Charles Clarence Robert Orville Cummings, known professionally as Robert Cummings but sometimes as Bob Cummings, was an American film and television actor.
Cummings performed mainly in comedies, but was effective in his few dramas, especially two Alfred Hitchcock films, Saboteur (1942) and Dial M for Murder (1954).
Bob Cummings was born in Joplin, Missouri, a son of Dr. Charles Clarence Cummings and his wife Ruth Annabelle Kraft. His father was a surgeon, who was part of the original medical staff of St. John's Hospital in Joplin. He was the founder of the Jasper County Tuberculosis Hospital in Webb City, Missouri. Cummings' mother was an ordained minister of the Science of Mind.
While attending Joplin High School, Cummings was taught to fly by his godfather, Orville Wright. His first solo was on 3 March, 1927. During high school Cummings would give Joplin residents rides in his plane for $5 per person. When the government began licensing flight instructors, Cummings was issued flight instructor certificate number 1, making him the first official flight instructor in the United States.
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 being forced to drop out for financial reasons, his family having lost heavily in the 1929 stock market crash. Since the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City paid its male actors $14 a week, Cummings decided to study there.
He studied drama for two years before appearing in Broadway in 1931. As British actors were heavily in demand, Cummings traveled to England and learned to mimic an upper-class English accent. He had a brief career on Broadway under the name Blade Stanhope Conway, posing as an Englishman.
In 1933, he met and married his second wife, Vivian Janis. They were both appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies, with Cummings as the male lead opposite comedian, Fanny Brice. In 1934, he moved to Hollywood, where he acted at first under the name Bruce Hutchens, assuming the persona of a wealthy Texan. He made his film debut the following year in The Virginia Judge.
Cummings then decided to use his own name, acting throughout the 1930s as a contract player in a number of supporting roles.
He achieved stardom in 1939 in Three Smart Girls Grow Up, opposite Deanna Durbin. His many film comedies include: The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) with Jean Arthur, and The Bride Wore Boots (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck. Cummings gave memorable performances in three notable dramas: Kings Row (1942) with friend Ronald Reagan, Saboteur (1942) with Priscilla Lane and Norman Lloyd, and Dial M for Murder (1954), with Grace Kelly and Ray Milland. Cummings also starred in You Came Along (1945), which featured a screenplay by Ayn Rand. The Army Air Forces pilot Cummings played ("Bob Collins") died off camera, but was resurrected ten years later for his television show.
Cummings made his mark in the CBS Radio network's dramatic serial entitled 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.
In November 1942, Cummings joined the United States Army Air Corps. During the war he served as a flight instructor. Cummings had worked as a flight instructor for many years prior to the war. He was, in fact, the first certified flight instructor in the United States, having gained certification in 1938. After the war, Cummings served as a pilot in the United States Air Force Reserve.
Cummings began a long career on television in 1952, starring in the comedy My Hero. He received an Emmy award for his portrayal of "Juror Number Eight," in the first televised performance of Twelve Angry Men, a live production which aired in 1954 (Henry Fonda played the same role in the feature film adaptation). Cummings was one of the anchors on ABC's live broadcast of Disneyland's opening day in 1955.
From 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, an ex-World War II pilot who became a successful professional photographer, and as a bachelor in 1950's Los Angeles, thought himself to be quite the ladies' man. This sitcom was noted for some very risque humor for its time. His co-stars were Rosemary DeCamp, as his sister, Margaret MacDonald, and Dwayne Hickman, as his nephew, Chuck MacDonald. Cummings also was a guest on the NBC interview program Here's Hollywood. He also made an appearance at Disneyland's grand opening on July 17, 1955.
The New Bob Cummings Show followed on CBS for one season, from 1961 to 1962. He also starred one season in My Living Doll which co-stars Julie Newmar as Rhoda the robot (1964), another CBS sitcom. His last significant role was the 1973 TV movie Partners in Crime, co-starring Lee Grant. He also appeared as Gopher's dad Eliott Smith on The Love Boat in 1979.
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. He was interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.