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Josephine Hull (3 January 1886 – 12 March 1957) was an American actress. She had a successful 50-year career on stage while taking some of her better known roles to film.


Hull was born Josephine Sherwood in Newtonville, Massachusettsmarker. She attended the New England Conservatory of Music (Boston) and Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker.



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 (older brother of the more well-known actor Henry Hull) in 1910. When her husband died, quite a young man, in 1919, the actress retired until 1923, when she returned under the name Josephine Hull. She and Shelley had no children.

Hull 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 30s and 40s, Hull appeared in three Broadway hits, as a batty matriarch in You Can't Take It With You (1936), as a dotty, charming but homicidal little 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.

Her last Broadway play, The Solid Gold Cadillac (1954-55), was later made into a film with the much younger Judy Holliday.


Hull only made six films, beginning with the 1929 film The Bishop's Candlesticks. That was followed by two 1932 Fox features, After Tomorrow (recreating her stage role) and The Careless Lady. She missed out on recreating her You Can't Take It With You role in 1938, as she was still onstage with the show. Spring Byington appeared in the film version).

Hull and Canadian-born Jean Adair did play the Brewster sisters in the 1944 film Arsenic and Old Lace (starring Cary Grant), and Hull was in the screen version of Harvey as well, playing James Stewart's sister. It is for that role that she won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Variety said that Hull, as "the slightly balmy aunt who wants to have Elwood committed, is immense, socking the comedy for every bit of its worth."

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.

Hull retired in 1955, and died in The Bronxmarker in 1957 from a cerebral hemorrhage.


Year Film Role Notes
1929 The Bishop's Candlesticks
1932 Careless Lady Aunt Cora
After Tomorrow Mrs. Piper
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


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