To act you must have a sense of truth and some degree of dedication.

Hume Cronyn was born July 18, 1911, in London, Ontario, Canada. At an early age he took up acting, and attended McGill University to earn his law degree. While he was attending, he became something of an expert boxer, to the point that he was given a spot on the Canadian Olympic boxing team in 1932. However, before he became a prized pugilist, Cronyn dropped out and began acting full-time in the Montreal area. Eventually his career brought him to New York City, where he earned his degree at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After a brief stint at the Mozarteum in Salzburg to refine his acting skills, Cronyn returned to NYC and in 1934 he had his first Broadway role.

In 1940, Hume met the woman who would change his life, a young British actress named Jessica Tandy. They both fell in love and were married in 1942. 1943 proved to be Hume's breakthrough in acting, when he landed the role of Herbie Hawkins, whodunit nut, in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of A Doubt. The same year he and Tandy had their first child, Christopher. Hitchcock to a real liking to the brooding and intelligent young Cronyn, casting him in 1944's Lifeboat, and letting him adapt the taut theater drama Rope in 1948. In 1945, Hume was nominated for his only Oscar, for his role as the blinded German sympathizer in The Seventh Cross. His daughter, Tandy, was born November 26 of that same year.

Cronyn steadily moved from a leading sidekick and straight man in films such as A Letter For Evie, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and the Bing Crosby musical Top o' The Morning (where Hume displayed quite a bit of vocal chops), into a deliciously dashing and clever character actor. In 1947, he played a Nazi prison guard named Captain Munsey in Brute Force, and his sheer malice and coldbloodedness is horrifying in every aspect. He is perhaps at his best in People Will Talk, the 1951 Joseph Mankiewicz film in which he played Professor Rodney Elwell, a diabolical svengali who sets out to ruin Dr. Noah Praetorious's (played by Cary Grant) life.

With the rise of television, Hume became something of a centerpiece for suspenseful thriller fare, making numerous appearances on the aptly-named "Suspense!" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." By 1960, though, Hume was already almost 50 years old. Yet his best acting years were yet to come. His turn in the 1963 blockbuster Cleopatra as the doomed advisor Sosigenes gave him considerable powers as one of the elder statesmen of Hollywood. In 1964, he reprised one of his favorite stage roles, that of Polonius, for John Gielgud's adaptation of "Hamlet," with Richard Burton in the titular role. For his performance, Cronyn was his first and only Tony.

He made solid appearances in many films through the 1960s and 70s: as the drunk Honest Tim Grogan in Gaily, Gaily; as a lifetime prisoner in the virtually-geriatric There Was a Crooked Man... with Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda; and as the crotchety Lewis Fiver on the hip TV series "Hawaii Five-O." In 1981, he made another rare television appearance in the made-for-TV movie The Gin Game, co-starring none other than his wife Jessica. They played an old couple who discussed all things old, from prescription medicine to nursing homes to incontinence.

Cronyn and Tandy again teamed up as Glenn Close's parents in the underrated The World According To Garp. He made a brief cameo as Brewster's dead racist Uncle Rupert in Brewster's Millions, and then he and his wife were offered what was to be their finest on-screen roles. Ron Howard's 1985 project Cocoon, about elderly citizens renewed through mysterious alien forces, put Cronyn and Tandy in the real public eye for the first time in nearly 20 years. Cronyn used his new power to write and produce Foxfire, a 1987 movie starring he and Tandy (and a noticeably indulgent John Denver) as a wife and her deceased husband, who appears in flashbacks to give her advice.

Continuing with the crazy wife trend, Cronyn and Tandy next starred in the gimmicky but cute *batteries not included as owners of a small-time urban cafe about to be destroyed. He and Tandy reprised their roles as the Finleys in 1988's Cocoon: The Return, and in 1989, Cronyn had the pleasure of appearing onscreen with his daughter in the TV movie Age-Old Friends, for which he won his first Emmy. In 1991, Cronyn released his autobiography, entitled A Terrible Liar. He and Jessica both continued to provide supporting roles in both television and in film (Cronyn won his second Emmy in 1992 for Broadway Bound, and repeated again in 1993 for To Dance with the White Dog), and in 1994 they were both awarded a Tony for lifetime theatrical achievement, the first and only people to have received such an award. Sadly, Jessica was in failing health, and passed away September 11, 1994.

Still, Hume continued to act, playing one of the jurors in the television remake of 12 Angry Men and playing the stroke-ridden title character in the endearing and acclaimed independent film Marvin's Room. Hume even found time to get married again, to Susan Cooper, in March of 1996. He made several more TV movie appearances, in Horton Foote's Alone; a surprising Cocoon one-off in Canada's The Sea People; and as Santa Claus in Santa and Pete.

Hume Cronyn, 91, passed away June 16, 2003, due to prostate cancer.

Sources

  • http://us.imdb.com/Name?Cronyn,+Hume
  • http://schwinger.harvard.edu/~terning/bios/Cronyn.html

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