Herbert Wilcox

Herbert Wilcox & Anna Neagle
For the English footballer, see Herbert Wilcox (footballer).

Herbert Sydney Wilcox CBE (19 April 1890 – 15 May 1977), was a British film producer and director.[1]

Early life

Wilcox's mother was from County Cork, Ireland, but he was born in Norwood, south London[2] and attended school in Brighton. During the First World War, he served in the Royal Flying Corps.[3]

Film career

In 1919, Wilcox used his war gratuity to found his own company, Astra Films, and produced and directed his first film, The Wonderful Story, in a makeshift studio in Kew.[4] He formed another company, Graham Wilcox Productions, with Jack Graham Cutts in 1920.[4] Further, he set up the British National Company, which was later absorbed into British International Pictures.

Generally, Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail is regarded as the first film with sound, but Wilcox's Black Waters was trade-shown several weeks earlier in May, 1929. He produced more than a hundred films, of which he directed about half. In the 1950s, he planned to make a biopic about Van Gogh starring Trevor Howard, but it was never made.[5] "His film production team were never laid off, even during the worst depressions of the British film industry. They were on full salary 52 weeks of the year."[2]

Wilcox's postwar films include Odette (1951), Trent's Last Case (1952), Yangtse Incident (1956), and The Lady is a Square (1959). His film company failed in the 1960s, and he was declared bankrupt in 1964; however, the musical play Charlie Girl, starring his wife Anna Neagle, ran for five years and resolved this financial situation.[4]

Personal life

In June 1917, Herbert Wilcox was granted a divorce from his first wife Dorothy, whom he had married 2 December 1916 at St. Luke's (CoE), Brighton. At the time, Herbert Wilcox was a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps. His wife was "carrying on a disgraceful intrigue" with an also-married Mr. Stanley Steel. The jury awarded Wilcox damages, possibly shared with Mrs Steel, of £750 plus costs. [6]

In 1920, Wilcox married Maude Bower; they had four children together.[4] Wilcox married his third wife, actress Anna Neagle, on August 9, 1943. The couple remained married until Wilcox's death in 1977, but they had no children.

Prior to his death at the age of 87 in London, England after a long illness, Wilcox donated four Daily Mail National Film Awards to the Glebelands Retirement Home in Wokingham.

Wilcox is buried in the City of London Cemetery.[7]


In 1937, the Wilcox film Victoria the Great was nominated for the Mussolini Cup at the Venice Film Festival, but lost out to the French film Dance Program (Un carnet de bal). Wilcox lost the Festival's Best Director award to Robert J. Flaherty and Zoltán Korda for Elephant Boy. However, Victoria the Great and Wilcox won the Festival's Nations Cup for "Best World Premiere".

Wilcox won four Daily Mail National Film Awards.

Selected filmography




  1. "Herbert Wilcox".
  2. 1 2 7 Dagmar Villas, Gipsy Road. Mr Michael Thornton re Mr Herbert Wilcox. The Times, Thursday, 19 May 1977; p. 18; Issue 60007; col F
  3. "Herbert Wilcox - Biography, Movie Highlights and Photos - AllMovie".
  4. 1 2 3 4 Obituary. Mr Herbert Wilcox Pioneer British film maker The Times, Monday, 16 May 1977; pg. 16; Issue 60004; col F
  5. Harper & Porter p.156
  6. News of the World 24 June 1917, p. 3 (n.b. the News of the World was a weekly, published on Sundays.)
  7. London Cemeteries: An Illustrated Guide and Gazetteer, by Hugh Meller & Brian Parsons


External links

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