Hume Cronyn

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Hume Cronyn
Cronyn in the 1950s
Hume Blake Cronyn Jr.

(1911-07-18)July 18, 1911
DiedJune 15, 2003(2003-06-15) (aged 91)
  • Actor
  • writer
Years active1934–2001
Emily Woodruff
(m. 1934; div. 1936)
(m. 1942; died 1994)
(m. 1996)
ParentHume Cronyn Sr. (father)

Hume Blake Cronyn Jr. OC (July 18, 1911 – June 15, 2003) was a Canadian-American actor and writer. He appeared in many stage productions, television and film roles throughout his career, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Seventh Cross (1944).

Early life[edit]

Cronyn, one of five children, was born in London, Ontario, Canada. His father, Hume Blake Cronyn Sr., was a businessman and a Member of Parliament for London (after whom the Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory at Western University, then known as The University of Western Ontario and asteroid (12050) Humecronyn are named). His mother, Frances Amelia (née Labatt), was an heiress of the brewing company of the same name; as the daughter of John Labatt and the granddaughter of John Kinder Labatt.[1] Cronyn's paternal great-grandfather, Right Reverend Benjamin Cronyn, an Anglican cleric of the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy, served as the first bishop of the Anglican diocese of Huron and founded Huron College, from which grew the University of Western Ontario.[citation needed]

His great-uncle, Benjamin Jr., was both a prominent citizen and early mayor of London, Ontario, but 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, and a first cousin of the Canadian-British artist Hugh Verschoyle Cronyn GM (1905–1996).[citation needed]

Cronyn was the first Elmwood School boarder in Ottawa (at the time Elmwood was called Rockliffe Preparatory School) and boarded at Elmwood between 1917 and 1921. After leaving Elmwood, Cronyn went to Ridley College in St. Catharines, and McGill University in Montreal, where he became a member of The Kappa Alpha Society. Early in life, Cronyn was an amateur featherweight boxer, having the skills to be nominated for Canada's 1932 Olympic Boxing team.[citation needed]


L-R: Walter Slezak, John Hodiak, Tallulah Bankhead, Henry Hull, William Bendix, Heather Angel, Mary Anderson, Canada Lee, and Hume Cronyn in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944)

After graduating from Ridley College Cronyn attended McGill University, where he switched majors from pre-law to drama. He continued his acting studies thereafter under Max Reinhardt and at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[citation needed] In 1934, the same year he joined The Lambs, 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. He won a Drama Desk Special Award in 1986. In 1990, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[2]

His first Hollywood film was Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943). He later appeared in Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) and worked on 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, who was 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 appearances in television, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes "Kill With Kindness" (1956) and "The Impromptu Murder" (1958) and Hawaii Five-O episodes "Over Fifty? Steal" (1970) and "Odd Man In" (1971).[3]

Cronyn starred with his second wife Jessica Tandy in a short-lived (1953–1954) radio series, The Marriage (based on their earlier Broadway play, The Fourposter), 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 (future soap opera star Denise Alexander). The show was scheduled to move from radio to television, with Cronyn producing as well as acting in the show. However, Tandy suffered a miscarriage and the show's debut was delayed a week. The series, which was the first situation comedy broadcast in color, premiered in July 1954 to "warm and enthusiastic reviews"; eight episodes were aired.[4]

The couple also appeared in many memorable dramatic stage, film and television outings, including The Seventh Cross (1944), The Green Years (1946), The Gin Game (1977), Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), The World According to Garp (1982), Cocoon (1985), the television film Foxfire (1987), *batteries not included (1987), Cocoon: The Return (1988), To Dance with the White Dog (1993) and Camilla (1994).

Cronyn had an association with the Stratford Festival as a member of both the acting company and its board of governors. He played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in 1976, and debuted his play Foxfire in 1980.[5][6][7] The play would later move to Broadway (and won Tandy a Best Actress Tony award), and a film version was made in 1987.[8]

In 1990 he won an Emmy award for his role in the TV Movie Age-Old Friends.[9] His later appearances included the films The Pelican Brief (1993), Marvin's Room (1996) and the Showtime TV film 12 Angry Men (1997).

Marriages and family[edit]

Cronyn's first marriage was to the philanthropist Emily Woodruff in late 1934 or early 1935. They shared a "lavender marriage" and never lived together. Woodruff insisted that the marriage remain a secret because of her lesbian relationships. They quietly divorced in 1936.[10][11]

Cronyn and Jessica Tandy at the 1988 Emmy Awards

Cronyn married the actress Jessica Tandy in 1942. The couple had a daughter, Tandy, and a son, Christopher. Cronyn and Tandy lived in the Bahamas, then at a lakeside estate in Pound Ridge, New York, and, finally, in Easton, Connecticut.[12] Jessica Tandy died in 1994, aged 85, from ovarian cancer.

After he was widowed, Cronyn married author/playwright Susan Cooper (with whom he had co-written Foxfire) in July 1996. His 1991 autobiography, which covered his life and career up to the mid-1960s, was titled A Terrible Liar (ISBN 0-688-12844-0). His intention to write a second volume never materialized.


Cronyn died on June 15, 2003, from prostate cancer aged 91.[13][14]


In 1979, Cronyn was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[15][16] On July 11, 1988, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, giving him the post nominal letters "OC" for life.[17]

Cronyn was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 1999.[18][19] He also received the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal in 1992 and the Canadian version of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.[20]

He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (LLD) by the University of Western Ontario on October 26, 1974. His wife, Jessica Tandy, was given the same degree on the same day.[21]



Year Title Role Notes
1943 Shadow of a Doubt Herbie Hawkins
Phantom of the Opera Gerard
The Cross of Lorraine Duval
1944 Lifeboat Stanley 'Sparks' Garrett
The Seventh Cross Paul Roeder Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Blonde Fever Diner at Inn Uncredited
1945 Main Street After Dark Keller
Ziegfeld Follies Monty ('A Sweepstakes Ticket')
The Sailor Takes a Wife Freddie Potts
1946 A Letter for Evie John Phineas McPherson
The Green Years Papa Leckie
The Postman Always Rings Twice Arthur Keats
The Secret Heart Dinner Party Guest Voice, Uncredited
1947 The Beginning or the End Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer
Brute Force Captain Munsey
1948 The Bride Goes Wild John McGrath
1949 Top o' the Morning Hughie Devine
1951 People Will Talk Professor Rodney Elwell
1956 Crowded Paradise George Heath
1960 Sunrise at Campobello Louis Howe
1963 Cleopatra Sosigenes
1964 Richard Burton's Hamlet Polonius
1969 The Arrangement Arthur Houghton
Gaily, Gaily Tom Grogan
1970 There Was a Crooked Man... Dudley Whinner
1974 Conrack Mr. Skeffington
The Parallax View Bill Rintels
1981 Honky Tonk Freeway Sherm
Rollover Maxwell Emery
1982 The World According to Garp Mr. Fields
1984 Impulse Dr. Carr
1985 Brewster's Millions Rupert Horn
Cocoon Joe Finley Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
1987 *batteries not included Frank Riley
1988 Cocoon: The Return Joe Finley Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
1993 The Pelican Brief Justice Rosenberg
1994 Camilla Ewald
1996 Marvin's Room Marvin Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
2001 Off Season Sam Clausner


Year Title Role Notes
1949 The Ford Theatre Hour Hugo Barnstead Episode: "Once Sunday Afternoon"
1949 Suspense Dr. Violet Episode: "Dr. Violet"
1950 The Ford Theatre Hour Harry Binion Episode: "Room Service"
1950 Suspense Sig 2 episodes
1950 Pulitzer Prize Playhouse Charles Ponzi Episode: "The Ponzi Story"
1950 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse Episode: "The Reluctant Landlord"
1953 Omnibus Bartender Episode: "Glory in the Flower"
1954 The Motorola Television Hour Anthony Updyke Episode: "The Family Man"
1954 The Marriage Ben Marriott 8 episodes
1955 Producers' Showcase Michael Episode: "The Fourposter"
1955 Omnibus Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell Episode: "Advice to Bathers"
1955 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse Ben Marriott Episode: "Christmas 'til Closing"
1956 The United States Steel Hour Priam Farll Episode: "The Great Adventure"
1956 Climax! Reverend Mr. Muldoon Episode: "The Fifth Wheel"
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Fitzhugh Oldham Season 2 Episode 4: "Kill with Kindness"
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Henry Daw Season 3 Episode 38: "The Impromptu Murder"
1959 The Moon and Sixpence Dirk Stroeve Television film
1959 A Doll's House Nils Krogstad Television film
1960 Juno and the Paycock Television film
1970–1971 Hawaii Five-O Lewis Avery Filer 2 episodes
1981 The Gin Game Weller Martin Television film
1987 Foxfire Hector Nations Television film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1989 Day One James F. Byrnes Television film
1989 Age-Old Friends John Cooper Television film
CableACE Award for Best Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1991 Christmas on Division Street Cleveland Meriwether Television film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1992 Broadway Bound Ben Television film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1993 To Dance with the White Dog Robert Samuel Peek Television film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1995 People: A Musical Celebration Of Diversity Grandpa (voice) Television film
1997 12 Angry Men Juror #9 Television film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1997 Alone John Webb Television film
1998 Seasons of Love Lonzo Television film
1999 Sea People Mr. John McRae Television film
1999 Santa and Pete Saint Nick Television film
2000 Yesterday's Children Old Sunny Sutton Television film


  • Hipper's Holiday – 1934
  • High Tor – 1937
  • There's Always a Breeze – 1938
  • Escape This Night – 1938
  • Off to Buffalo – 1939
  • Three Sisters – 1939
  • The Weak Link – 1940
  • Retreat to Pleasure – 1940
  • Mr. Big – 1941
  • Portrait of a Madonna – 1946 (Director)
  • The Survivors – 1948
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – 1950
  • Hilda Crane – 1950
  • The Little Blue Light – 1951
  • The Fourposter – 1951
  • The Honeys – 1955
  • A Day by the Sea – 1955
  • The Egghead – 1957
  • The Man in the Dog Suit – 1958
  • Triple Play – 1959
  • Big Fish, Little Fish – 1961
  • Hamlet – 1964 (Tony Award for role of Polonius)
  • The Physicists – 1964
  • Slow Dance on the Killing Ground – 1964
  • A Delicate Balance – 1966
  • Promenade, All! – 1972
  • Noël Coward in Two Keys – 1974
  • The Gin Game – 1977 (performed, produced)
  • Foxfire – 1982 (performed, wrote play and lyrics)
  • The Petition – 1986

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1945 Suspense "Double Entry"[22]
1946 Suspense "Blue Eyes"[23]
1946 Suspense The One Who Got Away[24]
1952 Philip Morris Playhouse One Sunday Afternoon[25]



  1. ^ "Site of Woodfield 1846–1968 | London Public Library". Archived from the original on October 9, 2019.
  2. ^ "Lifetime Honors: National Medal of Arts". Archived from the original on March 4, 2010. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  3. ^ Cronyn-Tandy Collection at the Library of Congress
  4. ^ Cronyn, Hume (1991). Terrible Liar. New York: William Morrow and Company. pp. 254–256. ISBN 0-688-12844-0.
  5. ^ "Hume Cronyn acting credits". Stratford Festival Archives. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  6. ^ Blackadar, Bruce (May 10, 1980). "Hume Cronyn turns playwright with Foxfire". The Toronto Star. p. F1.
  7. ^ Martin Knelman, A Stratford Tempest. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1982; ISBN 0-7710-4542-5.
  8. ^ Rich, Frank.Review/Theater; Jessica Tandy in Foxfire" Archived 2015-05-24 at the Wayback Machine The New York Times, November 12, 1982
  9. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present. Ballantine Books. 2013. p. 1440. ISBN 978-0-345-45542-0.
  10. ^ "Hume Cronyn – Internet Accuracy Project". Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  11. ^ Cronyn, Hume. "Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy papers, 1885–2007". Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  12. ^ Gussow, Mel (May 26, 1994). "AT HOME WITH: Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy; The Driven Mr. and Mrs. Daisy". The New York Times. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  13. ^ Fairfield, Connecticut (June 18, 2003). "Hume Cronyn dead aged 91". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  14. ^ Berger, Marilyn (June 16, 2003). "Hume Cronyn, Compelling Actor of Stage and Screen, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  15. ^ "Overview for Hume Cronyn". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  16. ^ "American Theatre Hall of Fame official website". Theater Hall of Fame. November 23, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Governor General of Canada Find a Recipient". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  18. ^ "Canada's Walk of Fame—Hume Cronyn". Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  19. ^ "Hume Cronyn profile". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  20. ^ "The Governor General of Canada > Find a Recipient". Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  21. ^ "The University of Western Ontario: Honorary Degrees Awarded, 1881–present" (PDF). Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  22. ^ "Suspense - Double Entry". Escape and Suspense!. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  23. ^ "Suspense". Archived from the original on July 20, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  24. ^ "Suspense". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg Telegraph. November 9, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved September 15, 2015 – via Open access icon
  25. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 24, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved May 28, 2015 – via Open access icon

External links[edit]