Happy Birthday, Oscar nominee James Cromwell–beloved star of “Babe.” He turns 71 today and celebrates with a big, big year: he’s directing his first film and he’s heading to Broadway.
I ran into the very tall Cromwell and his even taller son at a Sundance premiere last week. He told me that he’s just signed to star in the revival of the great Moss Hart-George S. Kaufman play, “You Can’t Take it With You.” The play starts an out of town run this summer and comes, hopefully, to Broadway in the fall.
In the meantime, Cromwell is directing his first feature. It will shoot this spring. For Cronwell–who also had memorable turns on “Six Feet Under” and in dozens of other TV shows and movies including “The Queen” and “Secretariat,” he never stops trying new things. His Broadway turn will be his third, technically. He was there twice with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Meantime–I asked James why he was written out of “All in the Family.” Back in the 70s, he caught on quickly as Archie Bunker’s best friend, Stretch Cunningham. But suddenly, just when Stretch could have turned into a supporting player, he was written out. The episode featuring his funeral–when Archie discovers that Stretch was Jewish–is classic TV. Cromwell isn’t even in the show, but he’s the star of it.
“Carroll O’Connor just didn’t want me on the show,” Cromwell conceded. Maybe he was getting too popular. “I was on set, and I told Sally Struthers I’d like to do more. She said, Carroll, we should get him to stay. He wouldn’t have it.”
Oh well: Cromwell’s been nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, and four SAG Awards since then. His father, by the way, was the famed director John Cromwell (“Of Human Bondage”).