06 November 2013

Madeleine Carroll

British actress Madeleine Carroll (1906–1987) was a beauty of ladylike demeanour. The first of Alfred Hitchcock's ‘ice-cool blondes’ was immensely popular in the 1930s and 1940s. She was nicknamed 'The Queen of British Cinema'. Then Paramount made her the highest-paid Hollywood actress of her time.

Madeleine Carroll
British postcard by Real Photograph, London in the Picturegoer series, no. 352b. Photo: Dorothy Wilding.

Madeleine Carroll, Clive Brook
British postcard by Real Photograph, London in the Film Partners series, no. P 166. Photo: Toeplitz.

Sophisticated Style

Madeleine Carroll was born as Edith Madeleine Carroll in West Bromwich, England, in 1906. She was the elder of two children of an Irish professor of languages and his French wife.

She graduated from the University of Birmingham. Her father wanted her to be a French teacher, but she defied him and became an actress. She appeared on stage from 1927.

Her aristocratic allure and sophisticated style were first glimpsed by British cinema audiences in The Guns of Loos (Sinclair Hill, 1928).

She graced such popular films of the early 1930s as the elaborate Titanic-like adventure Atlantic (Ewald André Dupont, 1929), Young Woodley (Thomas Bentley, 1930), based on John Van Druten's play, and The School for Scandal (Thorold Dickinson, Maurice Elvey, 1930).

By the end of 1931 she was considered the top female star in the British film industry and it was somewhat of a shock when she announced her retirement from the screen, due to her recent marriage to Philip Astley of The King's Guards, the first of her four husbands.

Madeleine Carroll
British postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons in the series Real Photograph, no. 7-8. Photo: Gaumont-British.

Madeleine Carroll
British postcard by Raphael Tuck & Sons, no. 53-8. Photo: Gaumont-British.

Cool, Glib, Intelligent Blonde

But when Gaumont-British offered Madeleine Carroll a reputed £650 pounds a week contract in 1933, she relented and made Sleeping Car (1933, Anatole Litvak) opposite Ivor Novello, and the WW I drama I Was A Spy (1933, Victor Saville), with Conrad Veidt and Herbert Marshall.

I was a Spy was by far her biggest success up to that time. The British Film Weekly selected her as Best Actress of the Year.

She attracted the attention of Alfred Hitchcock, and in 1935 she starred as one of the director's earliest prototypical cool, glib, intelligent blondes in The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock), based on the seminal espionage novel by John Buchan. The film became a sensation and with it, so did Carroll, as the hand-cuffed heroine.

Hitchcock wanted to re-team Carroll with her 39 Steps co-star Robert Donat the following year in Secret Agent (1936, Alfred Hitchcock), 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. Secret Agent had hardly the critical and box office success of its predecessor, but it enhanced her reputation.

Madeleine Carroll
British postcard by Real Photograph, London in the Picturegoer series, no. 352a. Photo: Dorothy Wilding.

Madeleine Carroll
British postcard. Photo Edward Neame.

Highest-paid Hollywood Actress

Poised for international stardom, Madeleine Carroll was the first British beauty to be offered a major American film contract. She accepted a lucrative deal with Paramount Pictures, and became the highest-paid Hollywood actress of her time. Her salary in 1938 was reported to be over $250,000.

She starred opposite Gary Cooper in the adventure The General Died at Dawn (Lewis Milestone, 1936) and with Ronald Colman in the box-office hit The Prisoner of Zenda (John Cromwell, 1937).

She tried a big musical On The Avenue (Roy Del Ruth, 1937) opposite Dick Powell, but other films, including One Night in Lisbon (Edward H. Griffith, 1941) with Fred McMurray, and the Bob Hope vehicle My Favorite Blonde (Sidney Lanfield, 1942), were less prestigious.

In 1942 she married Sterling Hayden, and in 1943 she became a citizen of the United States.

Madeleine Carroll
French postcard by Erpé, no. 331. Photo: Fox Film.

Madeleine Carroll
French postcard by Editions P.I. Paris, no. 212, 1950. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

War Relief Work

Following her sister Marguerite's death during the Blitz, Madeleine Carroll gave up filming for war relief work.

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 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.

Later she was honoured for her wartime and postwar efforts by France with the Legion d'Honneur and also by the USA with the American Medal of Freedom.

She made only three further films, including the British alpine-set romance, White Cradle Inn (Harold French, 1947). Her final film was The Fan (Otto Preminger, 1949), adapted from Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan.

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

Madeleine Carroll lived in Paris during her retirement and died in 1987 from pancreatic cancer in Marbella, Spain, aged 81. Her four husbands included actor Sterling Hayden and French film producer Henri Lavorel.

Madeleine Carroll
British postcard by Godfrey Philips Associated brands, no. 32. (the postcard appeared in larger packings of DE RESZKE Cigarettes and other brands of Godfrey Phillips Associated brands). Photo: Gaumont-British. Publicity still for The Dictator/Loves of a Dictator (Victor Saville, 1935).

Madeleine Carroll
French card by Massilia. Collection: Amit Benyovits.

Sources: Madeleine Carroll–Official tribute Website, Brian McFarlane (Encyclopedia of British Cinema), Wikipedia, and IMDb.


逸凡逸凡 said...

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Betty said...

She was gorgeous!