Henry Hull

Henry Hull

Henry Watterson Hull (1890–1977) American Actor, Performer and Playwriter. Henry Hull, the actor who created the role of Jeeter on Broadway in "Tobacco Road," was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on October 13, 1890, the son of a drama critic. Originally intending to become an engineer, Hull became an actor and made his Broadway debut in "Green Stockings" less than two weeks before his 21st birthday, on October 2, 1911. Two years later he appeared again on Broadway in support of John Barrymore in "Believe Me Xantippe." He then quit the stage to go prospecting for gold, using his skills as a mining engineer. When he failed to find his El Dorado, Hull turned back to acting, appearing in "The Man Who Came Back" in 1916. He made his first films at the nearby World Pictures in 1917, most famously starring as the ill-fated Aleksandr Kerensky in Rasputin, the Black Monk (1917). The following year he appeared in the second film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's famous novel Little Women (1918).

Although he appeared in about a dozen films from just after World War One to the mid-'30s, Hull concentrated on the stage until he went to Hollywood to appear as Magwitch in Great Expectations (1934). He even had a play he wrote produced on Broadway, "Manhattan," which made its debut on August 15, 1922, at the Playhouse Theatre and ran for a respectable (for the time) 86 performances.

Hull made his mark in the history of the horror film, one of Hollywood's most venerable genres, by appearing in the title role in Werewolf of London (1935). Six feet tall and slender, Hull had a rich and cultured voice, which put him in demand as a supporting player in the Golden Age of Hollywood. He was, however, somewhat of a mannered actor in a style that went out of favor after the death of John Barrymore, and he often gave a performance, such as that of the newspaper editor in The Return of Frank James (1940), that was a thick slice of ham. However, his mannerisms and plummy voice were perfect for certain roles such as the obnoxious millionaire conceived by populist John Steinbeck for Lifeboat (1944).

Hull's greatest success as an actor was on Broadway, limning Erskine Caldwell's Jeeter in "Tobacco Road," which still ranks as the longest-running drama in the Great White Way's history, opening on December 4, 1933 and closing on May 31, 1941 after 3,182 total performances. (Hull, of course, did not play the entire run; Jeeter was played by James Barton and Will Geer). By early 1936 Hull was starring on Broadway in Maxwell Anderson's "The Masque of Kings". When John Ford went looking to cast roles in his film version of the play, Tobacco Road (1941), he chose lovable old coot Charley Grapewin for Jeeter; Grapewin had been memorable as Grandpa Joad the year before in Ford's classic adaptation of Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1940).

Henry Hull's last film appearance was as a sort of chorus along with Jocelyn Brando in The Chase (1966). He was the brother of actor Shelly Hull, the brother-in-law of Shelly's wife Josephine Hull and the father of producer Shelley Hull with his wife, actress Juliet Fremont, with whom he had appeared on Broadway in 1916 in "The Man Who Came Back." Their son Henry Hull Jr. had a minor career on Broadway, appearing in and serving as assistant stage manager in his father's "The Masque of Kings," as well as appearing in the ensemble in the legendary "Hamlet" of John Gielgud that was on Broadway in 1936.


Brother of actor Shelly Hull; brother-in-law of Shelly's spouse, actress Josephine Hull.

Father of producer Shelley Hull.

His actress wife, Juliet van Wyck Fremont (1884-1971), was the granddaughter of Civil War general and explorer John C. Fremont. The couple appeared together on Broadway in "The Man Who Came Back" in 1916.

Lived on an Old Lyme, Connecticut farm with his wife for over thirty years. Following her death in 1971 and after suffering a stroke, he moved to his daughter Joan's home in Cornwall, England.

Had three children: Henry Jr., an infrequent performer and stage manager; Shelley (named after his deceased brother and a prolific TV producer); and Joan.

Was induced to attempting a stage career after the Broadway success of his brother Shelly Hull.

Enrolled at Cooper Union and Columbia University and studied engineering. During one brief juncture he worked as an assayer and mineralogist.

Born in Louisville Kentucky, the son of William Madison and Elinor (Vaughn) Hull, he moved to New York City with his family in 1902 where his father, a newspaper editor, critic and editor, was offered a position in the Klaw and Erlanger theatre syndicate booking office.

Died in England but was interred in the Rockland Cemetery in Sparkill, New York next to his wife.

His wife, Juliet Fremont, was the granddaughter of Civil War general and explorer John C. Fremont. In a 1960 episode of Bonanza, "The Mission," Hull played an aging former Army scout who served with honor under General Fremont.

Played the title role in Werewolf of London (1935), the first werewolf movie ever made.

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