McHugh, Frank, 1899-1981

Alternative names
Birth 1898-05-23
Death 1981-09-11

Biographical notes:

Frank McHugh (1898-1981) was an American stage and film actor from the 1920s through the 1960s. McHugh was born in Homestead, Pennsylvania and grew up in a theatrical family. His parents ran a theater company and his father, Edward McHugh was an actor. By the time Frank McHugh was ten he was touring in a Vaudeville act with his brother Matt and sister Kitty, both of whom also become actors as adults. Another of his brothers, Ed McHugh Jr., was a stage manager on Broadway for many years.

McHugh honed his skills performing in stock companies in the early 1920s. His breakthrough role on Broadway came in 1925, when he starred in The Fall Guy. He continued to work on Broadway throughout the decade, appearing in plays such as Tenth Avenue and Excess Baggage in 1927 and Conflict and Ziegfeld's Show Girl in 1929.

In 1930, McHugh landed in Hollywood along with a rash of other New York theatre actors and writers. The advent of talking pictures created a demand a vast demand for specific skills that silent pictures hadn't. McHugh signed a contract with Warner Brothers' and quickly became one of the studio's most reliable supporting players, appearing in seven films his first year and twelve films the next. Though McHugh got a few star parts, more often he supported stars James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. Irish-Americans McHugh, Cagney, O'Brien and Spencer Tracy were close friends and the core members of a group known as, "The Irish Mafia," which also included Allen Jenkins, Ralph Bellamy, Lynne Overman and Frank Morgan.

Though McHugh appeared in roughly 100 films, most are forgotten today. Some of his more memorable films include The Front Page (1931) Footlight Parade (1933), Gold Diggers of 1935 and A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Four Daughters (1938), The Roaring Twenties (1939), Going My Way (1944), Mighty Joe Young (1949) and The Last Hurrah (1958).

Like many movie stars, McHugh was a keen supporter of the war effort. In 1942, he was a member of the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a crew of twenty-one stars traveling across the U.S. by train, performing in several cities over the course of three weeks to raise money for the Army and Navy Relief Fund. McHugh also went to Europe with the USO to entertain the troops twice. He first toured England in August and September of 1942, appearing in the American Variety Show with Al Jolson, Merle Oberon, Patricia Morrison and Allen Jenkins. In 1945, McHugh came back to Europe with his own show, "McHugh's Revue" which toured France, Holland, Belgium and Germany in November and December of 1944, actually performing in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

In the 1950s, McHugh's film career began waning, but he worked steadily in television during the 1950s and 1960s. He also returned to his New York theatre roots, replacing David Burns as Senex in the original production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1963 and playing the title role in Finian's Rainbow at City Center in 1967.

In 1933, McHugh Married Dorothy Spencer. Their marriage lasted until McHugh's death in 1981 and produced three children.

From the guide to the Frank McHugh and Family papers, 1894-1969, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)


Loading Relationships

Constellation Information

Ark ID:


  • Irish Americans
  • Vaudeville--Twentieth Century
  • Motion pictures--1930-1940
  • Vaudeville--United States--20th century
  • United Service Organizations--1940-1950
  • Motion pictures--1940-1950


  • Actors--Theater--Twentieth Century
  • Actors--Television--Twentieth Century
  • Actors--Motion Pictures--Twentieth Century


  • United States (as recorded)