Family & Companions
Theater success (as actor, director, producer) who went to Hollywood in the late 1920s at the age of 40, and subsequently proved a capable craftsman of polished, occasionally exceptional studio fare, with a gift for eliciting surprisingly solid performances from even mediocre actors.
Initially with Paramount, he moved to RKO in 1933, before branching out to work for various producers, most notably the autocratic David O. Selznick. Among Cromwell's better efforts are "Of Human Bondage" (1934), which made Bette Davis a star; the finest version of the swashbuckler "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937), the slice of Americana, "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" (1940), which owes much of its success to Robert Sherwood's play basis; the WWII homefront tribute, "Since You Went Away" (1944), mostly the vision of producer Selznick; the sensitive, but not overly sentimental, romantic fantasy, "The Enchanted Cottage" (1945), and the visually rewarding "Anna and the King of Siam" (1946), which won Oscars for the cinematographer and production designer.
After leaving Selznick in the post-war period, and being blacklisted in the early 1950s, Cromwell brought a grittier, more realistic edge to such later films as "Dead Reckoning" (1947), the women's prison expose, "Caged" (1950), and the Marilyn Monroe-like saga, "The Goddess" (1959). He appeared in character parts in Robert Altman's "Three Women" (1977) and as the semi-senile priest in "A Wedding" (1978). Married to actresses Alice Indahl, Marie Goff, Kay Johnson and Ruth Nelson and father of actor James (Jamie) Cromwell.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Production Companies (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Acting debut in "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall"
Joined Cleveland Stock Company
Moved to NYC; toured with small theater companies; became actor and stage manager for 12 years with William A. Brady's theatrical company
Broadway acting debut in Brady's "Baby Mine"
Directed first stage play for Brady's company
Appeared on Broadway in "Little Women"; changed name to John Cromwell
Produced and directed "Tarnished", first of many plays backed as independent theatrical producer
While appearing in the Los Angeles stage production of "The Racket" (with Edward G. Robinson), signed to featured players contract as actor by Paramount
Film acting debut in "The Dummy"
Co-directing debut (with Edward Sutherland), "Close Harmony"
Solo directing debut (also actor), "The Mighty"
Began association with David O. Selznick
Left RKO and joined Selznick's independent production company
Returned to stage as actor in "Yankee Point"
Accused of being a Communist and blacklisted in Hollywood; returned again to stage (and won a Tony Award) as Henry Fonda's father in "Point of No Return"
(Pressbook images courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)