He was known as Bob Cummings.  But for most of his film career he was billed as Robert Cummings.

That was his real name. Though he had tried names such as Blade Stanhope Conway and Bruce Hutchens — in early career efforts to pass himself off as either a Brit or a Texan (certainly not as the Midwesterner he was from Joplin, Missouri) — Robert Cummings was the name that stuck.

Hello again.  Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, back with more reminiscences about Hollywood of old.

He was never in the top tier of leading men, but Cummings had a long and successful career in movies from the 1930s to the 1960s.  AND he was one of the biggest stars on television in its early days.

His best features were for Alfred Hitchcock, 1942’s Saboteur and the 1954 adaptation of Frederick Knott’s mystery drama, Dial M For Murder. He was also featured in King’s Row. 

In Dial M for Murder he plays the straight-shooting Mark Halliday who spares Grace Kelly from her nasty husband, played exquisitely by Ray Milland. If you haven’t seen the picture lately, it’s definitely worth another look.

On television, Cummings was best known for his 1955 comedy sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show, which grew out of an earlier tube show titled Love That Bob. Rarely did a screen actor back then so successfully segue from feature roles into his own TV series.

In 1954, he won an Emmy for his role in a Studio One adaptation of Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men on CBS. Cummings even guest hosted the old Tonight Show on NBC after longtime regular Jack Paar departed and before Johnny Carson arrived.

Cummings was also known for his fastidious health regimen.  In 1951, actress Joan Fontaine recalled sharing a chartered airplane ride with the actor to Brazil.

The plane trip was uneventful except that Bob Cumming’s wrist watch would regularly resound through the plane.  He was a vitamin addict and took his pills every four hours, night and day, awakening the sleeping passengers, Fontaine wrote in her autobiography, No Bed of Roses.

Cummings, the god son of Wilbur Wright, learned to fly at an early age and by 17 had soloed. He became a flight instructor during World War II and remained active in the Air Force Reserves.

The ‘eternally youthful’ actor died in 1990.  He was 80.

 

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