12 July, 2008
Hume Blake Cronyn was a Canadian-American actor of stage, film and screen who enjoyed a long career.
Cronyn, one of five children, was born in London, Ontario, Canada, the son of Frances Amelia (née Labatt), an heiress of the brewing company of the same name, and her husband, Hume Blake Cronyn, Sr,, a businessman and a Member of Parliament for London. His paternal grandfather Verschoyle Cronyn was the son of the Right Reverend Benjamin Cronyn, an Anglican cleric of Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy stock who served as first bishop of the Anglican diocese of Huron, and founder of Huron College from which grew the University of Western Ontario. His great-uncle Benjamin Jr was both a prominent citizen and early mayor of London, Ontario. Benjamin Jr was later indicted for fraud and fled to Vermont. During his tenure in London he built a mansion called Oakwood, which currently serves as the head office of the Info-Tech Research Group. Cronyn was also a cousin of Canadian-born theater producer, Robert Whitehead.
Early in life, Cronyn was an amateur featherweight boxer, having the skills to even be nominated for the 1932 Canadian Olympic Boxing Team.
His family had hoped he would pursue a law career, but subsequent to graduating from Ridley College, Cronyn switched majors, from pre-law to drama, while attending McGill University, and continued his acting studies thereafter, under Max Reinhardt and at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1934, he made his Broadway debut as a janitor in Hipper's Holiday and became known for his versatility, playing a number of different roles on stage.
His first Hollywood film was Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). He later appeared in Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) and was a writer for the screenplays of Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949). He was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance in The Seventh Cross (1944) and won a Tony Award for his performance as Polonius opposite Richard Burton's Hamlet (1964). Cronyn bought the screenplay What Nancy Wanted from Norma Barzman — later blacklisted with her husband Ben Barzman — with the idea of producing the film and starring Tandy. However, he sold the screenplay to RKO which later filmed it as The Locket (1946). Cronyn also made two memorable appearances in television, Alfred Hitchcock Presents Kill with Kindness (1956) and Hawaii Five-O, Over Fifty, Steal (1970).
Cronyn was married to actress Jessica Tandy from 1942 until her death in 1994, and appeared with her in many of their more memorable dramatic stage, film and TV outings, including The Green Years, The Gin Game, Foxfire, *batteries not included, Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return.
The couple even starred in a short-lived (1953–1954) radio series, The Marriage, playing New York attorney Ben Marriott and his wife, former fashion buyer Liz, struggling with her switch to domestic life and their raising an awkward teenage daughter. The show was scheduled to move from radio to television, with Cronyn producing as well as acting in the show.
Cronyn turned up on the infamous Hollywood blacklist for a spell - not because of his own political activity Cronyn was long believed to shy away from political activism - but because he had hired, often without caring about their politics, staff members who had already been blacklisted.
Cronyn re-married in July 1996, to author Susan Cooper. He became an American citizen in 1966.).
He died at the age of 91 of prostate cancer at his home in Fairfield, Connecticut, after having lived for many years in nearby Pound Ridge, New York.