• 3 January 1877
  •  Newtonville, Massachusetts, USA

Josephine Hull


Josephine Sherwood changed her name after marrying stage actor Shelly Hull in 1910. She studied drama at Radcliffe College -- much to the dismay of her parents -- and first worked on the stage in a stock company in Boston. Her husband died in 1919, aged 35, of Spanish influenza. Josephine left the stage for three years and never re-married but resumed her theatrical career with renewed vigour from 1923. Short and dumpy of stature and with a distinctively brittle delivery, Josephine possessed an undeniable stage presence as well as exquisite timing. On Broadway, she alternated between comedy and drama. One of her best performances was as a member of the balmy Vanderhof family in You Can't Take It with You (1938) (the film version by Frank Capra came out two years later). She is most fondly remembered for two indelible theatrical enactments which she would later reprise on screen. First, she was the sweetly homicidal Abby Brewster in the farce 'Arsenic and Old Lace', who, with her sister Martha (Jean Adair), sets about poisoning lonely old men with elderberry wine. The play ran on Broadway for three seasons (1941-44) and was a massive popular and critical hit with 1444 performances. The resulting 1944 motion picture was an equally resounding success and became one of Warner Brothers three biggest money-making films of the year. Josephine's second major role was that of Veta Louise Simmons, perpetually befuddled, beleaguered sister of Elwood P. Dowd (whose best friend is an imaginary rabbit) in Harvey (1950). This delightfully whimsical play by Mary Chase was an even greater smash hit, totalling 1775 performances between November 1944 and January 1949. Again, Josephine reprised her role on screen in 1950 and deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress that year. Critic Bosley Crowther commented "Josephine Hull plays Elwood's sister with such hilarious confusion and daft concern that she brings quite as much to the picture as does Mr.Stewart - or his pal to be sure...and it would be an unhappy screen version that did not contain her rotund frame, her scatter-brained fussing and fluttering and her angelic gentleness of soul" (New York Times, December 22 1950). Hardly surprising, then, that with so many years spent on the stage, Josephine Hull's screen career was not particularly prolific. She even got to first billing in the starring role of the theatrical version of 'The Solid Gold Cadillac' (1953-55), as Laura Partridge (later filmed with Judy Holliday in the lead). Josephine died in New York in March 1957 of a brain hemorrhage, aged 80.


Movie Name Release Date
Αρσενικό και παλιά δαντέλα – Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) September 23, 1944