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(Edith) Madeleine Carroll

Actress & Philanthropist

As her image shows film actress Madeleine Carroll was an attractive, photogenic and talented woman.

She was born Edith Madeleine Carroll on the 26 February 1906 at 32 Herbert Street (now number 44) in 

West Bromwich, Staffordshire. Her parents were John and Helene Carroll. He was an Irish professor of

languages from County Limerick, and his wife was of French origin.

Edith’s records show that she was a good student and qualified for the University of Birmingham, where she

graduated with a B.A. degree in languages. While at university she joined the Dramatic Society and appeared

in some of their productions.

Once qualified, she took up a teaching post at a girl’s school in Brighton where she taught French. However

after a year Edith, like all performers bitten by the stage bug, she wanted to further her acting talents and

joined the touring company of Seymour Hicks. Hicks was a professional and very successful actor, on the stage

and in films. He would go on to commission the building of the Aldwych Theatre and give Alfred Hitchcock one

of his first roles as a film director.

She made her first professional stage debut with a touring company in The Lash. Edith like so many Midlanders’

began to use her middle name as her stage name and was soon to be recognised as one of the most beautiful

actresses of the time.

Madeleine won a film ‘beauty competition’ which kick-started her film career and her aristocratic blonde allure and sophisticated style were first glimpsed by cinema audiences in The Guns of Loos in 1928.

She is most remembered for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) and at the peak of her success in 1938, was said to be the highest-paid actress in the world making more than 20 films.

It is therefore extraordinary to think that, although WWII would make a huge difference to her career and lifestyle because when she heared of her sister Marguerite’s death in the London Blitz, she decided to devote herself to helping wounded servicemen and children displaced or maimed by the war.

Madeleine went from acting to working in field hospitals as a Red Cross nurse. She had become a naturalised US citizen in 1943 and served at the American Army Air Force's 61st Station Hospital in Foggia, Italy.

Madeleine Carroll had a château outside of Paris and during the war years she opened it to house more than 150 orphans.  Although a celebrity she obviously had a high intelligence and managerial skills because she organised groups of young people in California to knit clothing for the orphans and was awarded the Légion d'honneur by the French government. Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower remarked in private that, of all the movie stars he met in Europe during the war, he was most impressed with Carroll and Herbert Marshall (who worked with military amputees).

After the war, she stayed in Europe where she conducted a radio program fostering French-American friendship and helped in the rehabilitation of concentration camp victims, during which time she met her future third husband, the French producer Henri Lavorel. In late 1946, she went briefly to Switzerland to film a British film, White Cradle Inn (aka High Fury).

On her return to Paris, she and Lavorel formed a production company and made several two-reel documentaries to "promote better understanding among the peoples of the world"; one, Children's Republic, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Filmed in a small orphanage in the town of Sèvres, just southwest of Paris, it focused attention on the devastation of children's lives in Europe caused by war. Widely shown in Canada, it became a prime source of funds for the manufacture of artificial limbs for wounded children.

In 1947, Carroll returned to the US together with Lavorel. Their intention was for her to resume her acting career, which would fund their production company, but they soon separated. Appearing in three more films until 1949 and debuting on Broadway in 1948, Carroll then mostly retired from acting, although she did occasionally appear on television and radio until the mid-1960s.

She married Andrew Heiskell, publisher of Life, and they had a daughter Anne Madeleine in 1951. They divorced in 1965 and Madeleine moved to Paris and finally to Spain where she shared an estate with her mother and her daughter.  She outlived both of them and died in 1987 aged 81.



What Money Can Buy (1928).

The First Born (1928)

Not So Stupid (1928).

The Crooked Billet (1929), shot in silent and sound versions.

The American Prisoner (1929), shot in silent and sound versions.

Atlantic (1930)

The W Plan (1930).

Carroll attracted the attention of Alfred Hitchcock and in 1935 starred as one of the director's earliest prototypical cool, glib, intelligent blondes in The 39 Steps. Based on the espionage novel by John Buchan, the film became a sensation and with it so did Carroll. Cited by The New York Times for a performance that was "charming and skillful

In France she was in Instinct (1930).

Carroll went to Hollywood to appear in The World Moves On (1934) for Fox; John Ford directed and Franchot Tone co starred. Back in England she was in The Dictator (1935) for Saville, playing Caroline Matilda of Great Britain.

Poised for international stardom, Carroll was the first British beauty to be offered a major American film contract. She accepted a lucrative deal with Paramount Pictures and was cast opposite George Brent in The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936).

Carroll followed this with The General Died at Dawn (1936).

She was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to play the female lead in Lloyd's of London (1936) which made a star of Tyrone Power. She stayed at the studio to make On the Avenue (1937), a musical with Dick Powell and Alice Faye.

Carroll went to Columbia for It's All Yours (1937) then was cast by David O. Selznick as Ronald Colman's love interest in the 1937 box-office success The Prisoner of Zenda.

Walter Wanger put her in Blockade (1938) with Henry Fonda, about the Spanish Civil War. Back at Paramount she made some comedies with Fred MacMurrayCafe Society (1939) and Honeymoon in Bali (1939). Edward Small gave her top billing in My Son, My Son! (1940) with Aherne.

Carroll was in Safari (1940) then played against Cooper again in North West Mounted Police (1940), directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

Paramount put her opposite MacMurray in Virginia (1941) and One Night in Lisbon (1941). Virginia also starred Sterling Hayden who was reteamed with Carroll in Bahama Passage (1941). Carroll was Bob Hope's love interest in My Favorite Blonde (1942).

Carroll returned to Britain after the war. She was in White Cradle Inn (1947). She went back to the US and was reunited with MacMurray for An Innocent Affair (1948). Her last film was The Fan (1949).



The Roof (1929) for Basil Dean

The Constant Nymph

Mr Pickwick (opposite Charles Laughton)

Beau Geste.[8]

Young Woodley (1930),

French Leave (1930).

Escape (1930)

The School for Scandal (1930)

Kissing Cup's Race (1930).

Madame Guillotine (1931)

Fascination (1931).

The Written Law (1931)

Sleeping Car, made by Gaumont British  (1932) with Ivor Novello.[9]

Carroll had a big hit with I Was a Spy (1933), which won her an award as best actress of the year.


On radio, Carroll was a participant in The Circle (1939) on NBC, discussing "current events, literature and drama" each week. In 1944, she was the host of This Is the Story, an anthology series dramatising famous novels on the Mutual Broadcasting System. At the tail end of radio's golden age, Carroll starred in the NBC soap opera The Affairs of Dr. Gentry (1957-59). She also was one of a group of four stars who rotated in taking the lead in each week's episode of The NBC Radio Theatre (1959).