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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. She’s oppressed by her mean, controlling, cheapskate boss. The boss is played by character actor  Charles Lane, who is probably the first person that comes to mind for this role. She 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.

Secondary, hilarious characters

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 conflict is …

The Invisible Woman movie poster

The main conflict in the film is provided by a gangster who wants to sneak back into his home country. So, he wants to steal the machine. His underlings include  Shemp Howard  of  the Three Stooges. nd “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 it’s 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.

Be sure to check out Funny movie quotes from  The Invisible Woman as well.

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

Updated 9/25/2020

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