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The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman (1940), starring Virginia Bruce, Charles Lane, John Barrymore


The original  The Invisible Man was a horror movie, mostly faithful to the original novel by H.G. Wells.   The sequel,  The Invisible Man Returns starring  Vincent Price was equal parts horror movie, romance, and crime story.   In contrast,  The Invisible Woman is a comedy — a very enjoyable comedy.

In a nutshell, the Invisible Woman of the title (Virginia Bruce) is a model, oppressed by her mean, controlling, cheapskate boss (played by character actor  Charles Lane, who is probably the first person that comes to mind for this role), who agrees to be a guinea pig for a quirky scientist (played excellently by  John Barrymore) — upon becoming invisible, her first act is to get revenge on her boss.   But who is bankrolling the cost of these experiments? The romantic lead, played by  John Howard, who falls in love with the invisible woman —  and, as is typical for romantic comedies of the time, the two begin bickering almost immediately.

One of the delights of the film is Howard’s suffering butler, played wonderfully by  Charles Ruggles; he’s frankly one of the best parts of the movie.    Margaret Hamilton  (Wicked Witch of the West in  The Wizard of Oz has a minor role as the scientist’s housekeeper.

The Invisible Woman movie posterThe main conflict in the film is provided by a gangster who wants to sneak back into his home country, and so wants to steal the machine, and his underlings (including  Shemp Howard  of  the Three Stooges, and “Foghorn” who experiences an … unexpected side-effect from the improper use of the invisibility machine).

The laughs come fast and frequent, and  The Invisible Woman is a very enjoyable comedy.   The end of the movie, where the Invisible Woman tries to make the rescuing romantic lead’s job more difficult, is frankly distracting, but also the only negative comment I have about the movie.   My daughter and I both enjoyed  The Invisible Woman, and hope that you do as well–it’s available on DVD as part of  The Invisible Man – The Legacy Collection (The Invisible Man/Invisible Man Returns/Invisible Agent/Invisible Woman/Invisible Man’s Revenge)

Editorial review of The Invisible Woman, starring Virginia Bruce, Charles Lane, John Barrymore, courtesy of  Amazon.com

Claude Rains may have meddled in things that Man must leave alone, but that doesn’t mean Woman shouldn’t get in on the act. Hence, The Invisible Woman, entry number two in Universal’s series of ‘40s takes on the idea of making people too transparent for their own good. Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce) answers an ad in the paper to be an experimental subject for John Barrymore‘s dauntingly daffy Professor Gibbs, whose invisibility serum, if successful, promises to replenish the dwindling fortune of his benefactor, Dick Russell (John Howard)–if only he can get a human subject. Kitty’s aim, however, is to wreak havoc on the draconian boss of her modeling job, the aptly named Mr. Growley (Charles Lane).

Early on, she gazes hopefully into the distance, her face rhapsodized by a fog filter, as if to say: Oh, if only I were invisible! Then I could really kick some backside–which she does, literally. Complicating matters is gangster Blackie Cole (Oskar Homolka), who schemes to steal the professor’s formula because he yearns to visit his native land again, where he can’t show his face. Bright and entertaining, swift and silly, The Invisible Woman sports a first-class array of supporting roles. Quite visible are Charles Ruggles (Ruggles of Red Gap), hilarious as the much-put-upon butler, Margaret Hamilton (The Wizard of Oz), all too opaque as the professor’s housekeeper, and a brief appearance by Cobra Woman herself, Maria Montez, as one of the cruelly subjugated models. –Jim Gay

Funny movie quotes from  The Invisible Woman

Attorney: Where is he? Where is he? Get up! Get up!
George: I am up. I was up. And I’ve been up all night. I would have stayed up if you hadn’t knocked me down.

Kitty Carroll: Whew! Kinda chilly. I wonder how the nudists stand it.

Prof. Gibbs: [to a seemingly empty car, driven by the invisible woman] Put yourself into the garage, lazy bones!

Prof. Gibbs: [pointing to stuffed head] Did you shoot that elk?
George: No, I think it was born there.

Richard Russell: Stop breathing down my neck.
George: It’s the breath of pleasure, sir. And perhaps a touch of garlic.

Prof. Gibbs: If more women were invisible, life would be much less complicated.
Richard Russell: And much less interesting.

George: Invisible women! These days you can’t believe your own eyes, even if you don’t see anything.

Kitty Carroll: [to Prof. Gibbs] I’ve got to be visible.
Richard Russell: [to Prof. Gibbs] Think of my suspense.

George: Looking at a woman is only the first step to trouble. You look, she smiles. You soften, she sues.

Richard Russell: Well, now where are you?
Kitty Carroll: At the end of the cigarette.

Richard Russell: Any girl that’d become invisible can’t be very easy on the eyes.

Kitty Carroll: It so happens that by profession I’m a model.
Richard Russell: What for, piano legs?
Kitty Carroll: Any time you have a piano with legs like mine, sonny, run, do not walk, to your nearest music store.

Kitty Carroll: Well at least the stockings are dry.
[Richard Russell looks at Kitty Carroll putting on the stockings]
Kitty Carroll: Now to find my feet.
[starts putting on the stocking]
Kitty Carroll: This is worst than dressing in the dark.
[pulls up the stocking over her left invisible leg]
Kitty Carroll: There, now we’ll see who’s stalling!

Foghorn: Put that away. Scientists don’t carry tommy guns.
Bill: Say, maybe we should have brought a butterfly net, huh?

[George throws the contents of a goldfish bowl over Richard]
Richard Russell: George, did you have to throw the fish?
George: It’s Friday, sir.

Foghorn: Stick ’em up!
Want-Ad Clerk: Aw, go on home to your mother.

[Foghorn, now a falsetto, is at the door]
Richard Russell: Who is it?
George: I don’t know, sir, but it sounds like Jenny Lind.

Richard Russell: Call the airport. We’re leaving.
George: Oh, airport!
Richard Russell: No, on the phone.

Prof. Gibbs: So you see the entire principle is a combination of chemical, biological, and dynamic influences
Blackie: Cut out the stalling! For an hour you’ve been using big words!
Kitty Carroll: Yes Professor, for the love of Mike cut out the stalling. I want to go home.
Blackie: You’ll both go home on a slab if this guy don’t come through. I want to be invisible!
Prof. Gibbs: I don’t blame you. It would be a decided improvement.

Bill: Come on lady, be a gentleman about this!

Prof. Gibbs: Hereditary.

Updated 9/25/2020

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