John Cromwell was a both a stage and film actor, and director born in Toledo, Ohio in 1887. Theater caught his attention and he made his Broadway debut in Little Women (1912) a few years after high school. He directed several plays and by 1920s he had become a respected Broadway director.
In the 1930s he started directing films, debuting with The Dummy (1929) an early talkie, and became really successful in part because of his ability of getting great performances out actresses. He became a highly regarded film director and actor during the Golden Age of studios, from the early days of sound to 1950s film noir. His career was cut short in June of 1950 by the Hollywood Blacklist.
Dead Reckoning (1947) was Cromwell's departure from romantic films. It was his first film with a darker tone and is now considered a film noir classic. His crime drama The Rocket (1951) was one of his last film because in June of 1950 Cromwell's own life took a
dark turn when he was falsely accused of being a
Communist by producer Howard Hughes. He became a victim of the
Hollywood blacklist for seven years from (until 1958). He later denied the
allegation, saying "I was never anything that suggested a Red and there
never was the slightest evidence with which to accuse me of being one."
Unlike other Hollywood directors who fled to Europe to make films,
Cromwell returned to the stage, winning a Tony Award in 1952 for playing
Henry Fonda's father in Point of No Return.
Cromwell devoted the rest of his career primarily to theater back where
he began and wrote three plays that were all staged in New York. Cromwell married four times. His first wife was Alice Lindahl, a stage actress who died of influenza in 1918, then married stage actress Marie Goff who he divorced, then married actress Kay Johnson who he also divorced. Finally, he married actress Ruth Nelson. He and Johnson had two sons. Cromwell died at age 91 in Santa Barbara, California.