Edith Madeleine Carroll was a British actress, popular in the 1930s and 1940s.
She was born as at 32 Herbert Street in West Bromwich, England. She graduated from the University of Birmingham, England with a B.A. degree. She once taught in a girl’s public school.
She made her stage debut with a touring company in The Lash. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful women in films, Carroll’s aristocratic blonde allure and sophisticated style were first glimpsed by British movie audiences in The Guns of Loos in 1928. Rapidly rising to stardom in England, she graced such popular films of the early ’30s as Young Woodley, Atlantic, The School for Scandal and I Was A Spy. She played the title role in the play Little Catherine. Abruptly, she announced plans to retire from films to devote herself to a private life with her husband, the first of four.
She 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”, Carroll became very much in demand thanks, in part, to director Hitchcock, who later admitted that he worked very hard with her to bring out the vivacious and sexy qualities she possessed offscreen, but which sometimes vanished when cameras rolled. Of Hitchcock’s heroines, as exemplified by Carroll, film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that they “reflected the same qualities over and over again: They were blonde. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerized the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps.”