Star Archive

Madeleine Carroll (1906 - 1987)

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.  

Medeleine Carroll publicity stillMadeleine Carroll in I Was a SpyMadeleine Carroll on poster for 39 StepsMadeleine Carroll in Secret Agent


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
1929 Atlantic
1930 The W Plan
1930 L'instinct (Fr.)
1930 Young Woodley
1930 French Leave
1930 Escape!
1930 School for Scandal
1930 Kissing Cup's Race
1931 Madame Guillotine
1931 Fascination
1931 The Written Law
1933 Sleeping Car
1933 I Was a Spy
1934 The World Moves On (U.S)
1935 Loves of a Dictator
1935 The 39 Steps
1936 Secret Agent
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.)
1938 Blockade (U.S.)
1939 Cafe Society (U.S.)
1939 Honeymoon in Bali (U.S.)
1940 My Son, My Son (U.S.)
1940 Safari (U.S.)
1940 North West Mounted Police (U.S.)
1941 Virginia (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