Born 150 Years Ago Today: Seymour Hicks

The name Seymour Hicks (Sir Edward Seymour Hicks, 1871-1949) originally became known to me in relation to his long association with the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, having playing him on the stage beginning in 1901, in a silent film in 1913 (re-released in 1926) and a 1935 talkie. But Hicks was much more than that, he was a sort of British George M. Cohan, having produced, directed and starred in something like 64 West End shows, including revues and Edwardian musicals, many co-starring his wife Ellaline Terriss, daughter of William Terriss, star of Robin Hood.

Born on the isle of Jersey, Hick’s professional London stage career began around 1887. Early on he was associated with the musicals of George Edwardes, and he was also in Henry Irving’s Cinderella (1894). Hicks’ own plays (many produced by Charles Frohman), including A Runaway Girl (1898), Bluebell in Fairyland (1901), The Cherry Girl (1902), The Beauty of Bath (1906, with Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse), and The Gay Gordons (1907). The Hickses also co-starred in J.M. Barrie’s Quality Street (1902). Hicks built the Aldwych Theatre in 1905 and the Hicks Theater (now known as the Gielgud) in 1906. In 1910 he adapted a play by his friend Richard Harding Davis into the musical Captain Kidd. Over the next years, he slipped in popularity on the musical stage, and filled much of time with music hall performances.

Old Scrooge (1913) was his first film, followed by a turn in the title role of David Garrick (1913), and the first of two screen adaptations of his play Always Tell Your Wife (1914). (The second, in 1923, was the first screened and completed film by Alfred Hitchcock, though it was uncredited). Among Hicks’ two dozens screen appearances, other notable ones include The Lambeth Walk a.k.a. Me and My Girl (1939) with Lupino Lane, and Haunted Honeymoon, the 1940 adaptation of Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon with Robert Montgomery, Constance CummingsLeslie BanksGoogie Withers, and Robert Newton.

For more on vaudeville and music hall history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.