Hugh Herbert

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Hugh Herbert
Hugh Herbert in Footlight Parade (1933)
Born(1885-08-10)August 10, 1885
DiedMarch 12, 1952(1952-03-12) (aged 66)
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California
Occupation(s)Actor, comedian
Years active1927–1952
Rose Epstein
(m. 1932; div. 1949)

Hugh Herbert (August 10, 1885 – March 12, 1952)[1] was an American motion picture comedian. He began his career in vaudeville and wrote more than 150 plays and sketches.


Born in Binghamton, New York, Herbert attended Cornell University.[2] As an actor, he "had many serious roles, and for years was seen on major vaudeville circuits as a pathetic old Hebrew."[3]

The advent of talking pictures brought stage-trained actors to Hollywood, and Herbert soon became a popular movie comedian. His screen character was usually flustered and absent-minded. He would flutter his fingers together and talk to himself, repeating the same phrases: "Hoo-hoo-hoo, wonderful, wonderful, hoo hoo hoo!" So many imitators (including Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy and Etta Candy in the Wonder Woman comic book series) copied the catchphrase as "woo woo" that Herbert even began to use "woo woo" rather than "hoo hoo" in the 1940s.[3]

Herbert's early movies, like Wheeler & Woolsey's feature Hook, Line and Sinker (1930), cast him in generic comedy roles that could have been taken by any comedian. He developed a unique screen personality, complete with a silly giggle, and this new character caught on quickly. He was frequently featured in Warner Brothers films of the 1930s, including Bureau of Missing Persons, Footlight Parade (both 1933), Dames, Fog Over Frisco, Fashions of 1934 (all 1934), and Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), as well as A Midsummer Night's Dream (also 1935), a film adaptation of Shakespeare's play. He played leads in "B comedies", notably Sh! The Octopus (1937), a comedy-mystery featuring an exceptional unmasking of the culprit.[3]

Herbert was often caricatured in Warners' Looney Tunes shorts of the 1930s/1940s, such as Speaking of the Weather (1937) and The Hardship of Miles Standish (1940). One of the minor characters in the Terrytoons short The Talking Magpies (1946) is also a recognizably Herbertesque bird. In 1939, Herbert signed with Universal Pictures, where, as at Warners, he played supporting roles in major films and leading roles in minor ones. One of his performances from this period is in the Olsen and Johnson comedy Hellzapoppin' (1941), in which he played a nutty detective.[citation needed]

Herbert joined Columbia Pictures in 1943 and became a familiar face in short subjects, with the same actors and directors who made the Stooges shorts. He continued to star in these comedies for the remainder of his life.

Herbert wrote six screenplays, co-wrote the screenplays for the films Lights of New York (1928) and Second Wife (1930), and contributed to The Great Gabbo (1929) and others. He acted in three films co-written by the much more prolific (but unrelated) screenwriter F. Hugh Herbert: Fashions of 1934 (1934), We're in the Money (1935) and Colleen (1936). He also directed one film, He Knew Women (1930).[4]


Herbert has a star at 6251 Hollywood Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was dedicated February 8, 1960.[5]

Personal life and death[edit]

Herbert was married to Rose Epstein, who was also known by the name Anita Pam.[3]

Herbert died on March 12, 1952, at age 66 from cardiovascular disease in North Hollywood, Los Angeles.[1]


Hugh's brother, Tom Herbert, was a screen comedian who played mildly flustered roles. He is featured in the Warner Brothers short subject Double or Nothing (1940) as his brother Hugh's movie double.[citation needed]

Selected filmography[edit]

As writer[edit]

As director[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hugh Herbert - L.A. Times Hollywood Star Walk
  2. ^ United Press (March 13, 1952). "Hugh Herbert, Comedian, Dies; 'Woo-Woo's' Brought Fame to Actor, 66". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 47. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d Harrison, Paul (August 31, 1936). "Can't Discard Funny Face". Xenia Daily Gazette. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 8. Retrieved September 20, 2015 – via Open access icon
  4. ^ [ "Romance, War, Adventure, Comedy in Week's Movies; Zaring—'He Knew Women'"]. The Indianapolis Star. p. "'Different in every respect—one of the most difficult stories I have ever had to cast—a story that caught and held my interest the moment I began reading it.' Such is Hugh Herbert's description of 'He Knew Women,' the feature attraction which opens today at Zaring's Egyptian for its first city showing. 'He Knew Woman' is Hugh Herbert's first directorial effort for Radio Pictures." Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  5. ^ "Hugh Herbert". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved September 21, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]