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Carroll, Madeleine (1906–1987)

Carroll, Madeleine (1906–1987)

British actress. Born Marie-Madeleine Bernadette O'Carroll in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, on February 26, 1906; died at her home in Marbella, Spain, on October 2, 1987; one of two daughters of John and Hélène (Tuaillon) Carroll; her sister Marguerite was killed at age 19 in the London blitz, 1940; awarded B.A. from Birmingham College; post-graduate study in Paris; married British Captain Philip Astley, in 1931 (divorced 1939); married Sterling Hayden (an actor), in 1942 (divorced); married producer-director Henri Lavorel (divorced); married Andrew Heiskell (a magazine publisher), in 1950 (divorced 1965).

Selected films:

The Guns of Loos (1928); The First Born (1928); What Money Can't Buy (1929); The American Prisoner (1929); Atlantic (1930); Young Woodley (1930); Escape (1930); The W Plan (1930); Madame Guillotine (1931); Kissing Cup's

Race (1931); French Leave (1931); Fascination (1932); School for Scandal (1933); Sleeping Car (1933); I Was a Spy (1933); The World Moves On (1934); Loves of a Dictator (1935); The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935); The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936); Secret Agent (1936); The General Died at Dawn (1936); Lloyds of London (1936); On the Avenue (1937); The Prisoner of Zenda (1937); It's All Yours (1938); Blockade (1938); Honeymoon in Bali (1939); Cafe Society (1939); My Son, My Son! (1940); Safari (1940); North West Mounted Police (1940); Virginia (1941); One Night in Lisbon (1941); Bahama Passage (1942); My Favorite Blonde (1942); White Cradle Inn (1946); Don't Trust Your Husband (1948); The Fan (1949).

English-born Madeleine Carroll was a French teacher in a girls' school at Hove before making her debut in London's West End in 1927, playing a minor role in The Lash. In 1928, while rehearsing for another play, she made her first screen test and was chosen from among 150 applicants for the leading role in the British film Guns of Loos, about World War I. She began to win a following after her second movie, The First Born, which resulted in roles in a string of British plays and motion pictures, including her first talkie The American Prisoner. After three films in 1931—Kissing Cup's Race, Fascination, and The Written Law—she married army officer Philip Astley (they would divorce in 1939) and concentrated on stage work. A generous contract offer lured her back to film in 1933, when she made two of her best movies of the period, Sleeping Car, with Ivor Novello, and I Was a Spy, which Film Weekly readers voted the Best Film of the Year. In 1936, her role in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Thirty-Nine Steps, brought her to the attention of American audiences.

Signing with Paramount, Carroll made her American debut in The Case Against Mrs. Ames, which was followed by The General Died at Dawn, with Gary Cooper. Hollywood made the most of her cool blonde beauty and ladylike demeanor, providing her with prime roles in historical, adventure, romance, and comedy films. Notable among these were Lloyds of London (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), and Blockade (1938), a highly controversial film about the Spanish Civil War that was banned by the Catholic Church. Some consider her performance in the drama My Son, My Son! (1940), opposite Brian Aherne, to be her best work and proof that she could shine given the right material. She was also the perfect foil for Bob Hope in the comedy My Favorite Blonde (1942). Carroll's beautifully modulated and well-trained voice also made her popular on a variety of radio programs, including "Madeleine Carroll Reads," a 15-minute, five-day-a-week CBS show in 1942, during which the actress read chapters from books.

Near the onset of the war in Europe, Carroll traveled to France to convert her home near Paris into an orphanage for French children. When her sister was killed in a 1940 bombing raid in London, Carroll commented, "the personal loss drove home the full meaning of the hideous fate that has closed in on the people of Europe." During the war years, she was active in the Allied Relief fund and served as a hospital assistant in the overseas branch of the American Red Cross. After the war, Carroll was honored by the French government and the American Legion. In 1948, the National Conference of Christians and Jews named her "Woman of the Year."

Before returning to Hollywood, she and her third husband Henri Lavorel (Carroll was married to actor Sterling Hayden during the war), a producer of films for the United Nations, formed a production company that made pictures aimed at promoting an atmosphere of understanding among peoples of the world. In 1948, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Carroll commented that she and her husband believed "wars are started at the top but can be prevented at the bottom, if all men and women will rid themselves of distrust and suspicion of that which is foreign." Set in a children's school in France, their film Children's Republic was shown during an International Film Festival at Nice.

In 1948, Carroll made her American stage debut as Congresswoman Agatha Reed in Goodbye, My Fancy. Reviewer John Lardner in the New York Star called her "a performer virtually matchless today for her combination of honesty, intelligence, and sheer scenic zing." (The role in the movie version went to Joan Crawford .) Carroll's postwar pictures were disappointing, though a 1950 television appearance on "Robert Montgomery Presents" in Somerset Maugham's The Letter was notable.

One of her last stage appearances was in 1964, in a pre-Broadway road tour of Beekman Place, although she was ultimately replaced by Arlene Francis . Carroll's fourth marriage, to Life magazine publisher Andrew Heiskell, ended in 1965, after which she spent time in London, Paris, and Marbella, Spain, where she died in 1987.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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