100 Heroes: Richard Cromwell

The gay man who became one of the leading actors of his generation.

100 Heroes: Richard Cromwell

Richard Cromwell 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.

Early life

Cromwell was born LeRoy Melvin Radabaugh in Long Beach, California, in 1910.

Cromwell ran a shop in Hollywood where he sold pictures, made lampshades, and designed colour schemes for houses. He was connected socially with a number of people working in the film industry.


Friends encouraged Cromwell to audition for a role in a 1930 production – Tol’able David. That film launched his career and he signed a multi-year contract with the studio.

As well as working in film, Cromwell also appeared on Broadway.

Military service

Cromwell served during the last two years of World War II with the United States Coast Guard. He returned to California after the war.

Personal life

Although he had a brief marriage with Angela Lansbury, it was widely known that Cromwell was a gay man.

In the late 30s, Cromwell is believed to have had a relationship with Howard Hughes.

Cromwell was a fixture within the Hollywood social scene. According to reporting, Cromwell was a regular at George Cukor’s “boys nights”.

Cromwell died in 1960.

Follow Gareth Johnson on Twitter