October 25 was the natal day of the great English-American actor Leo G. Carroll; as it happens we have also just passed the 50th anniversary of his passing (October 16, 1972).
Thanks to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Carroll will always have a nice Halloween association, for he is namechecked in the opening number. The reference is to his role in Jack Arnold’s Tarantula (1955), in which Carroll did his bit as a mad scientist in the Lionel Atwill mold, and even gets to chew the scenery a bit as a monster. His other major horror association was the 1939 classic Tower of London. Overall though Carroll was most associated with spy stories and thrillers thanks especially to his appearance in no fewer than six Alfred Hitchcock movies Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), The Paradine Case (1947), Strangers on a Train (1951) and North by Northwest (1959); Mark Robson’s Hitch-esque The Prize (1963); and his role as a spy boss on tv show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68). Early in his career Carroll had been in many a moody B picture including Bulldog Drummond and Charlie Chan mysteries.
Character actor Carroll distinguished many a classic over the decades in parts large and small including The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Clive of India (1935), Captains Courageous (1937), the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol (as Marley to Reginald Owen’s Scrooge), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Waterloo Bridge (1940), Father of the Bride (1950), The Desert Fox (1951), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), We’re No Angels (1955), and, what the hell, The Parent Trap (1961). He also regular roles on two TV series based on Hollywood film classics, Topper (1953-55), and Going My Way (1962-63).
Carroll’s stage career had begun in 1912, and from the beginning he worked both on the West End and Broadway. Following army service in World War One, he moved to the States, where in addition to his movie credits he appeared on Broadway nearly three dozen times over three decades. Notable stage productions included the original production of The Constant Nymph (1926-27), and Maxwell Anderson’s Masque of Kings (1937).
Carroll’s last big screen vehicle was the anomalous From Nashville with Music (1969), where he and Marilyn Maxwell play a couple of sophisticated New York tourists who somehow find themselves stranded in Nashville watching stars of the Grand Ole Opry. His last TV credit was a 1970 episode of Ironside.
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