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Carroll, Madeleine (1906-1987)


Main image of Carroll, Madeleine (1906-1987)

Formerly a school teacher and model, a blonde beauty of ladylike demeanour, Madeleine Carroll was on stage from 1927 and in films the following year.

She made 20 films in Britain, including Victor Saville's WW1 drama, I Was a Spy (1933), in which she was very touching, and The 39 Steps (d. Alfred Hitchcock, 1935, as the hand-cuffed heroine) and Secret Agent (d. Hitchcock, 1936), establishing the prototype for such later Hitchcock heroines as Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly.

From the mid-1930s, hers is essentially a Hollywood career, in European-set romances like The Prisoner of Zenda (US, d. John Cromwell, 1937) and comedies like My Favorite Blonde (US, d. Sidney Lanfield, 1942), and she became an American citizen in 1943, when she married Sterling Hayden (her third of four husbands).

Following her sister's death during the blitz, she gave up filming for war relief work and was honoured by France and the US for her wartime and postwar efforts. She made only three further films, including the British alpine-set romance, White Cradle Inn (d. Harold French, 1947).

Hers was perhaps a limited talent, but it was exercised with some grace. She was first in a line of English leading ladies Hollywood took to heart, paving the way for Greer Garson, Deborah Kerr and Julie Andrews.

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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Thumbnail image of 39 Steps, The (1935)39 Steps, The (1935)

Classic Hitchcock thriller about spies, secrets and Scotland

Thumbnail image of First Born, The (1928)First Born, The (1928)

Society drama about a politician, his wife and her adopted illegitimate child

Thumbnail image of Secret Agent (1936)Secret Agent (1936)

Hitchcock thriller starring a young John Gielgud

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