Richard Cromwell — The Discovery of Dick (1931) 🇺🇸

Richard Cromwell and Joan Peers in Tol'able David (1930) |

February 24, 2024

All unknown heroes are not buried in national cemeteries to the strains of stirring, martial music. Most of them just live and work — with very little hope of ever doing anything else. Such a one was Roy Radabaugh.

by Merle Carver

Out of money — no prospects — mother working as a typist at ten cents a page — three younger sisters and brothers needing things — that was the picture twenty-year-old Roy Radabaugh faced at Long Beach, California, on September 8th, 1930.

On December 8th, 1930, Roy Radabaugh was walking into the Blue Room of the Executive Mansion — yes, the White House, to meet President and Mrs. Hoover, at their special request. With money in his pockets — more put away in the bank — a long-time contract in his hand, Roy Radabaugh in ninety days had lifted himself — and his family — from obscurity and poverty to a financial, social and artistic front-page position. And it all came about through that little old miracle worker, the movies, plus one twenty-year-old American boy’s ability. But you say you don’t know Roy Radabaugh. Of course you don’t. Roy’s just been home minding his business for four years and helping his mother support her family. Besides, Roy’s no name for a screen hero. But how about Richard Cromwell, star of Tol’able David? Does that mean anything to you? Ah, that’s better. I thought that name would ring the bell.

Richard Cromwell is Richard to his film fans, but just plain Roy to the folks at home. Of medium height, blue-eyed, brown-haired, with the most whimsical mouth and the most artistic hands you ever saw, this youngster has been visiting New York City for the first time and knocking the big town’s best and bravest right out of their seats into the aisles with his sex-appealing ways.

The Main Stem has seen a lot of screen juveniles in its time. The fact is, you can hardly step out of your office door without falling over two or three. But up until now, it’s never seen one quite like Cromwell, that I can recall. He’s just a natural — a sensitive, enthusiastic kid, with tremendous possibilities and enough gumption to admit he doesn’t know everything there is to be known in the world.

Richard Cromwell and his sister and pal, Opal, had a couple of little rooms in Hollywood where the boy was trying to make a living for his sisters and brothers out of painting. His mother and the younger children lived at Long Beach. Cromwell had done some mural work for the Pantages Theater and he was known in a certain little circle for the beauty of the masks of celebrities which he was always making. But sometimes celebrities forget to pay. And sometimes — they don’t pay at all. And every penny he could collect went to the younger children, so that he and Opal had a pretty sorry shift to get along in the town of star dust and heart-break.

Along about the fall of 1930, things looked bad for the boy. It looked like the fall of the house of Radabaugh if some good cash money wasn’t forthcoming — and soon. The rent was overdue. There wasn’t much left on the pantry shelf. And, to make everything quite, quite, perfect, Richard was sick. He had almost killed himself trying to do something different in the way of masks.

“These masks,” he explained, “are made on the theory of death masks — by spreading the clay over the face. But, of course, when you’re working on living models you leave the nostrils uncovered. Afterwards, I paint the hardened clay, slit the mouth open, color the lips, and there it is. But one unfortunate afternoon, I decided to cover my entire face, except for an air tube in my mouth. I began great, but along in the course of the afternoon the tube slipped out. My sister found me some time later and the Hollywood pulmotor squad brought me back to life and debt.

“While I was recuperating, I couldn’t paint. I had just lost interest in everything. One afternoon a high school friend of mine came over and said they were casting a talkie version of Richard Barthelmess’ silent picture, Tol’able David, on the Columbia lot and needed a youngster for the leading role. ‘Why don’t you try it?’ he asked.

“I had always wanted to act but was scared to death of the very idea. Didn’t think I’d ever have a chance. My hair’s straight and I don’t look like one of these big wide-open spaces’ guys. But I went.

“Well, it just happens like that in Hollywood. For no good reason that I could see, I was picked out of I don’t know how many kids by Harry Cohn to play the part of David, the mountain boy. I didn’t know anything about acting. I never had been in a picture or on the stage. But thanks to Mr. Blystone [John G. Blystone], the director, I got by.”

And how he got by! He got by so well that as soon as President and Mrs. Hoover saw the talkie, they wanted to meet Richard. So after personal appearances all the way across the country, stop-overs in New York and Chicago, Richard slicked down his hair and went to shake hands with the big ex-mining engineer, Herbert Hoover, and his missus.

Cromwell is related to Howard Chandler Christy. He went to Long Beach High School and had a few months at the Chauinard Art School in Hollywood. He likes meat well done; coffee, buckets of coffee; swimming, and sophisticated girls who look unsophisticated.

Richard’s favorite actress is Garbo [Greta Garbo]. But he likes the finish of Ruth Chatterton. Joan Crawford is another of his female favorites. For men, he prefers Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Lew Ayres.

Richard Cromwell — The Discovery of Dick (1931) |

Goodbye, Dick — see you soon again!” Richard Cromwell as he left New York on his way to Washington to make a special call on President and Mrs. Hoover who, as soon as they had seen Tol’able David, expressed a desire to meet the California boy.

Meet the last word in Hollywood juveniles — Richard Cromwell, star of Tol’able David, and his mother, Mrs. Radabaugh.

Richard Cromwell — The Discovery of Dick (1931) |

Collection: Screenland Magazine, March 1931