Madeleine Carroll


Actor

About

Also Known As
Marie-Madeleine Bernadette O'Carroll
Birth Place
Staffordshire, England, GB
Born
February 26, 1906
Died
October 02, 1987

Biography

Nicknamed The Queen of British Cinema, lovely Madeleine Carroll possessed the sort of splendor and poise that one would readily identify with royalty. An excellent student, Carroll could have pursued any number of vocations or higher forms of learning, but exposure to the University of Birmingham's drama society created a love for acting that eventually earned her roles in West End stage...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Captain Philip Astley
Husband
Divorced.
Sterling Hayden
Husband
Actor. Married in 1942; divorced in 1946.
Henri Lavorel
Husband
Producer. Married in 1946; divorced in 1949.
Andrew Heiskell
Husband
Magazine publisher. Published LIFE; married in 1950; divorced in 1965.

Biography

Nicknamed The Queen of British Cinema, lovely Madeleine Carroll possessed the sort of splendor and poise that one would readily identify with royalty. An excellent student, Carroll could have pursued any number of vocations or higher forms of learning, but exposure to the University of Birmingham's drama society created a love for acting that eventually earned her roles in West End stage productions. Motion pictures soon followed and with her remarkable screen presence and convincing performances, Carroll quickly rose up the ranks to become an A-list talent. A pair of early Alfred Hitchcock films, "The 39 Steps" (1935) and "Secret Agent" (1936), further cemented her popularity and confirmed Carroll as an archetypal blonde Hitchcock heroine. Offers soon came from Hollywood, where she quickly found additional fame in "The General Died at Dawn" (1936) and, most famously, "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937). Her extraordinary rise proved so lucrative, Carroll was the world's highest paid actress for a short time. Following such movies as "North West Mounted Police" (1940) and "My Favorite Blonde" (1942), she stepped away from moviemaking to help in the overseas war effort. While she acted periodically after World War II, Carroll was mostly content to let her career wind down. One of the great beauties of early sound cinema, Carroll's innate intelligence and sophistication was communicated exquisitely in her portrayals and added an extra level of interest to even her lesser outings.

Edith Madeleine Carroll was born in West Bromwich, England on Feb. 26, 1906. With a French mother and a father who was a professor of languages, she grew up in an environment that encouraged learning and did very well in school. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Birmingham, Carroll was poised to fulfill her father's request that she use her education and fluency in French to study at the Sorbonne. However, by that point, Carroll had discovered a new passion, thanks to the university's drama society. Discovering that she possessed a natural talent for performing, Carroll began to seek out acting jobs. After some time, she secured a role in a West End production of "The Lash" (1927) and went on to land steady work with a touring company. Her abilities and considerable beauty made Carroll a natural target for film producers and she debuted in the war drama "The Guns of Loos" (1928). Other offers quickly followed, and after a handful more silent features, "The American Prisoner" (1929) allowed moviegoers to hear her voice for the first time. Thanks to those features and follow-ups like "The W Plan" (1930), "Escape" (1930) and "Madame Guillotine" (1931), Carroll's popularity increased to the point where she was considered to be the country's preeminent film actress.

That year, Carroll wed her first husband, Captain Phillip Astley of the King's Guards, and announced that she would be leaving the world of acting. Thankfully, this absence proved short-lived and Carroll was back on British movie screens in such pictures as "Sleeping Car" (1933) and "I Was a Spy" (1933). The latter was a major ticket seller and also made some waves in America, which prompted 20th Century Fox to bring Carroll to Hollywood for John Ford's "The World Moves On" (1934).She soon embarked on her best remembered credit from this era, Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps" (1935), which cast her as a young woman who innocently becomes involved in a spy plot. Displaying wonderful chemistry with lead and fellow Brit Robert Donat, Carroll only figured prominently in the second half, but made an indelible impression and her superbly crafted and performed film was a critical and financial triumph. Carroll and Hitchcock reteamed the following year for "Secret Agent" (1936), with John Gielgud stepping in for Donat. Blending humor and thrills in a less satisfying manner than its predecessor, "The Secret Agent" did not have the same impact, but still furthered the careers of its director and leading lady. Although Hitchcock's work contained at least one antecedent in "Blackmail" (1929) star Anny Ondra, it was Carroll's brand of the icy, sophisticated blonde heroine that became a later staple in the director's films.

In the wake of "The 39 Steps" (1935), Hollywood came knocking once more. Carroll was paired with Gary Cooper for "The General Died at Dawn" (1936) and Ronald Colman in "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1937), with the latter becoming a romance classic. Thanks to these major releases, Carroll's popularity increased to the point where she was able to command $250,000 per picture, an astronomical sum for the time and more than any other actress for a brief period. Radio fans were also able to appreciate that lovely speaking voice on "Madeleine Carroll Reads" (1938), which found her reading samples from recent books. Additional roles followed in fare like "Honeymoon in Bali" (1939), "Safari" (1940), and Cecil B. DeMille's Technicolor epic "North West Mounted Police" (1940). Around this time, Carroll wed her second husband, actor Sterling Hayden, with whom she had previously worked on "Virginia" (1941), before starring with Bob Hope in the farce "My Favorite Blonde" (1942).

However, unfortunate events made "Blonde" her last film for some time. During one of the German bombing raids on London, Carroll's younger sister, Marguerite, was killed. Now a naturalized American citizen, Carroll decided to put her career on hold and dedicate herself to the war effort. Unlike most performers who did this via the USO, Carroll was determined to serve directly and did so at an American Army field hospital in Italy. She also allowed her home in France to be used as an orphanage for several dozen children. In gratitude, that country awarded her the Legion d'Honneur. After her marriage to Hayden came to an end in 1946, she next wed French producer Henri Lavorel, with whom Carroll produced several short documentaries. Carroll returned to acting with "White Cradle Inn" (1947), a British production shot in Switzerland, and the comedy "An Innocent Affair" (1948). She also returned to Broadway as the star of "Goodbye, Mr. Fancy" (1948-49) and co-starred with Jeanne Crain and George Sanders in Otto Preminger's "The Fan" (1949), which was based on Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan.

Following that project, Carroll retired from the screen in favor of spending time at her chateau in Spain. She did make a handful of television guest star appearances during the 1950s and was a regular on a radio program, but for all intents and purposes, Carroll left the entertainment world. By that point, she had wed her fourth husband, LIFE magazine publisher Andrew Heiskell, who was nearly a decade younger. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and planned to return to the Great White Way in 1964 for a role in the comedy "Beekman Place." However, she ended up quitting the production after her part was revised in a manner that Carroll deemed unsatisfactory. The show ultimately premiered with the character played instead by Leora Dana and closed in less than a month. She and Heiskell called it quits in 1965 and Carroll remained single for the remainder of her life, which she spent almost entirely out of the limelight in Spain. Carroll succumbed to the effects of pancreatic cancer on Oct. 2, 1987.

By John Charles

Life Events

1927

Gave up teaching for acting career

1927

Stage debut in "The Lash" in New Brighton

1928

Film acting debut in "The Guns of Loos"

1934

US film debut in John Ford's "The World Moves On"

1936

Signed to 20th Century Fox contract

1948

Appeared on NY stage in "Goodbye My Fancy"

Photo Collections

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), starring Ronald Colman. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Safari (1940) - Movie Poster
Here is the 3-Sheet movie poster for Paramount Pictures' Safari (1940), starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Madeleine Carroll.

Videos

Movie Clip

Fan, The (1949) - Lady Windermere's Fan From a framing device in post-WWII London, confirming the source is Oscar Wilde's play, Madeleine Carroll as ancient Mrs. Erlynne reveals herself to aged Lord Darlington (George Sanders), decades before with Cecil and Arthur (John Sutton, Richard Greene), in Otto Preminger's The Fan, 1949.
Fan, The (1949) - What Most Other Men Are Lord and Lady Windermere (Richard Greene, Jeanne Crain) attend a fencing match to watch Darlington (George Sanders) and Graham (John Sutton) compete, as evil Mrs. Erlynne (Madeleine Carroll), with Augustus (Hugh Dempster), alarms the duchess (Martita Hunt), in Otto Preminger's The Fan, 1949.
Fan, The (1949) - Women Like You Have No Heart Lady Windermere (Jeanne Crain), at the home of the man for whom she plans to leave her husband, is confronted by Mrs. Erlynne (Madeleine Carroll) who is blackmailing that husband but is not his mistress and who, she does not know, is her own mother, in The Fan, 1949, from Oscar Wilde's play.
Fan, The (1949) - Everything Except Temptation Resuming Otto Preminger's flashback device with geriatric Madeleine Carroll and George Sanders as amorous Lord Darlington, meeting Lady Windermere (Jeanne Crain) then the duchess and daughter (Martita Hunt, Virginia McDowell), in The Fan, 1949, the famous line from Oscar Wilde's play.
39 Steps, The (1935) - We're The Siamese Twins Highlight from the long stretch in which suspicious Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) is handcuffed to suspected Hannay (Robert Donat), on the run together in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, 1935.
Prisoner of Zenda, The (1937) - Your Dynastic Obligations English Rassendyll (Ronald Colman), who has bravely replaced his look-alike, the abducted king of Ruritania, at his coronation, makes instant progress with fiancee` Princess Flavia (Madeleine Carroll), who thinks he's the less gallant original, in David Selznick's The Prisoner of Zenda, 1937.
Blockade (1938) - Spain, 1936 Opening in an idyllic Spain, with actual names of places and political positions omitted, Henry Fonda as farmer Marco with buddy Luis (Leo Carrillo) meets fancy Norma (Madeleine Carroll), in producer Walter Wanger's Spanish Civil War drama Blockade, 1938.
Blockade (1938) - The Shoes Are Too Good Now with the side vaguely representing the Spanish Republicans, Marco (Henry Fonda) confronts Basil (Vladimir Sokoloff), who is in fact a spy for the fascists and, he discovers, the father of his upper class potential girlfriend Norma (Madeleine Carroll), in Walter Wanger's Blockade, 1938.
Blockade (1938) - Turn Back And Fight! Foreigners Basil and daughter Norma (Vladimir Sokoloff, Madeleine Carroll) in flight, farmers in a fictional region in Spain baffled by sudden bombing, this could be read as Marco (Henry Fonda), on his own, instigating the Spanish Republican cause, in producer Walter Wanger's Blockade, 1938.
Don't Trust Your Husband - Forgetting Something? Vincent (Fred MacMurray) has just sneaked into the apartment, wife Paula (Madeleine Carroll) not really asleep, both making excuses and accommodations, opening Don't Trust Your Husband, a.k.a. An Innocent Affair, 1948.
Don't Trust Your Husband - You Southerners! Kimball (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) hasn't a clue, as Vincent (Fred MacMurray) assumes he's the actor hired to make him jealous, wife Paula (Madeleine Carroll) not knowing he knows, in Don't Trust Your Husband, a.k.a. An Innocent Affair, 1948.

Trailer

Companions

Captain Philip Astley
Husband
Divorced.
Sterling Hayden
Husband
Actor. Married in 1942; divorced in 1946.
Henri Lavorel
Husband
Producer. Married in 1946; divorced in 1949.
Andrew Heiskell
Husband
Magazine publisher. Published LIFE; married in 1950; divorced in 1965.

Bibliography