1935, Jul 13). D. W. Griffith preparing to film "broken blossoms" for English company. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  28. SCREEN NOTES. (1935, Jul 17). New York Times
  29. 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,
  30. Cummings Groomed For Stellar Parts The Washington Post 26 Apr 1936: AA3.
  31. HARRISON, F. (1936, Feb 13). Hollywood NEWS and GOSSIP. The China Press
  32. Read, Kendall. "Around and about in Hollywood." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Jul 10, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times,
  33. United Artists Allots Wanger $1,500,000 Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (29 July 1938: 15.
  34. (1938, Nov 17). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IkiN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times
  35. Read, K. (1938, Dec 06). Around and about in Hollywood. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  36. Davis, Ronald L. (2005). Just making movies. University Press of Mississippi. p. 8.
  37. THE SCREEN: Deanna Durbin Scores Again in 'Three Smart Girls Grow Up,' By FRANK S. NUGENT. New York Times 18 Mar 1939: 9.
  38. Schallert, E. (1939, May 06). Lead in 'Arizona' looms for Cary Grant. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  39. Gloria Jean's Starring Career to Gain New Zip: Los Angeles Times 13 May 1940: 11.
  40. Verne Sub-Sea Saga Acquires Sudden Life: Cary-Carole Duettino Music Fills Disney Air Gertrude Michael Signs Cummings Bit for 'Boy' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 27 Mar 1939: 18.
  41. By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. (1941, Mar 07). Easy to make a picture, if combination is right. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File) Retrieved from
  42. By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILL (1941, Jan 10). Fox signs don ameche, carole landis and robert cummings for roles in 'miami'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  43. Close-Ups and Long-Shots Of the Motion Picture Scene Parsons', Louella O. The Washington Post 11 Jan 1941: 6.
  44. Louella O. Parsons': Close-Ups and Long-Shots of the Motion Picture Scene The Washington Post 1 May 1941: 12.
  47. Wallis, Hal B.; Higham, Charles (1980). Starmaker : the autobiography of Hal Wallis. Macmillan Pub. Co. p. 101.
  49. Chapman, J. (1941, Dec 28). THE STARS OF 1942! Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  50. By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1942, Jan 10). Article 12 -- no title. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  51. By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1942, Oct 03). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times
  52. Ashbu 2006, p. 265.
  53. "Cummings, Robert Orville ('Bob'), Capt." Retrieved: March 15, 2015.
  54. CUMMINGS GOING PLACES. (1945, May 20). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  55. By Telephone to THE NEW YORK TIMES. (1943, Apr 16). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  56. ACTOR ROBERT CUMMINGS SUES OVER'MINOR ROLES'." Los Angeles TimesSep 24, 1943, pp. 13, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times,
  57. By, FRED S. "HOLLYWOOD MULLS COURT DECISIONS." New York Times Mar 26, 1944, pp. 1
  58. "United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit - Universal vs Robert Cummings". Internet archive.
  59. SCREEN NEWS: Ida Lupino, Zachary Scott Set for 'Mrs. Carrolls' Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES 25 Jan 1945: 16.
  61. (1945, Jun 01). SCREEN NEWS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  62. Schallert, E. (1946, Jan 09). Pickford, Rogers line up six film subjects. Los Angeles Times
  63. (1946, May 18). PARAMOUNT SIGNS ROBERT CUMMINGS. New York Times
  64. Condon, R. (1946, Jun 09). A kid of thirty-six. Los Angeles Times
  65. Zylstra, F. (1946, Sep 29). Cummings is going places. Chicago Daily Tribune
  66. By, T. F. (1947, Mar 02). SIFTING THE HOLLYWOOD NEWS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  67. (1946, Aug 20). FILM FIRM FORMED BY CHAPLIN'S SON. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  68. Schallert, E. (1946, Dec 02). Jupiter, juno deal on; allied pacts bennett. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  69. Scheuer, P. K. (1946, Dec 12). Bart Marshall signed as fourth star in 'Ivy'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  70. Scheuer, P. K. (1946, Dec 20). Ruth Warrick to star in 'Unguarded Heart'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  71. By THOMAS F BRADY (1947, Feb 06). NEW FILM CONCERN PLANS FIRST MOVIE. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  72. THEATER MOGUL WITH $568,143 TOP '45 EARNER: Betty Grable's $208,000 Leads Women Chicago Daily Tribune 26 Aug 1947: 5
  73. COTTEN TO APPEAR IN SELZNICK FILM: Actor Will Play Dual Role in 'Rupert of Hentzau,' Which Producer Is Remaking By THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 1 Mar 1947: 11.
  74. 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,
  75. Schallert, E. (1948, Jun 07). Actor to star double; 'lydia bailey' on slate. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  76. Schallert, E. (1948, Mar 23). Amdzon luring movies; niesen back in cinema. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  77. (1948, Aug 03). NEWS OF THE SCREEN. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  78. Schallert, E. (1949, Jul 23). 'Song of Norway' film lurking for Jeffreys; John Russell gets lead. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  79. By THOMAS F BRADY (1949, Jul 23). DEBORAH KERR GETS METRO MOVIE LEAD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  80. "Faithfully Yours – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB".
  81. By J.P. SHANLEY. (1951, Jul 19). 'TWO ON AISLE' DUE TO ARRIVE TONIGHT. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  82. Hopper, H. (1952, Jul 02). Looking at Hollywood. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  83. Ames, W. (1952, Nov 08). Cummings' my hero series to debut tonight; pair of grid games for television fans. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  84. By, V. A. (1952, Nov 23). VIDEO FILM FACTORY. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  85. Swirsky, S. (1953, Aug 13). Robert Cummings explains why his TV show is off the air. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  86. Thomas, B. (1958, Jan 12). BOB CUMMINGS SHOW REMAINS RIGHT AT TOP. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  87. Scheuer, P. K. (1955, Apr 03). A TOWN CALLED HOLLYWOOD. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  88. "Hollywood Diary". The World's News (2727). New South Wales, Australia. March 27, 1954. p. 27. Retrieved October 12, 2017 via National Library of Australia.
  89. McGivern 2006, p. 82.
  90. Gobel named top new TV personality. (1955, Mar 08). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  91. 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.
  92. Fink, J. (1956, Dec 08). THE PRESIDENT OF THE CORPORATION SAYS: Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  93. Louella parsons: Bob's already very, very popular. (1955, Jan 29). The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) Retrieved from
  94. Radio, Southern California Public (July 20, 2012). "Disneyland's 1955 opening was a disaster, and why wasn't Cummings fired?". Southern California Public Radio.
  95. Ames, W. (1956, Feb 24). TV 'emmy' nominees named by DeFore; daly emcees eastern awards. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  96. Hopper, H. (1955, Mar 10). Gregory gets rights to novels by Wolfe. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  97. Smith, C. (1958, May 22). THE TV SCENE. Los Angeles Times
  98. By, J. C. (1959, Mar 29). Bob is becoming TV's Dorian Gray. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) Retrieved from
  99. Anderson, R. (1959, Nov 01). Cummings is out to kill a rumor. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  100. Korman, S. (1961, Sep 16). BOB TAKES THE HIGH ROAD. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  101. By, V. A. (1962, Jan 28). NEWS OF TV-RADIO. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  102. By, V. A. (1965, Feb 06). COMEDIANS PLAN TV SERIES IN FALL. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  103. "The Wayward Stork – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB".
  104. Theater: Prime Time TV: Bob Cummings Stars in 'Wayward Stork' By STANLEY KAUFFMANN. New York Times ]20 Jan 1966: 27.
  105. ABC'S WEEKLY PACKAGE OF LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE--IT'S DIFFERENT. (1969, Oct 19). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  106. Airstream by Robert Landau and James Phillippi, published in 1984 by Gibbs M. Smith Inc and Peregrine Smith Books, Salt Lake City
  107. Maltin 1994, p. 189.
  108. Mitchell Smyth, T. S. (1987, Mar 29). Health nut actor heads for 100. Toronto Star Retrieved from
  109. Bob cummings used drug, wife charges. (1969, Oct 29). Chicago Tribune (1963-Current File) Retrieved from
  110. "Robert Cummings Divorced." New York Times (1923-Current file), Jan 16, 1970, pp. 33, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times,
  111. Woog 1991, p. 192.
  112. Flint, Peter B. "Robert Cummings is dead at 82; Debonair actor in TV and films." The New York Times, December 4, 1990.
  113. Hedda Hopper--LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD Los Angeles Times 8 May 1948: 9.
  114. "Robert Cummings Sued for $20,341 by Sherif." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Apr 07, 1953, pp. 2, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune,
  115. "$119,600 Suits Against Robert Cummings Settled." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Aug 04, 1954, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times,
  116. Actor Cummings, Cosmetics Magnate Charged With Fraud Auerbach, Alexander. Los Angeles Times 26 Sep 1972: 3.
  117. Bob Cummings held in telephone fraud Chicago Tribune 17 Dec 1975: 3.
  118. The Myriad Faces of Fraud on the Phone By N.R. KLEINFIELD. New York Times 27 Mar 1978: D1.
  119. Lertzman and Birnes 2013, pp. 83–89.
  120. Bryk, William (September 20, 2005). "Dr. Feelgood". New York Sun.
  121. Lertzman and Birnes 2013, pp. 79–82.
  122. Critchlow 2013, p. 130.
  123. Wilson, Scott (August 19, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 9781476625997 via Google Books.
  124. "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (2): 32–39. Spring 2013.
  125. 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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  • 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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