Barry Band: Popular pair who performed in Blackpool over six decades

Jack Hulbert, Cicley Courtneidge and Robertson Hare, in a scene from The Bride Comes Back at the Grand Theatre
Jack Hulbert, Cicley Courtneidge and Robertson Hare, in a scene from The Bride Comes Back at the Grand Theatre

Continuing the series on husband-and-wife acting teams, we come to a pair who appeared in Fylde theatres for a span of 58 years.

Cicely Courtneidge (1893-1980) was born in Australia when her actor-manager father, Robert Courtneidge, and his wife were touring.

At the Ashton Theatre, St Annes, Cicely Courtneidge, with Roger Livesey and Ursula Jeans, 1970

At the Ashton Theatre, St Annes, Cicely Courtneidge, with Roger Livesey and Ursula Jeans, 1970

Back in Britain, Robert was a successful writer and producer.

In 1915, one of his shows, The Cinema Star, came to the Blackpool Opera House, with Cicely and Jack Hulbert (1892-1978) in the cast.

The couple were married a year later.

Their path to stardom was a revue called Pot Luck, which visited the Grand Theatre in June 1923, after success in London.

Courtneidge and Hulbert's last Blackpool appearance, April 19, 1965

Courtneidge and Hulbert's last Blackpool appearance, April 19, 1965

Their next local visit was to the Opera House in November 1927, in Clowns in Clover, a revue written by Jack Hulbert – which opened in London two weeks later and ran for 508 performances. That was the scale of their success on-stage and cinema screen the 1920s, 30s and 40s in revues and musical comedies.

In November 1939, they came to the Opera House in Under Your Hat, a musical comedy spy spoof, from a long run at London’s Palace Theatre.

At the Grand in February 1941, they were in The Hulbert Follies, along with Jack’s brother Claude, and in February, 1942, they premiered Full Swing at the Grand.

It was vaguely a sequel to Under Your Hat and went on to another long London run at the Palace.

From the programme for the Ashton Theatre, for The Hollow starring Courtneidge and Hulbert. August 1973

From the programme for the Ashton Theatre, for The Hollow starring Courtneidge and Hulbert. August 1973

Cicely Courtneidge starred in and Jack Hulbert directed a black market comedy called Under the Counter, which played a week at the Grand in October, 1945, prior to a London run of 665 performances.

In 1955, the Hulberts starred in their first non-musical show together, the light comedy Joy of Living, which visited the Grand.

For several years the Hulberts appeared individually in comedies, visiting the Grand several times, before linking up again in Ronald Millar’s comedy The Bride Comes Back, at the Grand in October, 1961.

The Gazette’s Bill Burgess wrote: “How good it is to see the Hulberts again. In the field of high comedy they remain masters.”

They were back at the Grand in March 1963, in Agatha Christie’s comedy thriller Spider’s Web, and in April, 1965, they were at the same venue in the tour of William Douglas Home’s London success The Reluctant Peer.

After the closure of the Grand Theatre in 1972, Cicely Courtneidge and Jack Hulberts appeared a few times at the Ashton Theatre, St Annes.

The programme title page pictured above shows them there in August, 1973, in Agatha Christie’s thriller, The Hollow.

Cicely received a CBE in 1951 and was made a Dame in 1972.

Few actors had such long careers, toured as regularly, and retained their popularity with Fylde audiences.

• Next week: The peer who appeared in The Reluctant Peer!