Hull was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of William Madison Hull and Elinor Bond Vaughn. Early in his career, Hull appeared frequently on Broadway; he created the role of Jeeter Lester in the long-running play Tobacco Road
(1933), based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell.
Hull appeared in 74 films between 1917 and 1966, often playing supporting characters like the uncle ofTyrone Power's love interest Nancy Kelly in Jesse James (1939). He appeared as Charles Rittenhouse, a wealthy industrialist in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944). Two other notable roles were as Abel Magwitch in the 1934 version of Great Expectations and in the last film of veteran director Tod Browning,Miracles for Sale (1939). He also appeared in the Werewolf of London in 1935.
In 1955, Hull appeared as a college professor forced to retire at sixty-five in an episode of CBS's sitcom,Meet Mr. McNutley, later renamed The Ray Milland Show. He guest starred on CBS's Appointment with Adventure, John Payne's NBC western series, The Restless Gun, and the syndicated crime drama,U.S. Marshal.
In 1960, Hull appeared on Bonanza, portraying a scout for General John Charles Fremont (who in real life was the grandfather of Hull's wife). In 1961, Hull played an elderly man befriended by a young outlaw, portrayed by James Coburn, in NBC's Outlaws.
On December 13, 1960, Hull guest starred on NBC's Laramie as an embittered rancher, Ben Parkison, who challenges Slim Sherman, played by series star John Smith, to a duel after Parkison's youngest son accidentally kills himself on Sherman ranch land. Ron Harper portrays Parkison's other son, Tom.
Hull also guest starred in the series finale of Laramie, the episode "The Road to Helena" (May 21, 1963). Series character Slim Sherman, while in Cody, Wyoming, is hired by David Franklin, played by Hull, and his barmaid daughter, Ruth, portrayed by Maggie Pierce, to guide the pair to Helena, Montana, so that Franklin can return money that he had previously stolen. John M. Pickard also appears in this episode.
Hull's last film was The Chase (1966) with Marlon Brando and Robert Redford.
Hull was married to Juliet Van Wyck Fremont (1886–1971) from 1913 until her death in 1971. She was a granddaughter of Civil War general and explorer John C. Frémont and Jessie Ann Benton, the daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton. The couple had three children, Henry Jr., Shelley (1919–2005, named after Henry's late brother) and Joan. When his wife died in 1971, Hull went to England to spend his last years with his daughter. He died in Cornwall at his daughter's residence on March 8, 1977.