Hume Cronyn was a multi-Emmy and Tony award-winning
actor whose stage and screen career endured more
than 60 years.
Hume, along with his actress wife, Jessica Tandy,
comprised one of the more celebrated husband-and-wife
acting teams of the twentieth century. His notable
films include, Cocoon (1985), Cleopatra (1963),
The Seventh Cross (1944), and Shadow of a Doubt (1943).
He was also a noted writer, playwright, producer,
Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn
Biographical fast facts
Full or original name at birth: Hume Blake Cronyn, Jr. *
Date and place of birth: July 18, 1911,
Woodfield, Queens Avenue, London, Ontario, Canada
Date, place and cause of death: June 15, 2003,
Fairfield, Connecticut, U.S.A. (Prostate cancer)
Spouse: Emily Woodruff (m. summer of 1935 - 1936) (divorced)
Wedding took place at the Marble Collegiate Church, 1 West 29th Street
(Fifth Avenue and West 29th Street), New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Spouse: Jessica Tandy (m. September 27, 1942 - September 11, 1994) (her death)
Wedding took place at the Beverly Vista Community Church, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A.
Spouse: Susan Cooper (m. July 1996 - June 15, 2003) (his death)
Son: Christopher Hume Cronyn (b. July 22, 1943, Los Angeles, California)
Daughter: Tandy Cronyn (b. November 26, 1945, Los Angeles, California)
Stepdaughter: Susan Hawkins (later, Susan Cronyn)
Note: Susan Phyllida Hawkins is Jessica Tandy's daughter by her
first husband, actor Jack Hawkins. Susan took Cronyn's name at
the age of 12.
Siblings**: Richard Hume Cronyn (known as Dick Cronyn), and Verse Cronyn (brothers)
Katherine Cronyn, and Honor Cronyn (sisters)
Father: Hume Blake Cronyn, Sr. (b. August 28, 1864,
London, Ontario, Canada - d. June 19, 1933, London, Ontario, Canada,
of cerebral sclerosis and epilepsy)
Mother: Frances Amelia Labatt (d. 1941, of cancer)
Error corrections or clarifications
* Blake was his middle name, not his
last name as a few sources mistakenly claim.
** Some sources erroneously report he was one of "three" children
born to Hume Cronyn, Sr. and Frances Labatt. Hume was actually
one of five Cronyn kids.
NOTE: Several reports, including a couple of his obituaries,
erroneously report he won an Emmy Award for his work opposite
Fred Savage in the 1991 television movie, Christmas on Division
Street. He was certainly nominated for an Emmy in the
category of outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or
special, but did not win for that TV-movie.
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
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
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
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
Cronyn spent much of World War II directing, producing and appearing
in many productions for allied servicemen at United Service Organizations
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
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
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
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) Cleopatra (1963) The Parallax View (1974) Honky Tonk Freeway (1981) The World According to Garp (1982) Cocoon (1985)
*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) Golden Boy 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) Hamlet (1964) 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) Foxfire (1987) 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)
Television series: The Marriage (1954) (actor and producer)
Selected TV guest appearances: The Ed Sullivan Show Studio One The Ford Theatre Hour Suspense Omnibus The Kaiser Aluminum Hour General Electric Theater Alfred Hitchcock Presents Naked City Hawaii Five-O
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
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
The most in-depth of more than three dozen sources
consulted in preparing this profile, was
his 1991 autobiography, A Terrible Liar.
NOTE: The title of Hume Cronyn's autobiography,
A Terrible Liar, 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 . . ."
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