About Herbert Wilcox
<Daily Telegraph, May 16, 1977>
<HERBERT WILCOX, BRITISH FILM PIONEER, DIES AT 85>
HERBERT WILCOX, who has died, aged 85, was an important pioneer, both as director and producer, in the British film industry, to rank with Balcon and Korda in introducing British films into the internatinal market.
Much of his success was due to his long and happy association with Anna Neagle (Florence Marjorie Robertson), whom he married in 1943, and who was made DBE in 1969. She was his third wife. His earlier marriages ended in divorce.
Anna was the star in most of his pictures and made possible, by her financial assistance, the production in 1937 of "Victoria the Great", which was hailed as a masterpiece on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wilcox himself said: "Victoria' cost me £145,000. The bank suddenly declined to lend any more money on film production. My friends had already lent all the money they could. All my money had gone long ago.
"I stopped Miss Neagle's salary and the salaries of others who had been with me a long time. Finally I wanted £3,000 to complete the picture. Miss Neagle rang up her bank and was told she had £3,080. I said you can keep the £80; give me the £3,000." She did, and that was the true story how the picture was finished".
With Anna as Victoria and Anton Walbrook as Prince Albert the film won the gold cup for the best picture at Venice in 1937.
Wilcox also made his mark with such films as "Dawn" (the story of Edith Cavell); "Nell Gwyn", with Anna in the title role and Cedric Hardwicke as Charles II; "Peg of Old Drury", and "The King's Cup", the first full length flying picture.
Other successes followed. "Victoria the Great" produced £300,000 profit. "Spring in Park Lane" £500,000, adn "Odette", the story of the French restistence heroine £400,000.
Among pictures which will be remembered by the older generation were "The Lady with the Lamp", "The Beggar's Opera", "No, No Nanette", "Yangtse Incident", "Derby Day" and "The Courtneys of Curzon Street".
When, in 1964, at the age of 72, Wilcox was made bankrupt, he blamed his failure partly on the changed public taste in films.
He successfully applied for discharge in 1966. The London Bankruptcy Court was then told of some of his successes and failures during his long career. The failures included "King's Rhapsody" and "Lilacs in the Spring."
In the meanwhile Dame Anna had returned to the stage, to star in the five and a half years' run of "Charlie Girl" at the Adelphi Theatre, which ended in March, 1971.
Herbert Wilcox served during the 1914-18 war in the East Kent Regt., the RFC and the RAF.
He was educated at Brighton and entered the film business in 1919. His autobiography, "Twenty-Five Thousand Sunsets", was published in 1967. He was made CBE in 1951.