Hugh Willoughby

Hugh Willoughby

The British artist Hugh Willoughby rose to prominence in the new wave of costume designers and illustrators that emerged after the First World War during the Jazz Age. He made a name for himself in London and Paris before moving to the USA in the mid 1920s.

Hugh Willoughby
Hugh Willoughby

Hugh Willoughby (1891-1973) was born in Croydon on 15th October 1891, the son of Charles William Willoughby and Clara Evelyn (Thompson) and was educated at Reigate and Eastbourne. He was in the regular army during the 1914-18 war and was a prisoner of war in Germany for two years. His first work for the theatre was for a revue in the Hague, Holland (September 1919). But, he was allegedly ‘discovered’ by Albert de Courville, who commissioned him to design the costumes for The Whirligig, (1919). This was where he first attracted attention with The Times asking ‘Who is Willoughby?” He subsequently designed costumes for Jigsaw (1920) staged at the London Hippodrome and The Co-optomists launched at the Royalty (1921). He also designed dresses for productions staged in Paris, including Piff Paff at the Marigny (1920) and Un Soir de Folie at the Folies Bergere (1925) and through the costumier Max Weldy his work may have been seen in other European capitals and other shows in Paris.

His work was characterised by neat, precise drawings full of detail and exquisitely rendered and finished. He might not have been as flamboyant as some of his contemporaries, especially those working in Paris, but he did create some wonderfully well-drawn and intricate designs that were perfectly evocative of specific themes often required by theatre producers in the 1920s. Although he excelled at costume design, he was also equally at home designing sets and in fact perhaps it is for his set designs that he became better known in America

Programme cover for Aladdin staged at the London Hippodrome, 1920
Programme cover for Aladdin staged

at the London Hippodrome, 1920

When he arrived in New York on 22nd May 1923 onboard the President Adams from Cherbourg his first marriage had ended in divorce. He made New York his new home and in late 1923 the Shubert organisation made him an offer to work on their costumes and help with scenic design at $75 per week. He was also allowed do outside work. How long this arrangement lasted is not known but he soon branched out on his own. His first major credits included designing sets and costumes for Ted Lewis’s Frolics (1923), Chocolate Dandies (1924), Mercenary Mary (1925), Castles in the Air (1926), Judy (1927) and Piggy (1927).

At some point in the mid to late 20s he formed the company Booth, Willoughby and Jones, designing and producing costumes and sets for various Broadway productions, cabarets and vaudeville shows including work for Earl Carroll’s Vanities (1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930) and George White’s Scandals. Later credits included Saluta (1934), Tide Rising (1937) and Where Do We Go From Here? (1938) Nothing is known about his later career but he settled with his wife Jill (nee Williams) in Glen Cove, Long Island and brought up two sons. After retiring he worked for the Glen Players a local theatrical group. He died in Glen Cove on 8th November 1973.



All images and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent





1919 Whirligig, London
1920 Jigsaw, London Hippodrome
1920 Piff Paff , Marigny, Paris
1921 Co-optimists, London
1921 Fantasia, London
1921 Put and Take, London
1923 Rainbow, Empire Theatre, London
1923 Ted Lewis’s Frolics, New York
1924 Chocolate Dandies, New York
1924 Un Soir de Folie, Folies Bergere, Paris
1925 Mercenary Mary, New York
1926 Castles in the Air, New York
1927 Judy, New York
1927 Piggy, New York
1927 5th ed Earl Carroll’s Vanities, New York
1927 6th ed Earl Carroll’s Vanities, New York
1928 Earl Carroll’s Vanities, New York
1929 Earl Carroll’s Vanities, New York
1931 Earl Carroll’s Vanities, New York
1934 Saluta, Imperial, New York
1937 Tide Rising Lyceum, New York
1938 Where Do We Go From Here? New York


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9 thoughts on “Hugh Willoughby”

  1. I am the granddaughter of Hugh Willoughby and he is still survived by his son Bruce, my father who will turn 80 this year. He did not actually reside in Glen Cove, NY but rather Glen Head, NY. I am the youngest daughter of his son Bruce. I have 2 sisters that are identical twins. Thank you so much for this page! I don’t know if you are aware but he was also the designer of the Statue of Iwa Jima. I have pictures of him with the sketch of it. He was an amazing artist! I currently reside in FL and have my website under construction for the sale of my artwork, handmade jewelry designs and paintings.

    Again many thanks for this page! Awesome to see his name and his work live on!!

    Alis Jill Willoughby

  2. I am the grandson of Charles Edward Burton Bernard, an artist and illustrator, who was a prisoner of war in Germany with Hugh Willoughby during the First World War. Together, they formed the “Wilbern Studio,” which produced the scenery for many of the plays that the prisoners put on within the camps. I recently discovered a manuscript written by my grandfather, in which he mentions Hugh Willoughby and describes the work they did together. I also have an original programme from one of their revues in 1917, in which Hugh Willoughby is also mentioned as a member of the cast, and which features a cover illustration that I suspect may have been his work.

  3. I’ve come across this page researching the Prisoners of World War 1, Germany, and a particular POW CAMP called Holzminden. I read that CEB Bernard did the illustrations for FW Harvey’s book whilst (FW Harvey was interned at Holzminden) and I was wondering if either Gentleman Hugh Willoughby or Charles Edward Burton Bernard spent time at Holzminden. We are endeavouring to research every prisoner that spent time at Holzminden and if they did, their experiences and time with Captain Karl Niemeyer..I am reading Battalion diaries, war records, both Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, South African, Flight Global Archive Magazine,, newspapers, tunnellers of holzminden, caged birds, FW Harvey’s work, Behind Boche Bars, papers past, (New Zealand), help has come in from Canada and from other relatives of POW’S…so far we have documented about 350 prisoners. the website is on line, I also have a private email should it be needed at
    thank you..
    Jenelle McCarrick

  4. Seven years ago I inherited the set of picture relating to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam . The watercolours date from 1918 and reflect the horror of WW1 trenches. Thank you for the information on his life and times.
    You may contact me if you wish. Graham

  5. I recently found a cartoon cut-out, framed, of what looks to be s series of illustrations from a 1935-57 newspaper. CEB Bernard is the illustrator and the image is of a bunch of guys in their a locker room causing a fuss being loud and other guys peeking out in annoyance.

    Do you have a record of his cartoons? I’d like to learn more, they are very entertaining.

  6. Hi Christopher,

    I am trying to track down the estate of C.E.B.Bernard and it sounds like you can help, being his grandson. We are a TV production company in England and we would like to use your grandfather’s illustration in a WW1 documentary. Can you please get in touch:


  7. Aaron,

    I just saw your posting and would be interested to see a copy of your cartoons. I do have lots of information about CEBB’s career as an artist, including his cartoons.

    Best regards,

    Chris Bernard

  8. Hi Christopher,

    I’m an academic historian working on a book on First World War POWs. I’m trying to track down the next of kin of C E B Bernard in relation to a number of his images I would very much like to include in the book. I see you state above that you are his grandson. I thus hope you still monitor this site. If so could you reply below or contact me through the GWF where I have made an appeal regarding your grandfather.

    Many Thanks

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