Cicely Courtneidge was one of the great comediennes of the British stage and her energetic brand of horsing around had a brief popularity with cinema audiences.
She was born in Sydney Australia where her father, an actor-manager, was touring. Naturally, she went into the business from an early age. It was while playing soubrette roles in her father's company in 1913 that she first met Jack Hulbert. They married in 1916. With her husband in the army and work in the legitimate theatre drying up, Courtneidge went into Music Hall and found her metier as a clown.
The 20s saw the Hulberts become huge West End stars and when talkies arrived, they were naturally given a shot. Their first appearance in the all-star review Elstree Calling went down well enough for them to be given roles in the adaptation of The Ghost Train. Hulbert played the dashing hero while Courtneidge played a mad spinster - a pattern that was repeated in many of their subsequent films together.
Courtneidge went solo for Soldiers of the King and scored a solid hit. Hollywood took an interest and she went over to MGM to make The Perfect Gentleman opposite Frank Morgan. It was a disastrous production and a massive flop. She returned to Britain and carried on from where she left off.
Stage work kept her busy throughout the war and there were few film offers afterwards. It wasn't until the 60s that she finally got a decent serious role in a decent film playing an aging lesbian in The L-Shaped Room. She featured in the first series of the TV sitcom On the Buses though her role was played by Doris Hare in the rest of its long run.
She was made a Dame in 1972 in recognition of her long career. Hulbert died in 1978 and she died the following year.
|1931||The Ghost Train|
|1932||Jack's the Boy|
|1932||Happy Ever After|
|1933||Soldiers of the King|
|1933||Falling for You|
|1935||Things Are Looking Up|
|1935||Me and Marlborough|
|1935||The Perfect Gentleman (US)|
|1937||Take My Tip|
|1940||Under Your Hat|
|1955||Miss Tulip Stays the Night|
|1962||The L-Shaped Room|
|1965||Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machine|
|1966||The Wrong Box|
|1963||Not Now Darling|
Cicely Courtneidge at Amazon UK
Cicely Courtneidge at Amazon US