Herbert Wilcox

Active - 1922 - 1959  |   Born - Jan 1, 1892   |   Died - Jan 1, 1977   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Musical

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Biography by Bruce Eder

One of England's top producer-directors from the '20s until World War II, Herbert Wilcox was born in Ireland and worked as a journalist before serving as a flyer with the British during World War I. He entered the movie business as a distributor in 1919, and three years later began producing movies. Wilcox was one of the few producers in England during the '20s with a Hollywood-style flair for showmanship, and occasionally imported American stars such as Dorothy Gish for his films. He made his greatest single contribution to films in 1926 by founding Elstree Studios, which remained a major production facility right into the '80s. As a producer, he had no peer during the '20s, and was rivalled in the '30s only by Sir Alexander Korda. Korda quickly succeeded in international production on a scale that Wilcox found hard to top, but in England, Wilcox remained a major figure, especially in connection with the movies he directed and produced for actress Anna Neagle, his future wife. Sixty Glorious Years (1939) was a groundbreaking film, as a dramatization of the life of a British monarch. He went to Hollywood in the wake of the latter movie, but was not able to repeat its success, and returned to England, where he was never able to repeat his pre-war success, although he did co-produce one superb film, The Beggar's Opera (1954), starring Laurence Olivier and directed by Peter Brook.

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