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Madeleine Carroll


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Edith Madeleine Carroll (26 February 1906 – 2 October 1987) was an English actress, popular in the 1930s and 1940s.

Early life

Carroll was born at 32 Herbert Street (now number 44) in West Bromwich, England. She graduated from the University of Birmingham, England with a B.A. degree. She once taught in a girl's public school.

Acting career

Carroll made her stage debut with a touring company in The Lash. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful women in films (she won a film beauty competition to start herself off in the business), Carroll's aristocratic blonde allure and sophisticated style were first glimpsed by British movie audiences in The Guns of Loos in 1928. Rapidly rising to stardom in England, she graced such popular films of the early '30s as Young Woodley, Atlantic, The School for Scandal and I Was a Spy. She played the title role in the play Little Catherine. Abruptly, she announced plans to retire from films to devote herself to a private life with her husband, the first of four.

Carroll attracted the attention of Alfred Hitchcock and, in 1935, starred as one of the director's earliest prototypical cool, glib, intelligent blondes in The 39 Steps based on the espionage novel by John Buchan. The film became a sensation and with it, so did Carroll. Cited by the New York Times for a performance that was "charming and skillful", Carroll became very much in demand thanks, in part, to director Hitchcock, who later admitted that he worked very hard with her to bring out the vivacious and sexy qualities she possessed offscreen, but which sometimes vanished when cameras rolled. Of Hitchcock's heroines, as exemplified by Carroll, film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that they "reflected the same qualities over and over again: They were blonde. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerized the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps."

The director wanted to re-team Carroll with her 39 Steps co-star Robert Donat the following year in Secret Agent, a spy thriller based on a work by W. Somerset Maugham. However, Donat's recurring health problems prevented him from accepting the role and, instead, Hitchcock paired Carroll with John Gielgud.

Poised for international stardom, Carroll was the first British beauty to be offered a major American film contract; she accepted a lucrative deal with Paramount Pictures. She starred opposite Gary Cooper in the adventure The General Died at Dawn and with Ronald Colman in the 1937 box-office success The Prisoner of Zenda. She tried a big musical On the Avenue (1937) opposite Dick Powell, but others of her films, including One Night in Lisbon (1941), and My Favorite Blonde (1942) with Bob Hope, were less prestigious. She made her final film for director Otto Preminger, The Fan, adapted from Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, in 1949.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Madeleine Carroll has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6707 Hollywood Blvd. A commemorative monument and plaques were unveiled in her birthplace, West Bromwich, to mark the centenary of her birth.

Personal life

After her only sister Marguerite was killed in the Blitz, she radically shifted her priorities from acting to working in field hospitals as a Red Cross nurse during World War II. She served in the 61st Station Hospital, Foggia, Italy in 1944, where many wounded American airmen flying out of air bases around Foggia were hospitalized. During WWII, Madeleine Carroll donated her chateau outside Paris to more than 150 "adopted" orphans. She also arranged groups of young people in California to knit clothing for them. In a filmed RKO-Pathe News bulletin, she was filmed at the chateau with the children and staff wearing the clothes, where she thanked people who had contributed. She was awarded the Legion d'Honneur for bravery in France.

She became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943.

Madeleine Carroll died on October 2, 1987 from pancreatic cancer in Marbella, Spain aged 81, exactly one week after her The Prisoner of Zenda co-star Mary Astor died. She was initially interred in Fuengirola, Málaga, Spain but in 1998 was reburied in the cemetery of Sant Antoni de Calonge in Catalonia, Spain.


The Guns of Loos (1928)

Pas si bête (1928)

The First Born (1928)

What Money Can Buy (1928)

The Crooked Billet (1929)

The American Prisoner (1929)

Atlantic (1929)

L'instinct (1930)

The W Plan (1930)

Young Woodley (1930)

French Leave (1930)

Escape (1930)

School for Scandal (1930)

Kissing Cup's Race (1930)

Madame Guillotine (1931)

Fascination (1931)

The Written Law (1931)

I Was a Spy (1933)

Sleeping Car (1933)

The World Moves On (1934)

The 39 Steps (1935)

The Dictator (1935)

The Story of Papworth, the Village of Hope (1936, short)

Secret Agent (1936)

The General Died at Dawn (1936)

Lloyd's of London (1936)

The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936)

On the Avenue (1937)

It's All Yours (1937)

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

Blockade (1938)

Cafe Society (1939)

Honeymoon in Bali (1939)

My Son, My Son! (1940)

Safari (1940)

Northwest Mounted Police (1940)

Virginia (1941)

One Night in Lisbon (1941)

Bahama Passage (1941)

My Favorite Blonde (1942)

White Cradle Inn (1947)

An Innocent Affair (1948)

The Fan (1949)





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