My Favorite Blonde, Madeleine Carroll
My father repeatedly watched the Alfred Hitchcock classic, The 39 Steps (1935), his favorite movie. Only 10 years old, the plot baffled me but Madeleine Carroll’s beauty mesmerized. A Hitchcock fan, my father once rented The Secret Agent (1936) also starring Madeleine, however I mainly remember her in The 39 Steps handcuffed to Robert Donat, whom I found rather cute. Despite not comprehending the movie, I enjoyed their onscreen chemistry.
My father also rented “Road To…” movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Dorothy Lamour’s beauty was the only reason I’d watch them. This led me to watch the enjoyable My Favorite Brunette (1947) with Dorothy Lamour and Bob Hope followed by My Favorite Blonde (1942) with Madeleine Carroll and Bob Hope. If there had been a “My Favorite Redhead,” I’d have watched that too.
I’m brunette so I favor fellow brunettes. From childhood I’ve been crazy about Gene Tierney, Merle Oberon and Capucine. I have a soft spot for Hitchcock brunettes, Theresa Wright and Margaret Lockwood. I even get on the defensive when I hear anyone erroneously state Hitchcock heroines were all blonde. In spite of that, Madeleine has a special place in my world of brunette favoritism.
Madeleine is my favorite blonde beauty and talent in movie history along with Virna Lisi, Gena Rowlands, and Donna Dixon. I’m the rare figure crying, “My favorite Hitchcock blonde is Madeleine Carroll” among a sea of Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Tippi Hedren admirers.
In High School, I was further mesmerized when I came across her photo in my book titled Those Glorious Glamour Years. Dressed as Princess Flavia in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), she wore an elegant regal Ernst Dryden design of peach chiffon velvet, mink, embroidered crystal beads and feathers. Her skirt was pink ruffled taffeta brocade with satin ribbon bows. Long white gloves, a pearl necklace, and her hair in a braided updo completed her look.
In that same book, I read she graduated with a BA in diplomacy and minor in French from the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Not only was she one of my favorite screen beauties but also educated! I studied French in High School so I felt glamorous like Madeleine. One day I eagerly told my friend I just had to show a picture of this beautiful woman. While flipping through the pages to find Madeleine’s picture, my friend stopped me to comment on how gorgeous Wendy Barrie looked in her beaded and sequined tulle evening gown. I told her “but you’ve got to see Madeleine.” She agreed Madeleine was beautiful but I could tell she still preferred Wendy Barrie.”
Because of Madeleine’s photo from The Prisoner of Zenda, I was dying to see the film. I finally did in adulthood. It has become one of my favorite movies but not only for Madeleine. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was a cutie. Why was Mary Astor pining for Raymond Massey when lustful Fairbanks, Jr. was so wickedly irresistible? Zenda also introduced me to celebrated cinematographer James Wong Howe.
I was just a child when I saw the local evening television news report Madeleine’s death. I was a bit sad losing her but not as much as I do now when older stars die. When Madeleine left us, many were still alive. Yet I see how their memories diminish especially when many deserving actors are deleted from the Oscar’s In Memoriam segment. There are more than plenty of Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Tippi Hedren Hitchcock blonde fans so it’s a pleasure to have a Madeleine Carroll Blogathon keeping this elegant warm genteel Hitchcock blonde alive.