Retrospective: The Stellar Supporting Cast of “The Invisible Woman” (Universal Studios, Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering‘s month-long celebration of all things mystifying and macabre!
Universal Studios released so many of their classic monster movies between the 1920s and the 1950s that the films are still being celebrated to this day. So in the spirit of the our Festival of Dread event, we’re going to take a look at one of the more unique installments from this series.
The Invisible Woman was released in 1940, and although considered part of the Invisible Man universe of films, its tone is a distinct departure from the first two releases (The Invisible Man, The Invisible Man Returns). More comedy than horror film, The Invisible Woman follows the adventures of a screwball scientist, a model looking to get revenge on her heartless boss, and a group of gangsters looking to get their hands on a secret formula.
The Universal monster movies have always been celebrated for taking subject matter that would’ve normally been looked upon as “B” film quality and taking a serious approach to it. This was accentuated by employing some of the best acting talent of the time. The Invisible Woman was no different, starring the likes of Virginia Bruce, John Howard and John Barrymore.
Books can and have been written on some of these stars, but today we’re taking a different approach: we’re focusing the spotlight on three of The Invisible Woman‘s most notable supporting cast members. These are actors who many fans will recognize from outside of this film. Actors whose very voices are instantly recognized, even by casual fans of film. Read on, and please understand that while there are several actors worth mentioning in this film, it’s the following three that have made this list.
In The Invisible Woman, actor Charles Lane plays Mister Growley, the cruel employer of the lead Kitty Carroll (as portrayed by Virginia Bruce). Mister Lane had a 70+ year career in Hollywood, appearing in over 250 films, and hundreds of episodes of television. Some of his most famous roles were Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace, and as the voice of Georges Hautecourt in the Aristocats. Without a doubt though, his most famous role was that of the real estate salesman who attempted to reason with Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Margaret Hamilton plays Mrs. Jackson in the Invisible Woman. She’s the housekeeper of the absent-minded scientist (as portrayed by John Barrymore). Although veteran of the stage, screen, television and radio, viewers will best remember her as the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic Wizard of Oz. It may be tough to recognize her initially without her green paint, but viewers will instantly recognize Ms. Hamilton’s distinctive voice.
Our final entry is Shemp Howard, who portrays one of the three main goons of the lead gangster. Going by the names “Hammerhead” and “Frankie”, Howard quickly becomes a standout in The Invisible Woman, both for his distinct hair style and his mannerisms. It isn’t long before Mr. Howard’s classic slapstick humor is in full effect in the film. For those of you not familiar with Shemp Howard, he became a household name during his time with the legendary comedy trio The Three Stooges.
The Invisible Woman is itself rather simplistic, and definitely doesn’t hold up to the other incredible installments in the larger Invisible Man franchise of films. That being said, it’s the supporting cast that highlight this film and garner our look back during this Festival of Dread.
So, what do you think? Have you ever seen The Invisible Woman? Did you enjoy it? Can you think of any other films with such a unique array of supporting actors? Let us know in the comments section below!
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