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Jack Hulbert

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Jack Hulbert
Portrait by Allan Warren
John Norman Hulbert

(1892-04-24)24 April 1892
Died25 March 1978(1978-03-25) (aged 85)
London, England
  • Actor
  • director
  • writer
  • singer
Years active1912–1973
(m. 1916)

John Norman Hulbert (24 April 1892 – 25 March 1978) was a British actor, director, screenwriter and singer, specializing primarily in comedy productions, and often working alongside his wife (Dame) Cicely Courtneidge.

Jack Hulbert


Born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, he was the elder and more successful son of Henry Harper Hulbert, a physician,[1] being the brother of the actor Claude Hulbert. He was educated at Westminster School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge,[2] and appeared in many shows and revues, mainly with the Cambridge Footlights. He was one of the earliest famous alumni of the comedy club.

After Cambridge, he earned recognition and fame performing in musicals and light comedies.[3] However the First World War delayed his rise to fame; on 14 February 1916, while still an actor, he married Cicely Courtneidge, the daughter of Robert Courtneidge, a theatrical manager, in Hampstead.[1] On 2 March, the Military Service Act 1916 came into force and Hulbert was expecting to be conscripted into the army for the remainder of the conflict. However, he appears to have been exempted. In June 1916, Hulbert and Courtneidge were appearing together in a sketch called “A Lucky Mistake”,[4] and in December 1916 he was appearing at the Comedy Revue in "See-Saw".[5] In May 1917, he opened at the Comedy in "Bubbly", and the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News commented that "Mr. Jack Hulbert, Miss Winnie Melville, and Miss Irene Greville also stay on at this same munition factory for high explosives of laughter".[6] After the war, Hulbert continued his career in the theatre.[7][8]

Hulbert made his film debut in Elstree Calling (1930); appearing opposite his wife and frequent stage and screen co-star Cicely Courtneidge. His career went through a successful period during the 1930s when he appeared in several films, including The Ghost Train (1931), Love on Wheels (1932) and Bulldog Jack (1935), a tongue-in-cheek homage to the popular Bulldog Drummond films in which Jack was supported by his brother Claude.[3]

In 1931 Courtneidge and Hulbert suffered a serious setback when they discovered that their financial manager had been speculating with their money, suffering heavy losses and putting their business into liquidation. Hulbert accepted responsibility for all the business's debts and undertook to repay every creditor.

He had a hit record in 1932 "The Flies Crawled Up the Window", which was originally sung in the film Jack's the Boy. In 1934 he was voted the most popular male British star at the box office.[9]

In 1936 exhibitors voted him the third most popular British film star.[10]

Hulbert's popularity waned as the 1930s came to an end, and after the war he and his wife continued to entertain chiefly on stage. In 1951 he appeared in the West End in The White Sheep of the Family and the following year directed his brother in Lord Arthur Savile's Crime. In 1958 he starred with Yvonne Arnaud in Ronald Millar's The Big Tickle. In 1962 he appeared in the BBC radio sitcom Discord in Three Flats, along with Courtneidge and Vic Oliver.

Personal life[edit]

His marriage to Cicely Courtneidge lasted for 62 years until his death. Their relationship is mentioned in the British television series Dad's Army in the episode Ring Dem Bells when Hulbert pulls out of shooting a Home Guard training film to spend time with his wife.

In 1975, Hulbert published his autobiography, The Little Woman's Always Right. Hulbert died, at the age of 85, at his home in Westminster, London on 25 March 1978.



Photo of card in Wills's cigarette album circa 1934
Year Title Role Notes
1930 Elstree Calling Himself His film debut
1931 The Ghost Train Teddy Deakin
Sunshine Susie Herr Hasel Released as The Office Girl in USA
1932 Jack's the Boy Jack Brown Released as Night and Day in USA
Happy Ever After Willie Released as A Blonde Dream in USA
Love on Wheels Fred Hopkins
1933 Falling for You Jack Hazeldon
1934 Jack Ahoy Jack Ponsonby
The Camels Are Coming Jack Campbell
1935 Bulldog Jack Jack Pennington Released as Alias Bulldog Drummond in USA
1936 Jack of All Trades Jack Warrender Alternative title: The Two of Us
1937 Take My Tip Lord George Pilkington
Paradise for Two Rene Martin Released as Gaiety Girls in USA
1938 Kate Plus Ten Inspector Mike Pemberton Released as Queen of Crime in USA
1940 Under Your Hat Jack Millett
1950 Into the Blue John Fergusson Released as Man in the Dinghy in USA
1951 The Magic Box 1st Holborn Policeman
1955 Miss Tulip Stays the Night Constable Feathers Released as Dead by Midnight in USA
1960 The Spider's Web Sir Rowland Delahaye
1973 Not Now Darling Commander Frencham
1974 The Cherry Picker Sir Hugh Fawcett


Year Title Role Notes
1951 The Golden Year John Radlett Musical play for BBC TV
1961 Kraft Mystery Theater – "The Spider's Web" TV Episode
1962 Compact Smith TV series
1970 Party Games (TV) - Waiter


Year Title Theatre Notes
1913 The Pearl Girl Shaftesbury Theatre with Cicely Courtneidge
1921 Pot Luck! Vaudeville Theatre, London [11][12][13]
Ring Up Vaudeville Theatre, London
1924 Second Little Revue Starts at Nine Little Theatre
1925 By The Way Apollo Theatre and Shaftesbury Theatre Revue
1926 By The Way Gaiety Theatre, London with Cicely Courtneidge
1926-27 Lido Lady Gaiety Theatre, London
1927-29 Clowns in Clover[14] Adelphi Theatre and Strand Theatre with Cicely Courtneidge
1930 Follow A Star Liverpool Empire with Sophie Tucker
1951-52 The White Sheep of the Family Piccadilly Theatre with Rona Anderson
1952 Lord Arthur Savile's Crime Royal Court Theatre Director, with Claude Hulbert, Peter Haddon
1958 The Big Tickle Duke of York's Theatre with Yvonne Arnaud
1959 Not in the Book Touring With David Conville
1960 The Bride Comes Back Vaudeville Theatre, London Cicely Courtneidge, Jack Hulbert
1973 The Hollow Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham with Cicely Courtneidge
1974 Breath of Spring Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham with Cicely Courtneidge
1976 Once More With Music Theatre Royal, Brighton with Cicely Courtneidge


  1. ^ a b Register of Marriages Solemnized at St Paul’s Church, Hampstead, p. 94 (Marriage of J. N. Hulbert and Cecily Courtneidge on 14 February 1916, at ancestry.co.uk, accessed 7 May 2020 (subscription required)
  2. ^ ODNB
  3. ^ a b D. Pepys-Whiteley, ‘Hulbert, John Norman (Jack) (1892–1978)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  4. ^ "MISS CICELY COURTNEIDGE AND MR. JACK HULBERT In a Farcical Sketch, entitled A LUCKY MISTAKE" in Leicester Daily Post, 24 June 1916, p. 2
  5. ^ "THE PLAYHOUSES. SEE-SAW." in Illustrated London News, 23 December 1916, p. 19
  6. ^ "OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC: BUBBLY, AT THE COMEDY THEATRE" in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 26 May 1917, p. 22
  7. ^ "Hulbert, Jack (1892-1978)". screenonline.org.uk. BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  8. ^ Hartley, 2013, A Historical Dictionary of British Women. p. 120
  9. ^ "Film World". The West Australian. Perth. 1 February 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 4 March 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Pictures and Personalities". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas. 10 April 1937. p. 5. Retrieved 27 April 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Performance Details for Pot Luck! (revue)". bris.ac.uk. University of Bristol, Theatre Collection. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  12. ^ Wearing (2014). London Stage 1920-1929. p. 137. The show's success depended upon the exceptional talents of Beatrice Lillie and Jack Hulbert (Times)
  13. ^ Green, 2009, Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, p. 201
  14. ^ "Clowns in Clover". Cadbury Research Library Special Collections. University of Birmingham. Retrieved 27 August 2015.


  • Green, Stanley. (2009). Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre. Da Capo Press
  • Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1920-1929: A Calendar of Productions, Performances and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield Education (2nd edition)
  • Landy, Marcia. (2014). British Genres: Cinema and Society, 1930-1960. Princeton University Press
  • Hartley, Cathy. (2013). A Historical Dictionary of British Women. Routledge

External links[edit]