Josephine Hull
Josephine Hull face.png
Hull in the Harvey trailer, 1950
Mary Josephine Sherwood

(1877-01-03)January 3, 1877
DiedMarch 12, 1957(1957-03-12) (aged 80)
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
Alma materRadcliffe College
Years active1905–1955
(m. 1910; died 1919)

Marie Josephine Hull (née Sherwood; January 3, 1877 – March 12, 1957) was an American stage and film actress who also was a director of plays. She had a successful 50-year career on stage while taking some of her better known roles to film. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the movie Harvey (1950), a role she originally played on the Broadway stage. She was sometimes credited as Josephine Sherwood.[1]


Hull was born January 3, 1877,[2] in Newtonville, Massachusetts, one of four children born to William H. Sherwood and Mary Elizabeth "Minnie" Tewkesbury,[3] but would later shave years off her age.[4] She attended the New England Conservatory of Music and Radcliffe College, both in the Boston area.[citation needed]



Hull made her stage debut in stock in 1905, and after some years as a chorus girl and touring stock player, she married actor Shelley Hull (the elder brother of actor Henry Hull) in 1910. After her husband's death as a young man, the actress retired until 1923, when she returned to acting using her married name, Josephine Hull. The couple had no children.

She had her first major stage success in George Kelly's Pulitzer-winning Craig's Wife in 1926. Kelly wrote a role especially for her in his next play, Daisy Mayme, which also was staged in 1926. She continued working in New York theater throughout the 1920s. In the 1930s and 1940s, Hull appeared in three Broadway hits, as a batty matriarch in You Can't Take It with You (1936), as a homicidal old lady in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941), and in Harvey (1944). The plays all had long runs, and took up ten years of Hull's career.[5] Her last Broadway play, The Solid Gold Cadillac (1954–55), was later made into a film version with the much younger Judy Holliday in the role.[citation needed]


Hull made only six films, beginning in 1927 with a small part in the Clara Bow feature Get Your Man, followed by The Bishop's Candlesticks in 1929. That was followed by two 1932 Fox features, After Tomorrow (recreating her stage role) and The Careless Lady.[citation needed]

She missed out on recreating her You Can't Take It With You role in 1938, as she was still onstage with the show. Instead, Spring Byington appeared in the film version.

Hull played Aunt Abby who, along with Jean Adair as Aunt Martha, was one of the two Brewster sisters in the film version of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starring Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane.

Hull then appeared in the screen version of Harvey (1950), for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Variety credited Hull's performance: "the slightly balmy aunt, (actually Playing “Elwood's” Sister, “Veta”) who wants to have Elwood committed, is immense, socking the comedy for every bit of its worth".[6]

After Harvey, Hull made only one more film, The Lady from Texas (1951); she had also appeared in the CBS-TV version of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1949, with Ruth McDevitt, an actress who often succeeded Hull in her Broadway roles, as her sister.[citation needed]


Hull died on March 12, 1957, aged 80, from a cerebral hemorrhage.[7]

Broadway performances

Broadway director credits


Year Title Role Awards
1929 The Bishop's Candlesticks Persone Short
1932 After Tomorrow Mrs. Piper
Careless Lady Aunt Cora
1944 Arsenic and Old Lace Aunt Abby Brewster
1950 Harvey Veta Louise Simmons Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1951 The Lady from Texas Miss Birdie Wheeler

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air The Meanest Man in the World[8]

See also


  1. ^ "Josephine Hull". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  2. ^ 1880 United States Census (Massachusetts, Middlesex, Newton Ward 2, District 474, page 55); 1900 United States Census (Massachusetts, Middlesex, Newton Ward 2, District 895, page 19), each showing Mary Josephine Sherwood born to William Sherwood and Mary E. Tewksbury Sherwood in Massachusetts in January 1877.
  3. ^ Great Stars of the American Stage by Daniel Blum ca. 1952 Profile #111
  4. ^ For example, her marriage certificate in 1910 (when she was 33) states that she was 28. See Marriage Records, Chicago, Illinois and Newton, Massachusetts, April 3, 1910, (Mary Josephine Sherwood and Shelly Vaughn Hull). She likewise represented herself as several years younger in the 1910 census. 1910 United States Census (Connecticut, Litchfield, Barkhamstead, District 249, page 21), stating that "Josephine Hull" was 27. Still later sources list Hull as born on January 3, 1886, nine years later than her real birth date.
  5. ^ Josephine Hull at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. ^ "Review: Harvey", Variety, December 31, 1949.
  7. ^ "Stage star Josephine Hull dies". The Pittsburgh Press. United Press. March 13, 1957. p. 26. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  8. ^ Kirby, Walter (February 17, 1952). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved June 1, 2015 – via access

Further reading