9 Things You Didn’t Know About The 39 Steps’ Madeleine Carroll

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9 Things You Didn’t Know About The 39 Steps’ Madeleine Carroll

A few actors and actresses had the fame, riches, and recognition that Madeleine Carroll enjoyed at the peak of her career. On and off the screen, Madeleine Carroll was a force to be reckoned with, as she received accolades in places actors had no business in.

The actress was born Edith Madeleine Carroll on February 26, 1906, in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England. Madeleine Carroll starred in over 40 films with a few appearances in TV shows. Madeleine Carroll died on October 2, 1987, from pancreatic cancer at 81. Although easily confused with the younger American actress Madeline Carroll, Madeleine Carroll is an entirely different actress who was British and a film and television icon. Here are 9 things you didn’t know about Madeleine Carroll.

1. The Movies Madeleine Carroll Is Remembered From

Madeleine Carroll in a scene from The 39 Steps

Classic movie audiences would more easily recognize Madeleine Carroll from several popular movies of the 30s & 40s. One such movie is Alfred Hitchcock’s escapist thriller The 39 Steps. The movie was an adaptation of John Buchan’s 1915 novel The Thirty-Nine Steps. Carroll plays the love interest, Pamela, of the movie’s main protagonist, Richard Hannah (played by Robert Donat).

Carroll played Marthe Cnockaert in the British thriller I Was a Spy. The film was adapted from the true memoir of Marthe Cnockaert. Carroll’s character was a World War I Belgian spy who gave information to the British. Cnockaert nursed German soldiers and was easily privy to certain information. In Hollywood, after being offered a juicy film contract, Carroll starred in films such as The Case Against Mrs. Ames (1936), Lloyd’s of London (1936), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1937).

2. Madeleine Carroll’s First Experiences Of Acting

Madeleine Carroll and Robert Donat in The 39 Steps

Madeleine Carroll attended and graduated from the University of Birmingham. Like her father, John Carroll, Carroll earned a B.A. in Languages. However, while Carroll was at the university, she took an interest in acting. Carroll was part of some productions from the university’s Dramatic Society.

3. Madeleine Carroll’s Life Before Becoming An Actress

Madeleine Carroll in I Was a Spy

After graduating from the University, Carroll put her earned degree to work. Carroll found a job as a French mistress at a girl school. She stayed at the job for about a year. Although she had a passion for acting, her father vehemently opposed it.

With the needed support from her mother, Carroll Quit teaching and moved to London to kick start her acting career as a stage actor. She modeled for a while and won a beauty contest, eventually securing a job in a touring company owned by Seymour Hicks. She appeared in her first stage production, The Lash (1927), with the company.

4. Madeleine Carroll’s Film Debut

Madeleine Carroll in The Prisoner of Zenda

After appearing in her first stage production, Carroll made her film debut in 1928. Sinclair Hill’s British silent war film, The Guns of Loos, was Carroll’s first film, and she starred alongside Henry Victor, Bobby Howes, and Hermione Baddeley. In the movie, Carroll plays the role of Diana Cheswick.

5. Madeleine Carroll Married Four Times

Madeleine Carroll in Lloyd's of London

Madeleine Carroll married her first husband, Colonel Philip Reginald Astley, in 1931. After eight years of marriage, the couple divorced in 1939. During the filming of Virginia in 1941, Carroll started dating actor Sterling Hayden. The couple married in 1942 and stayed married for four years until their divorce in 1946.

Carroll married filmmaker Henri Lavorel the same year she divorced her second husband. The couple stayed together until they divorced in 1949. She dated and married Andrew Heiskell in 1950. Carroll had her first and only daughter, Anne Madeleine, with Heiskell. The couple stayed together for 15 years before getting divorced in 1965.

6. Madeleine Carroll’s Work In Radio and Theater

Madeleine Carroll in The Case Against Mrs. Ames

Madeleine Carroll appeared in different radio programs as a guest and host. She was a guest on The Circle (1939). By 1944, she hosted This Is the Story on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Carroll was on several episodes of Lux Radio Theatre, CBS’s radio drama The Campbell Playhouse, and Philip Morris Playhouse programs.

7. Madeleine Carroll Has Received A Star On the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Medeleine Carroll in My Favorite Blonde

Madeleine Carroll was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. She was inducted into the Motion Pictures category for her contribution to the growth of the film industry. Her star can be found at 6707 Hollywood Blvd.

8. Madeleine Carroll Paused Her Acting Career For One Selfless Reason

Madeleine Carroll in a scene from My Favorite Blonde

Around the peak of Carroll’s career was when the second World War began. However, Carroll lost her only sister, Marguerite, to the war. Marguerite was killed in a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom. Carroll chose to halt her acting career and actively participate in the war (or the result of the war). Carroll became a Red Cross nurse and served to treat wounded American soldiers at a hospital in Foggia, Italy. Carroll earned the Medal of Freedom and Legion d’Honneur for her selfless work with the Red Cross. She was also promoted to the rank of Captain.

9. Madeleine Carroll Was Once The Highest Paid Actress In Hollywood

Madeleine Carroll

With a successful career in British film and television, Carroll was offered the juiciest American film contract any British actress had received at that time. Paramount Pictures offered the deal. Carroll’s career in Hollywood was successful, appearing in several Box Office hits. At the peak of Madeleine Carroll‘s career in the late 30s, she was dubbed the world’s highest-paid actress.

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