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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.
Portrait by Allan Warren
John Norman Hulbert
24 April 1892
Ely, Cambridgeshire, England
|Died||25 March 1978 (aged 85)|
Born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, he was the elder and more successful son of Henry Harper Hulbert, a physician, being the brother of the actor Claude Hulbert. He was educated at Westminster School and Caius College, Cambridge 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. 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. 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”, and in December 1916 he was appearing at the Comedy Revue in “See-Saw”. 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”. After the war, Hulbert continued his career in the theatre.
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.
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.
In 1936 exhibitors voted him the third most popular British film star.
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.
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.
|1930||Elstree Calling||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|
|1951||The Golden Year||John Radlett||Musical play for BBC TV|
|1961||Kraft Mystery Theater – "The Spider's Web"||TV Episode|
|1970||Party Games||(TV) - Waiter|
|1913||The Pearl Girl||Shaftesbury Theatre||with Cicely Courtneidge|
|1921||Pot Luck!||Vaudeville Theatre, London|||
|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||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|
|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|
- 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)
- D. Pepys-Whiteley, ‘Hulbert, John Norman (Jack) (1892–1978)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
- ”MISS CICELY COURTNEIDGE AND MR. JACK HULBERT In a Farcical Sketch, entitled A LUCKY MISTAKE“ in Leicester Daily Post, 24 June 1916, p. 2
- “THE PLAYHOUSES. SEE-SAW.” in Illustrated London News, 23 December 1916, p. 19
- ”OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC: BUBBLY, AT THE COMEDY THEATRE“ in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 26 May 1917, p. 22
- "Hulbert, Jack (1892-1978)". screenonline.org.uk. BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
- Hartley, 2013, A Historical Dictionary of British Women. p. 120
- "Film World". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 1 February 1935. p. 2. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- "Pictures and Personalities". The Mercury. Hobart, Tas.: National Library of Australia. 10 April 1937. p. 5. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
- "Performance Details for Pot Luck! (revue)". bris.ac.uk. University of Bristol, Theatre Collection. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
- Wearing (2014). London Stage 1920-1929. p. 137.
The show's success depended upon the exceptional talents of Beatrice Lillie and Jack Hulbert (Times)
- Green, 2009, Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre, p. 201
- "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
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