Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Harold J. Cromer Died June 8, 2013 Half of Vaudeville Duo Stump and Stumpy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Harold J. Cromer Died June 8, 2013 Half of Vaudeville Duo Stump and Stumpy

Article excerpt

Harold J. Cromer, a hoofer and comedian who as Stumpy, half of the vaudevillian duo Stump and Stumpy, performed antic dance routines in clubs around the country after World War II and later on television, died June 8 at his home in New York City. He was in his early 90s.

His death was confirmed by his great-granddaughter Chelsea Phillips.

Stump and Stumpy were among the top comedy teams to play the black theater and nightclub circuit -- including the Apollo Theater in Harlem and the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas -- from the 1930s into the 1950s. They also appeared at the Paramount Theater and the Copacabana.

James Cross was Stump, who towered over his partner, Stumpy (initially played by Eddie Hartman), and their act played off their differences in height -- Mr. Cromer was 5-foot-2 -- and their contrasting levels of sophistication. (Stumpy was the sharper- witted.)

They sang and danced, and they clowned with great precision, often to the music of jazz orchestras. They frequently performed on the same bill with the likes of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Mr. Cromer took over the Stumpy role in the late 1940s or early '50s.

With the emergence of television in the 1950s, the pair appeared on the Milton Berle and Steve Allen variety shows and occasionally in dramatic series, including "Dragnet" and "Gunsmoke." Their slickly choreographed high jinks are said to have inspired those of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.

Mr. Cromer was a self-taught dancer who was known early on for tapping on roller skates. As a teenager he appeared on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical "Du Barry Was a Lady" (1939), which starred Ethel Merman and Bert Lahr, and in which Mr. Cromer had two dance numbers with Betty Grable.

He stayed with the show after it went on the road (with Gypsy Rose Lee in the Merman role), and, in 1943, he appeared in another Broadway musical, "Early to Bed," with music by Fats Waller. But his mainstream stage career was stalled by a lack of opportunities for black performers. He didn't return to Broadway until 1978 in "The American Dance Machine," a show named for a touring dance company that specialized in reviving dance numbers from musicals of the past. …

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