Josephine Hull was an American actress with a successful career in both the stage and film, best known for her work in the first half of the 20th century. Her real name was Mary Josephine Sherwood, and she was born on January 3, 1877, in Newtonville, Massachusetts.
Before focusing on her acting career, Hull initially studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music. Her acting career began in earnest when she joined a repertory company in Boston, eventually moving over to Broadway productions. On Broadway, she gained significant attention and a reputation for her comedic and character roles.
Her Broadway debut was in 1905 in "The Brixton Burglary." Over the next few decades, she would become well-known on Broadway, often performing with her husband, actor Shelley Hull, until his untimely death in 1919.
Perhaps one of her most notable roles was as Veta Louise Simmons in the play "Harvey," a role she originated on Broadway in 1944. The play, written by Mary Chase, tells the story of a man who befriends a six-foot-tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey. "Harvey" was highly successful and earned Hull a Tony Award after the institution of the award in 1947; this was a significant acknowledgement given the Tony's focus on theatrical achievement.
She reprised her role in the 1950 film adaptation, which starred James Stewart. Her performance in the film adaptation won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This marked a high point in her film career and showed her flexibility in transferring her theatrical work to the big screen.
Among her other movies, Hull appeared in notable films such as "Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944), where she played another eccentric character, Abby Brewster, alongside Cary Grant. Her filmography, though not extensive, was significant for the impact of the roles she portrayed.
Hull's screen presence was characterized by her ability to bring warmth, eccentricity, and a hint of mischief to her characters, often making her a scene-stealer. Despite her success with "Harvey," she made few films overall, instead primarily focusing on her stage work.
Josephine Hull passed away on March 12, 1957. Even though her film appearances were relatively limited, her legacy lives on through her memorable performances, especially in "Harvey" and "Arsenic and Old Lace."
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