Richard Cromwell (actor)

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Richard Cromwell
Richard Cromwell, circa '33 (from Bill Keane collection).jpg
Autographed photo of Cromwell, c. 1933
Born
LeRoy Melvin Radabaugh

(1910-01-08)January 8, 1910
DiedOctober 11, 1960(1960-10-11) (aged 50)
Resting placeFairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, California
Other namesRoy Radabaugh
OccupationActor
Years active1930–1948
Spouse
(m. 1945; div. 1946)

Richard Cromwell (born LeRoy Melvin Radabaugh; January 8, 1910 – October 11, 1960) also known as Roy Radabaugh, was an American actor. His career was at its pinnacle with his work in Jezebel (1938) with Bette Davis and Henry Fonda and again with Fonda in John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). Cromwell's fame was perhaps first assured in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), sharing top billing with Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone.

That film was the first major effort directed by Henry Hathaway and it was based upon the popular novel by Francis Yeats-Brown. The Lives of a Bengal Lancer earned Paramount Studios a nomination for Best Picture in 1935,[1] though Mutiny on the Bounty instead took the top award at the Academy Awards that year.[2]

Leslie Halliwell in The Filmgoer's Companion, summed up Cromwell's enduring appeal when he described him as "a leading man, [the] gentle hero of early sound films."

Early life[edit]

Cromwell was born LeRoy Melvin Radabaugh in Long Beach, California, the second of five children, to his mother Fay B. (née Stocking) and his father, Ralph R. Radabaugh, who was an inventor. In 1918, when Radabaugh was still in grade school, his father died suddenly, one of the millions of people who perished during the "Spanish flu" pandemic.

Radabaugh enrolled as a teenager in the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles on a scholarship. He ran a shop in Hollywood where he sold pictures, made lampshades, and designed colour schemes for houses.

Career[edit]

Radabaugh can be seen in King of Jazz (1930), along with the film's star, Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. On a whim, friends encouraged him to audition in 1930 for the remake of the Richard Barthelmess silent: Tol'able David (1930). Radabaugh won the role over thousands of hopefuls. In storybook fashion, Harry Cohn gave him his screen name and launched his career. Cromwell earned $75 per week for his work on Tol'able David. Noah Beery Sr. and John Carradine co-starred in the film. Later, Cohn signed Cromwell to a multi-year contract based on the strength of his performance and success in his first venture at the box-office. Amidst the flurry of publicity during this period, Cromwell toured the country, even meeting President Herbert Hoover in Washington, D.C.

Cromwell by then had maintained a deep friendship with Marie Dressler, which continued until her death from cancer in 1934. Dressler was nominated for a second Best Actress award for her 1932 portrayal of the title role in Emma.[3] With that film, Dressler demonstrated her profound generosity to other performers: Dressler personally insisted that her studio bosses cast Cromwell on a loan-out in the lead opposite her. This was another break that helped sustain his rising status in Hollywood. Emma also starred Myrna Loy in one of her earlier screen performances.

Cromwell's next role in 1932 was as Mike in Gregory La Cava's, The Age of Consent, co-starring Eric Linden and Dorothy Wilson. Cromwell is also remembered during this period in Hoop-La (1933), where he is seduced by Clara Bow. Next, the much in demand Cromwell starred in Tom Brown of Culver.

Next up was an early standout performance by Cromwell as the leader of the youth gang in Cecil B. DeMille's now cult-favorite, This Day and Age (1933). To ensure that Cromwell's character used current slang, DeMille asked high school student Horace Hahn to read the script and comment.[4] He starred with Jean Arthur in 1934, in "The Most Precious Thing in Life."


After a promising start, Cromwell's many early pictures at Columbia Pictures and elsewhere were mostly inconsequential . Cromwell starred with Will Rogers in Life Begins at 40 for Fox Film Corporation in 1935 and appeared in Poppy in 1936 as the suitor of W.C. Fields' daughter, Rochelle Hudson. In 1937, he portrayed the young bank-robber in love with Helen Mack and on the lam from Lionel Atwill in The Wrong Road.

Broadway and network radio[edit]

In 1936, Cromwell took a detour in his career to Broadway for the chance to star as an evil cadet in an original play by Joseph Viertel, So Proudly We Hail!. The military drama was directed by future film director Charles Walters, co-starred Edward Andrews and Eddie Bracken, and opened to much fanfare. The reviews of the play at the time called Cromwell's acting "a striking portrayal" (New York Herald Tribune) and his performance an "astonishing characterization" (New York World Telegram). The New York Times said that in the play, Cromwell "ran the gamut of emotions". However, the play closed after only 14 performances at the 46th Street Theater.[citation needed]

By now, Cromwell had shed his restrictive Columbia contract and pursued acting work as a freelancer in other media. On July 15, 1937, Cromwell guest-starred on The Royal Gelatin Hour hosted by Rudy Vallee, in a dramatic skit opposite Fay Wray. Enjoying the experience, Cromwell had his agent secure for him an audition for the role of Kit Marshall on the soap opera Those We Love, first on NBC Radio and then on CBS Radio. As a regular on the Monday night program which ran from 1938 until 1942, Cromwell played opposite Nan Grey; Grey played Kit's twin sister, Kathy.[citation needed]

Late 1930s[edit]

In the late 1930s, Cromwell appeared in Storm Over Bengal, for Republic Pictures, in order to capitalize on the success of The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. Aside from the aforementioned standout roles in Jezebel and The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Cromwell did another notable turn as defendant Matt Clay to Henry Fonda's title-performance in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).

In 1939, Cromwell again tried his luck on the stage in a regional production of Sutton Vane's play Outward Bound, featuring Dorothy Jordan as his co-star.

1940s and military service[edit]

In the early 1940s, Universal Pictures released Enemy Agent starring Cromwell as a draftsman who thwarts the Nazis. In 1942, he went on to appear in marginal but still watchable fare such as Baby Face Morgan, which co-starred Mary Carlisle.[citation needed]

Cromwell enjoyed a career boost, if not a critically acclaimed performance, in the film adaptation of the hit radio serial: Cosmo Jones, Crime Smasher (1943), opposite Gale Storm. Next up at Monogram Pictures, he was cast as a doctor working covertly for a police department to catch mobsters in the forgettable though endearing Riot Squad, wherein his "fiancée", Rita Quigley, breaks their engagement.

Cromwell served during the last two years of World War II with the United States Coast Guard. Upon returning to California following the war's end, Cromwell acted in local theater productions. He also signed on for live performances in summer stock in the East during this period. Cromwell's break from films due to his stint in the Service meant that he was not much in demand after the War's end, and he retired from films after his comeback fizzled. His last role was in a noir flick of 1948, Bungalow 13. All told, Cromwell's film career spanned 39 films.[citation needed]

1950s[edit]

In the 1950s, Cromwell went back to artistic roots and studied ceramics. He built a pottery studio at his home.[citation needed]

Under the name Radabaugh, Cromwell wrote extensively, producing several published stories and an unfinished novel in the 1950s.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Back in California for good, Cromwell was married once, briefly (1945–1946), to actress Angela Lansbury, when she was 19 and Cromwell was 35. Cromwell and Lansbury eloped and were married in a small civil ceremony on September 27, 1945, in Independence, California. In her authorized biography, Balancing Act, Lansbury recounts her life with Cromwell, as well as the couple's close friendship with Zachary Scott and his first wife, Elaine. Lansbury and Cromwell have stars within walking distance of each other on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Cromwell made just one statement to the press regarding his wife of nine months and one of her habits: "All over the house, tea bags. In the middle of the night she'd get up and start drinking tea. It nearly drove me crazy."[5]

According to the biography: Angela Lansbury, A Life on Stage and Screen, Lansbury stated in a 1966 interview that her first marriage, "was a mistake" and that she learned from it. She stated, "I wouldn't have not done it", and, "I was too young at 19. [The marriage] shouldn't have happened." Articles based on interviews with Lansbury have stated that Cromwell was gay.[6][7][8] Cromwell and Lansbury remained friends until his death in 1960.

Death and legacy[edit]

In July 1960, Cromwell signed with producer Maury Dexter for 20th Century Fox's planned production of The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, co-starring Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Dix (son of Richard Dix), and Neil Hamilton who replaced Cromwell in the film. Cromwell became ill and died on October 11, 1960 in Hollywood of liver cancer, at the age of 50. He is interred at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California.[9]

Cromwell's legacy is preserved today by his nephew Dan Putnam, and his cousin Bill Keane IV, both of the Conejo Valley in Southern California, as well as the family of his late niece, Joan Radabaugh, of the Central Coast. In 2005, Keane donated materials relating to Cromwell's radio performances to the Thousand Oaks Library's Special Collection, "The American Radio Archive". In 2007, Keane donated memorabilia relating to Cromwell's film career and ceramics work to the AMPAS Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills.

Cromwell was mentioned in Gore Vidal's satirical novel Myra Breckinridge (1968) as "the late Richard Cromwell, so satisfyingly tortured in Lives of a Bengal Lancer".

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Movie Role Other notes
1930 King of Jazz cowboy (walk-on) Cromwell can be seen in the Song of the Dawn number.
1930 Tol'able David David Directed by John Blystone, starred opposite Noah Beery Sr. Silent star Richard Barthelmess, who gave his blessing to Cromwell's portrayal, was the original David in the 1921 classic directed by Henry King. Gary Cooper was also originally offered this role and very interested but Adolph Zukor at Paramount Pictures refused to loan out his top star to Columbia, then perceived as a "lower-class" studio (according to Larry Swindell's bio of Cooper, The Last Hero, Doubleday, 1980).
1931 Fifty Fathoms Deep Pinky Caldwell First of several pairings with Jack Holt for Columbia.
1931 Shanghaied Love The Boy Third feature for Columbia, co-starred Sally Blane and again, Noah Beery Sr.
1931 Maker of Men Bob Dudley Jack Holt co-starred and a very young Marion Morrison aka John Wayne appeared with his Trojan Football teammates; Gridiron scenes filmed at USC.
1932 The Age of Consent Mike Cromwell's first loanout to RKO; this film was directed by Gregory LaCava and was the screen debut, in an uncredited role, for Mildred Shay.
1932 Emma Ronnie Cromwell was on loan out to MGM for director Clarence Brown; this production's cast also included Jean Hersholt.
1932 Tom Brown of Culver Robert Randolph III Universal's William Wyler directed Cromwell here along with H.B. Warner, Slim Summerville, Tom Brown, Ben Alexander, and Sidney Toler. Also, Tyrone Power's first onscreen appearance is as a bit player in a scene opposite Cromwell in this film.
1932 The Strange Love of Molly Louvain James "Jimmy" Cook, the bellhop Director: Michael Curtiz for Warner Bros., with Ann Dvorak, Lee Tracy, Guy Kibbee, and Charles Middleton.
1932 That's My Boy Tommy Jefferson Scott Another football flick wherein Cromwell plays opposite Mae Marsh, Dorothy Jordan, and Douglass Dumbrille.
1933 This Day and Age Steve Smith For DeMille at Paramount Pictures, Cromwell stars with Charles Bickford and Judith Allen.
1933 Hoop-La Chris Miller Directed by Frank Lloyd for Fox pictures. Final major starring role for Clara Bow. Cromwell co-starred with Preston Foster and James Gleason.
1934 Carolina drugstore clerk Opposite Janet Gaynor, originally entitled: "The House of Connelly".
1934 Name the Woman Clem Rogers
1935 Life Begins at 40 Lee Austin Opposite Will Rogers and Rochelle Hudson, this was one of Rogers' last films.
1935 Lives of a Bengal Lancer Lt. Stone Cromwell's favorite role.
1935 Star Night at The Cocoanut Grove as himself MGM Technicolor Short showing celebs at play in Hollywood. Cromwell is seated at a table with Gary Cooper.
1936 Poppy Billy Farnsworth One of many pairings for Cromwell opposite Rochelle Hudson.
1937 The Road Back Ludwig Very large cast including Noah Beery Jr.Cromwell was one of the few actors to work with both Beery Sr. and Jr. Fine camera work was done here by cinematographer John J. Mescall.
1937 The Wrong Road Jimmy Cromwell's director here was James Cruze. Other members of the cast were Marjorie Main, Joseph Crehan, Arthur Horst, and Rex Evans. Costumes were by Eloise.
1938 Jezebel Ted Dillard Cromwell's second role in a William Wyler-directed film.
1938 Storm Over Bengal Neil Allison
1939 Young Mr. Lincoln Matt Clay

Henry Fonda, who played Lincoln, was quoted in an interview that he had a professional admiration for the "always dependable Richard Cromwell."

1940 Enemy Agent Jimmy Saunders Exactly one hour in length, this film has Cromwell in the role of a draftsman who is wrongly accused of crimes perpetrated by Nazi spies. Jack Carson stands out in an early role as a G-Man feigning drunkenness to help thwart the crooks who've stolen aircraft factory blueprints.
1940 The Villain Still Pursued Her Edward Middleton Co-starring Buster Keaton, this take-off of the long-running Los Angeles stage hit The Drunkard, also co-starred Margaret Hamilton. It was recently re-released on DVD.
1941 Riot Squad Doctor Tom Brandon
1942 Baby Face Morgan Edward "Baby Face" Morgan This is the best of the several of Cromwell's "B" efforts for PRC. Cromwell's co-star here was Robert Armstrong, of King Kong fame. Cromwell and Armstrong had also worked together in Enemy Agent.
1943 The Crime Smasher Police Sergeant Pat Flanagan
1948 Bungalow 13 Patrick Macy Cromwell's comeback that never was.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Blum, Daniel. Screen World, 1961, Chilton Company, Philadelphia, New York, 1961.
  • Cary, Diana Serra. Jackie Coogan—The World's Boy King, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, 2003.
  • Crivello, Kirk. "Richard Cromwell--A Memoir and A Filmography", article in Filmograph, Vol. IV, No. 4, Orlean, Virginia, (likely mid-1970s).
  • Edelman, Rob and Audrey Kupferberg. Angela Lansbury, A Life on Stage and Screen, Birch Lane Press, New York, 1996.
  • [Editors, various]. Cut! Hollywood Murders, Accidents and Other Tragedies, Barron's Press, Hauppauge, N.Y., 2006.
  • [Editors, various]. Picture Show Annual for 1932, Amalgamated Press LTD., The Fleetway House, London, 1932.
  • Higham, Charles. Cecil B. DeMille: A Biography . . ., Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1973.
  • Isherwood, Christopher. Lost Years, A Memoir 1945–1951, Vintage Books, Division of Random House, London (Copyright Don Bachardy), 2000.
  • Lamparski, Richard. Hollywood Diary—Twelve Untold Tales . . ., BearManor Media, Albany, Georgia, 2006.
  • Lee, Betty. Marie Dressler: The Unlikeliest Star, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 1997.
  • Morino, Marianne. The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 1987.
  • Palmer, Paul R. "Richard Cromwell", article in Film Fan Monthly, No. 167 (Leonard Maltin, Editor), Teaneck, New Jersey, May 1975.
  • Vermilye, Jerry. The Films of the Thirties, Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey, 1982.
  • Vidal, Gore. Myra Breckinridge, Little, Brown, & Co., Boston, Toronto, 1968.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NOMINATIONS GIVEN FOR FILM AWARDS; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Begins Its Annual Selections". The New York Times. February 7, 1936. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "Bette Davis and McLaglen Win Awards for Best Screen; Her Work in 'Dangerous,' His in 'Informer' Honored -- 'Mutiny on Bounty' Leads Pictures and John Ford the Directors". The New York Times. March 6, 1936. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  3. ^ "FILM HONOR AWARDS FOR YEAR ANNOUNCED; Marie Dressler, Winner in 1931, Nominated for Best Performance by an Actress". The New York Times. October 13, 1932. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  4. ^ Birchard, Robert S. (2004), Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood, Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, pp. 262-63; ISBN 0-8131-2324-0
  5. ^ Wilson, Liza The American Weekly
  6. ^ "Angela Lansbury interview: 'I'm never left behind. I'm the bionic woman'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  7. ^ "Biography for Angela Lansbury". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  8. ^ Stern, Keith (2009). Queers in History - The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgenders. BenBella Books. p. 123. ISBN 978-1933771878.
  9. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 17, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). McFarland Publishing. p. 167. ISBN 9780786479924.

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