Hugh Herbert

Hugh Herbert (August 10, 1885 March 12, 1952)[1] was a motion picture comedian. He began his career in vaudeville and wrote more than 150 plays and sketches.

Hugh Herbert
Hugh Herbert in Dames (1934)
Born(1885-08-10)August 10, 1885
DiedMarch 12, 1952(1952-03-12) (aged 66)
OccupationActor, comedian
Years active19271952
Spouse(s)Rose Epstein (19321949)


Born in Binghamton, New York, Herbert "had many serious roles, and for years was seen on major vaudeville circuits as a pathetic old Hebrew."[2]

The advent of talking pictures brought stage-trained actors to Hollywood, and Hugh Herbert soon became a popular movie comedian. His screen character was usually absent-minded and flustered. He would flutter his fingers together and talk to himself, repeating the same phrases: "hoo-hoo-hoo, wonderful, wonderful, hoo hoo hoo!" So many imitators (including Curly Howard of The Three Stooges, Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy and Etta Candy in the Wonder Woman comic book series) copied the catchphrase as "woo woo" that Herbert himself began to use "woo woo" rather than "hoo hoo" in the 1940s.[2]

Herbert's earliest movies, like Wheeler & Woolsey's feature Hook, Line and Sinker (1930), cast him in generic comedy roles that could have been taken by any comedian. He developed his own unique screen personality, complete with a silly giggle, and this new character caught on quickly. He was frequently featured in Warner Brothers films of the 1930s, including Bureau of Missing Persons, Footlight Parade (both 1933), Dames, Fog Over Frisco, Fashions of 1934 (all 1934), and Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), as well as A Midsummer Night's Dream (also 1935), a film adaptation of Shakespeare's play. He played leads in "B comedies", notably Sh! The Octopus (1937), a comedy-mystery featuring an exceptional unmasking of the culprit.[2]

Herbert was often caricatured in Warners' Looney Tunes shorts of the 1930s/40s, such as Speaking of the Weather (1937) and The Hardship of Miles Standish (1940). One of the minor characters in the Terrytoons short The Talking Magpies (1946) is also a recognizably Hugh Herbertesque bird. In 1939 Herbert signed with Universal Pictures, where, as at Warners, he played supporting roles in major films and leading roles in minor ones. One of his best-received performances from this period is in the Olsen and Johnson comedy Hellzapoppin' (1941), in which he played a nutty detective.[3]

Herbert joined Columbia Pictures in 1943 and became a familiar face in short subjects, with the same actors and directors who made the Stooges shorts. He continued to star in these comedies for the remainder of his life.

Herbert wrote six screenplays, co-writing the screenplays for the films Lights of New York (1928) and Second Wife (1930) and contributing to The Great Gabbo (1929), among others. He acted in a few films co-written by the much more prolific (but unrelated) screenwriter F. Hugh Herbert: Fashions of 1934 (1934), We're in the Money (1935) and Colleen (1936). He also directed one film, He Knew Women (1930).[3]


Herbert has a star at 6251 Hollywood Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was dedicated February 8, 1960.[4]

Personal life and death

Herbert was married to Rose Epstein, who was also known by the name Anita Pam.[2]

Herbert died on March 12, 1952 at the age of 66 from cardiovascular disease in North Hollywood, Los Angeles.[1]


Hugh's brother, Tom Herbert, was a screen comedian who played mildly flustered roles. He is featured in the Warner Brothers short subject Double or Nothing (1940) as his brother Hugh's movie double.

Selected filmography

As writer

As director


  1. Hugh Herbert - L.A. Times Hollywood Star Walk
  2. Harrison, Paul (August 31, 1936). "Can't Discard Funny Face". Xenia Daily Gazette. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 8. Retrieved September 20, 2015 via
  3. Hugh Herbert on IMDb
  4. "Hugh Herbert". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
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