“As a kid in the late 1920s in Hell’s Kitchen,” Harold Cromer recalls, “my twin sister and I used to go to the Chelsea Theatre on 8th Ave. where I saw the great Bill Robinson tap dancing. As kids, we were all playing hockey out in the street on roller skates. While I was roller skating and playing hockey, flashbacks of Robinson would c me to me, and there I was, trying to emulate him on roller skates—and not falling down, either!”
Cromer’s roller-skating routine became his trademark, bringing him steady exposure in theater, vaudeville and films during the 1930s and 40s. His period of greatest success came during the early 1950s, after he joined forces with another gifted dancer, James Cross, and became a member of the comedy team “Stump and Stumpy”. The pair worked steadily in theaters and nightclubs (often on bills with the likes of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra), as well as on television programs such as The Milton Berle Show.
During these years, Stump and Stumpy inspired a generation of young comedians—including Jerry Lewis, who has publicly cited their influence.
They toured the “Black Vaudeville” circuit with the likes of the Nicholas Brothers, Buck and Bubbles, and Duke Ellington. The heart of the Stump and Stumpy routine was tap and comedy, often performed in theater. So good were the pair, that it’s said Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis and others have “borrowed” the routines to perform in other venues. Harold “Stumpy” Cromer would later say that Mel Brooks stole from the act to create Brooks’ The Producers.
On the radio, Cross and Cromer appeared on The Steve Allen Show; on television they appeared on the Kate Smith Hour, and The Milton Berle Show; on stage they made appearances with the likes of Frank Sinatra. Continuing to experience success, they were featured in the movie This is the Army.
A long list of other appearances for Stump and Stumpy includes leading theaters and night clubs with Count Basie, and tours with Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Stan Kenton, and Sophie Tucker.
Described as a dancer “with fleet-footed precision” by David Freeland of the New York Press, and “one of the last old fashioned song and dance men,” Harold Cromer represents more than 70 years of tap performance, tradition and history.
He continues to give back to the community and to youth and will be teaching tap and dance workshops at this year’s Tapology festival.
Having been a true pioneer of Tap dance, vaudeville, radio, stage, television and movies, we are proud to honor Harold “Stumpy” Cromer with the Tapology 2008 Living Legend Award, during the Living Legends Lunch held October 25, 2008 at Sarvis Food Center on the Flint Cultural Center Campus.