Star Archive


Will Hay (1888 - 1949)

Will Hay's comedy genius was in combining the role of authority figure with that of the little man struggling against authority. His hopeless incompetence when placed in a job he can't possibly do makes him a sympathetic, as well as an anarchic, figure. He was seedy, greedy, idle and mean - who could fail to love him?

He served a long apprenticeship in the Music Halls, gradually developing his sketch The Fourth Form at St Michael's, where his schoolmaster character took form. In 1934 he made his first feature for B.I.P. Those Were The Days an adaptation of Pinero's The Magistrate. He made two other films at the studio before moving to Gainsborough and making the films he's best remembered for.

His first film for Gainsborough, Boys Will Be Boys, brought out his schoolmaster character in full but it wasn't until Windbag the Sailor that he was united with Graham Moffat and Moore Marriott as his sidekicks Albert (the fat boy) and Harbottle (the old one). This teaming hit the heights in Oh, Mr Porter! which has a good claim to be Britain's funniest comedy ever.

Hay seems to have resented becoming part of a team and left Gainsborough in 1941 to go to Ealing. His films there are less appealing; partly because the plots usually involved him fighting Nazis, which every other British comedian was doing at the time. He had a straight cameo in The Big Blockade. He was still a top box-office draw but he retired from the screen due to ill health after his next film My Learned Friend. This is a gloriously dark comedy about an incompetent barrister (guess who!) who's on the hit list of his serial-killing client.

Still from Boys Will Be BoysProduction still from Oh, Mr Porter!Will Hay on the set of Hey! Hey! USA!Picture of Will Hay posing in costume for The Ghost of St Michael'sProduction still from The Black Sheep of WhitehallStill from The Goose Steps Out

Filmography

1934  Those Were the Days
1934 Radio Parade of 1935
1935 Dandy Dick
1935 Boys will be Boys
1936 Where There's a Will
1936 Windbag the Sailor
1937 Good Morning Boys
1937 Oh, Mr Porter!
1938 Convict 99
1938 Hey Hey USA
1938 Old Bones of the River
1939 Ask a Policeman
1941 Where's that Fire?
1941 The Ghost of St Michael's
1941 The Black Sheep of Whitehall
1942 The Goose Steps Out
1942 The Big Blockade
1943 My Learned Friend

 Will Hay at Amazon UK

 Will Hay at Amazon US