Herbert Wilcox

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the English footballer, see Herbert Wilcox (footballer).

Herbert Sydney Wilcox (19 April 1890 – 15 May 1977) was a British film producer and director.

Early life[edit]

Wilcox's mother was from County Cork, Ireland, but he was born in Norwood[1] and attended school in Brighton. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Flying Corps.

Film career[edit]

He joined the film business in 1919 forming with his war gratuity his own company Astra Films producing and directing his first film, The Wonderful Story in a makeshift studio in Kew.[2] He formed a company, Graham Wilcox Productions, with Jack Graham Cutts in 1920.[2] He set up the British National Company, which was later absorbed into British International Pictures. He also set up a "British Hollywood" at Elstree Studios.

Although Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail is generally regarded as the first film with sound, Wilcox's Black Waters was trade-shown several weeks earlier in May, 1929. He produced more than a hundred films, of which he directed about half. In the 1950s he planned to make a biopic about Van Gogh starring Trevor Howard, but it was never made.[3] "His film production team were never laid off, even during the worst depressions of the British film industry. They were on full salary 52 weeks of the year."[1]

Notable postwar films included Odette (1951), Trent's Last Case (1952), Yangtse Incident (1956), and The Lady is a Square (1959). His film company failed in the 1960s, and he was declared bankrupt in 1964; however, their finances were rescued by the success of the musical play Charlie Girl, starring Dame Anna Neagle, which ran for five years.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In June 1917, Herbert Wilcox was granted a divorce from Dorothy, whom he had married 2 December 1916 at St Lukes (CoE) Brighton. At the time Herbert Wilcox was a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. His wife was "carrying on a disgraceful intrigue" with a Mr Stanley Steel (who was also married). Herbert Wilcox was awarded damages by the jury (possibly shared with Mrs Steel) of £750 plus costs. (Note, the News of the World was a weekly, published on Sundays.)[4]

Wilcox married again in 1920, to Maude Bower, with whom he had four children.[2] A third marriage, on August 9, 1943, was to actress Anna Neagle. The couple remained married until Wilcox's death in 1977. They had no children.

Prior to his death aged 87 in London, England after a long illness, Wilcox donated four Daily Mail National Film Awards to the Glebelands Retirement Home in Wokingham.


In 1937, the Wilcox film Victoria the Great was nominated for the Mussolini Cup at the Venice Film Festival, but lost out to the French film Dance Program. Wilcox lost the Festival's Best Director award, which went to Robert J. Flaherty and Zoltán Korda for Elephant Boy. However, Victoria the Great and Wilcox won the Festival's Nations Cup for 'Best World Premiere'.

Wilcox won four Daily Mail National Film Awards.

Selected filmography[edit]




  1. ^ a b 7 Dagmar Villas, Gipsy Road. Mr Michael Thornton re Mr Herbert Wilcox. The Times, Thursday, 19 May 1977; pg. 18; Issue 60007; col F
  2. ^ a b c d Obituary. Mr Herbert Wilcox Pioneer British film maker The Times, Monday, 16 May 1977; pg. 16; Issue 60004; col F
  3. ^ Harper &Porter p.156
  4. ^ News of the World 24 June 1917, page 3


  • Harper, Sue & Porter, Vincent. British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Wilcox, Herbert Sidney, Twenty-Five Thousand Sunsets - autobiography, 1967 (first American edition 1969)

External links[edit]