Madeleine Carroll's position in cinema history is secure - as the first of Hitchcock's starchy blondes. She's also the first British actress to really crack Hollywood and blazed a trail many have since followed.
Marie-Madeleine Bernadette O'Carroll was born in West Bromwich to a professor of Philology and his French wife. She spent much of her childhood in France and, after abandoning a degree course in Paris, started her working career as a French teacher in Hove. She left this for a career on the stage, making her debut in New Brighton after a stint modeling.
Success came quickly. She scored a hit with Mr What's His Name starring Seymour Hicks in the same year as her debut. This lead to several other West End productions and the inevitable film offer. Her first film was The Guns of Loos. This relatively expensive production wasn't a huge hit, but the offers for Carroll continued to come in. She made her talkie debut with The American Prisoner.
By 1931 she was the most popular British female star, so her announcement of retirement following her marriage to an army officer was a bit of a blow to the industry. Her retirement was brief, and anyway she continued with her stage work during this period. She was tempted back with an offer of £650 a week. After a couple of big hits, she was loaned to Fox in Hollywood for John Ford's unsuccessful The World Moves On.
Back in Britain, she made two Hitchcock's in a row: The 39 Steps and Secret Agent. The first was a world-wide smash and by the time of the second she was under contract with Korda. Korda promptly sold her contract to Walter Wanger at 20th Century Fox and so Carroll departed for her second attempt at Hollywood.
Fox put her into several of its more prestigious pictures, though the one that is remembered most these days, The Prisoner of Zenda, was a loan-out to Selznick. In 1938 she moved to Paramount where she formed a successful team with Fred MacMurray. Towards the end of this period, she married Sterling Hayden who had appeared with her Bahama Passage.
She abandoned her career following the death of her sister in the Blitz, and she and Hayden worked for the Allied Relief Fund and the American Red Cross - taking on assumed names to avoid publicity. This earned her the US Medal of Freedom and the Legion d'honneur. She and Hayden parted in 1945 and she married a former Resistance leader, Henri Lavorel. This ended in 1949 and husband number four would be the publisher of Life magazine, Andrew Heiskel.
After the war, Carroll tried to resume her career but the few offers she got weren't worthy of her and she continued with her refugee work at UNESCO. She died at her home in Marbella in 1987.
|1928||The Guns of Loos|
|1928||What Money Can Buy|
|1928||The First Born|
|1928||Pas si Bete|
|1929||The Crooked Billet|
|1929||The American Prisoner|
|1930||The W Plan|
|1930||School for Scandal|
|1930||Kissing Cup's Race|
|1931||The Written Law|
|1933||I Was a Spy|
|1934||The World Moves On (U.S)|
|1935||Loves of a Dictator|
|1935||The 39 Steps|
|1936||The Case Against Mrs Ames (U.S.)|
|1936||The General Died at Dawn (U.S.)|
|1936||Lloyd's of London (U.S.)|
|1937||On the Avenue (U.S.)|
|1937||It's All Yours (U.S.)|
|1937||The Prisoner of Zenda (U.S.)|
|1939||Cafe Society (U.S.)|
|1939||Honeymoon in Bali (U.S.)|
|1940||My Son, My Son (U.S.)|
|1940||North West Mounted Police (U.S.)|
|1941||One Night in London (U.S.)|
|1941||Bahama Passage (U.S.)|
|1942||My Favourite Blonde (U.S.)|
|1946||White Cradle Inn|
|1948||An Innocent Affair (U.S.)|
|1949||The Fan (U.S.)|
Madeleine Carroll at Amazon UK
Madeleine Carroll at Amazon US