Cummings studied briefly at
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, Moon Over Miami (1941), and The Bride Wore Boots (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck.
Cummings gave memorable performances in three notable dramas. In Kings Row (1942), he played the lead role, Parris Mitchell, alongside friend Ronald Reagan, Claude Rains, Ann Sheridan and an all-star cast. In spite of its mixed critical reaction, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture.
Cummings starred in the spy thriller Saboteur (1942) with
In 1947, Cummings had reportedly earned $110,000 in the past 12 months.
Cummings appeared in the Hitchcock film, Dial M for Murder (1954), as Mark Halliday, co-starring with Grace Kelly and Ray Milland. The film was a box-office smash. Cummings also starred in You Came Along (1945), with 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 was chosen by producer John Wayne as his co-star to play airline pilot Captain Sullivan in The High and the Mighty, partly due to Cummings' flying experience; however, director William A. Wellman overruled
In 1955 Cummings announced he would form his own production company, Laurel (named after his daughter and the street he lived in,
Cummings made his mark in the CBS Radio network's dramatic serial titled 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. He was also one of the four stars featured in the short-run radio version of Four Star Playhouse.
During the 1970s for over 10 years Cummings traveled the
Cummings began a long career on television in 1952, starring in the comedy My Hero. He received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his portrayal of "Juror Number Eight", in the first televised performance of Twelve Angry Men, a live production that 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 the opening day of
In 1955 Cummings announced he was setting up his own production company, Laurel, named after his daughter Laurel Ann . 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. As a bachelor in 1950s
In 1960 Cummings starred in "King Nine Will Not Return", the opening episode of the second season of CBS's The Twilight Zone.
The New Bob Cummings Show followed on CBS for one season, from 1961 to 1962. Cummings is depicted as the owner and pilot of Aerocar N102D and this aircraft was featured on his show.
In 1964–65 Cummings starred in another CBS sitcom, My Living Doll, which co-starred Julie Newmar as Rhoda the robot. Cummings' last significant role was the 1973 television movie Partners in Crime, co-starring Lee Grant. He also appeared in 1979 as Elliott Smith, the father of Fred Grandy's Gopher on ABC's The Love Boat.
In 1986, Cummings hosted the televised 15th Anniversary Celebration of Walt Disney World in Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color.
Robert Cummings' last public appearance was on Disneyland's 35th Anniversary Special in 1990.
Cummings married five times and fathered seven children. He remained an avid aviator and owned a number of planes (all named "Spinach"). He was a staunch advocate of natural foods and a healthy diet and in 1960 wrote a book, Stay Young and Vital, which focused upon health foods and exercise.
Despite his interest in health, Cummings was a methamphetamine addict from the mid-1950s until the end of his life. Cummings began receiving injections from Max Jacobson, the notorious "Dr. Feelgood", in 1954 during a trip to
Rose and Cummings' friends Rosemary Clooney and José Ferrer recommended the doctor to Cummings, who was complaining of a lack of energy. While Jacobson insisted that his injections contained only "vitamins, sheep sperm and monkey gonads", they actually contained a substantial dose of methamphetamine.
Cummings continued to use a mixture provided by Jacobson, eventually becoming a patient of Jacobson's son Thomas, who was based in
After Jacobson was forced out of business in the 1970s, Cummings developed his own drug connections based in the