Hume Cronyn was a multi-Emmy and Tony award-winning actor whose stage and screen career endured more than 60 years.
Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn
Biographical fast facts
Full or original name at birth: Hume Blake Cronyn, Jr. *
Error corrections or clarifications
* Blake was his middle name, not his last name as a few sources mistakenly claim.
The most in-depth of more than three dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was his 1991 autobiography, A Terrible Liar.
Biography - Credits - Hobbies/sidelines - Residences
Hume Cronyn was the son of Hume Blake Cronyn, Sr., a prominent Canadian businessman and Member of Parliament, and Frances "Minnie" Amelia Labatt, of the Labatt brewing company family. He was the youngest member of the affluent family who had played a central role in the religious and civic affairs of the region.
It was as a young boy that Hume picked up his love of fishing. Fly-fishing was long a family tradition, and the many streams and ponds in the area allowed for many youthful adventures. He remained a passionate fisherman for the rest of his life. The only change in adulthood was that his fishing expeditions took place in increasingly exotic locales around the world, and involved not only fly-fishing, but deep sea fishing, and spearfishing.
Acting was certainly not the profession his family would have chosen for Hume. The Cronyn's were church leaders, business titans, and politicians, not actors. It was in his late teens that he became resolute in his desire to pursue an acting career, and abandoned any thought of attaining a law degree.
During the 1931-32 school year, he appeared in amateur productions of, Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Faustus, The Road to Rome, and The Adding Machine, among others. His professional debut came in 1931 at the National Theatre, in Washington, D.C., in a production of Up Pops the Devil. He was paid $15.00 a week to portray a paperboy in the play. His role consisted of just one line, which he promptly forgot in his debut performance.
He joined the Barter Theater Company in Abingdon, Virginia, following his 1934 graduation from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, in New York. Thanks to an inheritance from his father's estate, he was able to add producer to his list of job titles. He next joined the New Jitney Players, a touring company headed by the daughter of Ethel Barrymore.
In October of 1940, he met the woman with whom he'd share the next 54 years of his life. Jessica Tandy was appearing onstage at the Biltmore Theater in a production of Jupiter Laughs. They were married two years later, on September 27th, 1942, at the Beverly Vista Community Church, in Beverly Hills, California. As a result of his inheritance, and a fortuitous investment in the smash hit Life with Father, finances weren't a problem for the young couple.
Cronyn spent much of World War II directing, producing and appearing in many productions for allied servicemen at United Service Organizations (USO) camps.
Their son Christopher came along in 1943, and daughter Tandy Cronyn made her debut in the world in 1945. Hume also had a stepdaughter, Susan Hawkins, who was Jessica Tandy's daughter by her first husband, actor Jack Hawkins. As their family expanded, so did their radio, film, stage, and television careers.
One of his closest and most enduring friendships was to Academy Award-winning writer/producer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. They were godparents to each other's children, and remained close for nearly half a century, until Joe's death in 1993. Arlene Francis and Karl Malden were also close friends of his for more than 50 years.
He and Jessica Tandy starred in The Marriage, which was initially a radio series (1953), and then a live NBC TV series (1954). Just before the television series was set to debut, Jessica Tandy suffered a miscarriage. As if that weren't enough to deal with, during the same period, Hume also learned he was blacklisted. This was a bit baffling since Hume had always avoided direct political actively. As it turned out, Cronyn had knowingly hired a few people who'd been blacklisted, and that resulted in his own blacklisting. It was a short-lived affair though, with few paying heed to his presence on the Hollywood blacklist.
One of many fishing excursions to the Bahamas led to his next great adventure. Hume Cronyn purchased his own private island in the Bahamas. He oversaw the building of a home, and several other structures on Children's Bay Cay. All the concrete, lumber, building materials, and furnishings, had to be brought in by boat. Even though it was back in the late 1940s, one still might imagine the cost of such a venture to be extremely expensive. Hume explained, "Our total commitment to the Crown Land's office--including the required improvement--was about fifteen thousand dollars." Children's Bay Cay wasn't a tiny island. Cronyn estimated it was over a mile long by about half a mile wide at its broadest point. Later, the escalating costs resulting from all the improvements being made on the island necessitated the selling of the impressive art collection he and Jessica Tandy had accumulated. Works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Degas, and Renoir, are but a few of the pieces in the notable collection they sold in 1958.
When Hume and Jess started, there was no phone, no running water, and no electricity on the island. Before they were finished, they'd craved out their own piece of paradise, planting an endless variety of lush tropical plant life, and erecting five buildings. They produced pineapple, grapefruit, mangos, papayas, oranges, limes, and even had their own coconut grove. It was an idyllic home away from home, and the perfect place to indulge his passion for fishing.
They sold their Bahamian island in the mid-1960s, when time constraints severely limited the amount of time they could spend there. They'd enjoyed the island for 18 years, and added priceless memories spent with family and friends.
He continued his distinguished career without missing a beat, even after losing an eye to cancer in 1969.
His multifaceted career includes screenplay adaptations of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948), and Under Capricorn (1949), several short stories, and he co-wrote the television adaptation of The Dollmaker (1984), and Foxfire (1987). In addition to countless stage performances, he produced and directed several plays. Cronyn was a perfectionist when it came to his work. "Perfectionism is a terrible burden. It's a drive I wish I didn't have," he once admitted. He would often agonize over the smallest detail involving the characters he played. But the resulting performance usually made it worth the struggle.
Over the years, he received several Tony Award nominations, winning one for his work in 1964's Hamlet. He also collected a Special Lifetime Achievement Tony in 1994, along with his wife Jessica Tandy. He was nominated for an Academy Award as best actor in a supporting role for 1944's The Seventh Cross, starring Spencer Tracy. The first of his three Emmy Awards was given for outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or special, for 1989's Age-Old Friends. He earned his second Emmy as outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or special, for 1992's Broadway Bound. His performance in the 1993 CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of, To Dance With the White Dog, landed him his third, and final Emmy Award, this time in the category of outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or special.
His autobiography, A Terrible Liar, was published in 1991. The title is not a reference to any personal aversion to the truth, but an acknowledgment that, "memory can be a judicious editor, omitting trial and tribulation. It can also be a terrible liar . . ."
Selected film credits:
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) (his motion picture debut)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
The Seventh Cross (1944)
A Letter for Evie (1945)
The Green Years (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Brute Force (1947)
Sunrise at Campobello (1960)
The Parallax View (1974)
Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)
The World According to Garp (1982)
*batteries not included (1987)
Cocoon: The Return (1988)
The Pelican Brief (1993)
Marvin's Room (1996)
Selected stage credits:
Up Pops the Devil (his 1931 stage debut at the National Theatre, in Washington, D.C.)
Hipper's Holiday (his Broadway debut in 1934)
She Stoops to Conquer (1935)
The Poor of New York (1935)
Three Men on a Horse (1935-1936)
Boy Meets Girl
Room Service (1937)
High Tor (1937)
There's Always a Breeze (1938)
Escape This Night (1938)
Off to Buffalo (1939)
Three Sisters (1939)
Retreat to Pleasure (1940-1941)
Mr. Big (1941)
Portrait of a Madonna (1946) (director)
The Survivors (1948)
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (1950) (actor and director)
Hilda Crane (1950) (actor and director)
The Little Blue Light (1951)
The Fourposter (about 650 performances beginning in 1951)
Madam Will You Walk (1953) (actor and director)
Face to Face (1954 national tour)
A Day By The Sea (1955)
The Honeys (1955)
The Man in the Dog Suit (on tour in 1957, on Broadway in 1958)
The Egghead (1957) (director)
Triple Play (1959) (actor, producer and director)
Big Fish, Little Fish (1961)
The Miser (1963, 1965, and 1968)
Death of a Salesman (1963)
The Physicists (1964)
Slow Dance on the Killing Ground (1964-65) (co-producer)
A Delicate Balance (1966)
Hadrian VII (1969)
Promenade, All! (1972)
The Many Faces of Love (1976)
The Gin Game (1977-78) (actor and co-producer)
Foxfire (1981, 1982-83, and 1985)
The Petition (1986)
Selected TV-movies/Miniseries/Miscellaneous TV:
The Dollmaker (1984)
Age-Old Friends (1989)
Christmas on Division Street (1991)
Broadway Bound (1992)
Horton Foote's Alone (1997)
12 Angry Men (1997)
Santa and Pete (1999)
Off Season (2001)
The Marriage (1954) (actor and producer)
Selected TV guest appearances:
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ford Theatre Hour
The Kaiser Aluminum Hour
General Electric Theater
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Ridley College, Ontario, Canada
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
Junior, Peewee, the Runt, Jay, and Fatso.
Fishing, diving, boating, art collecting, and in his early years, featherweight boxing, golf, and skiing.
Residences of Hume Cronyn:
Note that these residences may no longer exist, and it's possible the addresses have changed over the years. This is not to suggest that Hume owned each and every one of these structures. We're only reporting the fact that he called them home at one point or another in his life.
Woodfield, Queens Avenue, London, Ontario, Canada
Rockmont, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada
Chateau Apartments, Sherbrooke Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
East 44th Street, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
423 North Rockingham Avenue, Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Riverside Terrace, between 58th and 59th Streets, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Westbourne, Cable Beach, Nassau, Bahamas
Children's Bay Cay, Bahamas
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