Date of Birth : Dec 6th 1888
He was trained as an engineer and joined a firm of engineers but at the age of 21 he gave up that profession for acting. He had a relatively brief screen career: by the time he made his first film he was in his mid-40s and an established music hall artist, and his last role came less than a decade later. But between 1934 and 1943 he was a prolific and popular film comedian. He was credited on several films as a writer or co-ordinator, and was arguably the dominant “author” of all the films in which he appeared, in that they were built around his persona and depended on the character and routines he had developed over years on the stage.
He worked at the British film studios of Elstree, then Gainsborough, then Ealing; the Gainsborough period was the most consistently successful, particularly when he worked with the team of Marcel Varnel (director), Val Guest and Marriott Edgar (writers), and Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt (supporting cast) – as on the railway film Oh, Mr Porter! (1937), his most fondly remembered picture with its catchphrase, ‘The next train’s gone!’, spoken by Marriott as the decrepit old deputy stationmaster. Hay decided to break up the partnership with Moffatt and Marriott and was never quite the same again. He brought in Claude Hulbert as his side-kick for The Ghost of St. Michael’s (1941). The Goose Steps Out for Ealing (1942) was an effective anti-Nazi piece of slapstick, and, finally, My Learned Friend (1943), again with Hulbert, was a masterpiece of black comedy, which some regard as his best.