The Madeleine Carroll Blogathon: Madeleine’s Most Frequent Movie Collaborations

Madeleine Carroll Blogathon

This post is part of the Madeleine Carroll Blogathon and Birthday Bash being hosted by Dorian at Tales of the Easily Distracted and Ruth from Silver Screenings.

I was originally going to review Honeymoon in Bali (1939) for this post but decided to go a different route instead. I did watch the movie and even though I found it to be pleasant with enjoyable performances by Madeleine Carroll and Fred MacMurray, the movie didn’t really inspire me to write a review.

I guess you could say the Washington Post summed up my thoughts when in a review on October 5, 1939 they exclaimed, “‘Honeymoon in Bali’ Is Delightfully Easy To Take!” I also realized that another blogger was writing about the movie for this blogathon so to learn more about the movie I will instead direct you to the post by Joey at Wolffian Classics Movie Digest.

Honeymoon in Bali (1939)

In becoming more familiar with the movies of Madeleine Carroll, I discovered that not only did she make four other movies with Fred MacMurray, there were also a few other people in the movie industry that she worked with multiple times. So I thought I would explore a few of those collaborations in more detail.

Madeleine Carroll, who was born on February 26, 1906 in West Bromwich, West Midlands, England, was one of Britain’s top female movie stars in the 1930s and later starred in several films in the United States. At one time, she was one of the highest paid actresses in the world. Following are some of the professionals she worked with several times throughout her career.

Directors, Actors, Screenwriters and Costume Designers Who Worked With Madeleine Carroll

Secret Agent (1936)

Director Alfred Hitchcock

He directed two of her movies, The 39 Steps (1935) and Secret Agent (1936)

Even though he did not work with her the most times among directors, he did play an important part in the development of her career.

Obviously it was her talent and beauty that led to her becoming a star in the first place, but it was her role in The 39 Steps (voted the best British film of 1935) that propelled her to international fame. The movie is known as the one that established the quintessential ‘Hitchcock blonde’ that became a hallmark in his later films. In her post about the movie Secret Agent, Aurora does a great job explaining how and why Madeleine Carroll set the standard for all of Hitchcock’s future leading ladies.

Director Edward H. Griffith

He directed five of her movies; Cafe Society (1939), Honeymoon in Bali (1939), Safari (1940), Virginia (1941), One Night in Lisbon (1941) and Bahama Passage (1941)

Edward H. Griffith started out as a writer for newspapers and magazines and later films before he began his career as a director. Before working with Madeleine Carroll, he was perhaps best known for directing Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy in the pre-code Animal Kingdom (1932) and Loretta Young and Tyrone Power in the comedies Ladies in Love (1936) and Café Metropole (1937).

I couldn’t find much in the way of details about his working relationship with Madeleine except for a brief mention in a 1987 LA Times article. It stated that while gossip columnists often referred to Madeleine as an “iceberg,” Griffith instead saw her as someone who was actually afraid of the camera. I’m only guessing here, but I wonder if maybe he saw something in her that others didn’t and that played a part in them working together so often.

Actor Fred MacMurray

As I mentioned above, Madeleine Carroll made a total of five movies together with Fred MacMurray; the others being Cafe Society (1939), Virginia (1941), One Night in Lisbon (1941) and An Innocent Affair (1948). All but one of these was directed by Edward Griffith. Honeymoon in Bali is the only one of those that I have seen, and I thought the two of them had very good chemistry, which I’m assuming carried over into the other movies they made together.

Bahama Passage (1941)

Actor Sterling Hayden

There were a few other actors who appeared in more movies with Madeleine such as Akim Tamiroff, Alan Mowbray and Reginald Denny, but I am including Hayden because of his relationship with her outside of their movies. He starred in two movies with her, in his acting debut in Virginia (1941) and in Bahama Passage (1941).

Once called “The Most Beautiful Man in the Movies,” Hayden fell in love with Carroll on the set of Virginia and the two were later married on Valentine’s Day 1942. After her sister was killed in an air attack on London during World War II, Madeleine spent much of their marriage overseas helping with the war effort while Sterling also served in the war. That no doubt had to put a strain on their marriage, and they ended up divorcing in 1946.

Screenwriter and Producer Virginia Van Upp

She wrote the screenplay for four of the movies in which Madeleine appeared with Fred MacMurray as well as for the movie Bahama Passage (1941).

I couldn’t find any information about her associations with Madeleine Carroll, but I did discover a bit about her background which I found interesting. Virginia Van Upp began performing in silent films as a child actress, eventually working her way up in the film industry holding several positions such as script writer, film editor and casting director.

Her most prominent role was that of Executive Producer at Columbia Pictures, and she was one of only three female producers working for major Hollywood studios at the time. In her career with Columbia, she wrote the screenplay for the movie Cover Girl (1944) and produced the movie Gilda (1946) becoming friends with the star of both those movies, Rita Hayworth.

Madeleine Carroll in Secret Agent

Madeleine Carroll and John Gielgud in Secret Agent (1936)

Costume Designer Joe Strassner

He designed dresses for two of her movies, The 39 Steps and Secret Agent

Strassner was born in Germany and worked on movies in both Britain and Hollywood. He also designed the dresses for another of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, Sabotage (1936). I have yet to watch Secret Agent, but from still photos I’ve seen from the movie including the one above, it seems as if I would really like his style.

Costume Designer Edith Head

She designed costumes for five of Madeleine Carroll’s movies; Cafe Society (1939), Honeymoon in Bali (1939), Safari (1940), Bahama Passage (1941) and My Favorite Blonde (1942).

With her long resume in Hollywood, it’s no surprise that Edith Head designed the costumes for a few of Madeleine Carroll’s movies. According to the book “Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer,” Edith enjoyed designing the clothes for Cafe Society because the dresses were, “big, bouffant, off the shoulder evening gowns, utterly feminine and princess looking.” I am a big fan of Edith Head and am now interested in watching more Madeleine Carroll movies so I may just have to watch that movie soon.

Those are just a few of the many talented people Madeleine Carroll worked with throughout her career. You can read more about them in some of the other great posts written for this blogathon. Please be sure to check them out!


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  1. Great post, Ginny! I didn’t realize that Madeleine C. was someone who had these sorts of film industry collaborations. That says something about her talent, and about her as a person, no?

    I liked your comment about watching more of Madeleine movies to see the Edith Head fashions – I had the same thought myself!

    Thanks for joining our blogathon with this terrific look at Madeleine’s career.

    • Ginny says:

      Thanks Ruth! I was glad I found that out so I could learn more about others that I may not have heard of otherwise. I’m always happy when I find out Edith Head designed the fashions in a movie I’m watching. :-) Thanks for hosting this great event!

  2. […] Old Movies Nostalgia looks at the on-screen partnerships formed through Madeleine’s Frequent Movie Collaborations. […]

  3. GirlsDoFilm says:

    Whilst Cafe Society isn’t one of my favourite Carroll films, it is worth a watch for Head’s delightful costumes, they are a treat! Not surprised to hear she rated them so highly herself!
    I must explore more of Griffith’s Carroll films – I’ve only seen the aforementioned and I’m interested to see how that working relationship developed.

    • Ginny says:

      I read in several places that Honeymoon in Bali was the best of the bunch, but I too would like to see the others now that I know about their working relationship. I’m looking forward to seeing the costumes in Cafe Society now too.

  4. Judy says:

    Very interesting to hear about these working collaborations – I know we all tend to focus on the stars, but this is a reminder that there are so many other talents involved in making a film. Enjoyed reading this, and you have made me want to see Honeymoon in in Bali!

    • Ginny says:

      That’s a great point Judy! I recently decided not to fast forward over the opening credits of movies like I used to but instead read all the names of the people behind the scenes that don’t always get the recognition. Even though they don’t know I’m doing it, it seems like a nice way to show appreciation for their hard work.

  5. Shari Kelley says:

    I enjoyed reading your post about M. Carroll’s collaborations. It’s been fun to learn about a star that is new to me, and I look forward to seeing her movies. It was sad learning of her sister’s death and Carroll’s divorce. It sounds like it was such a hard time for her. Thank you for all of your research!

    • Ginny says:

      Thank you Shari! I wasn’t all that familiar with Madeleine before this so it was an interesting learning experience for me too. I agree, it must have been so hard to lose a sister in such a tragic way while her country was also being attacked. Thanks for stopping by!