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 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. 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 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.
Cast of Characters
- Virginia Bruce (Pardon My Sarong) … Kitty Carroll
- John Barrymore (Counsellor at Law) … Professor Gibbs
- John Howard (Sahara) … Richard Russell
- Charles Ruggles (Bringing Up Baby) … George
- Oskar Homolka (Mr. Sardonicus) … Blackie Cole
- Edward Brophy (A Slight Case of Murder) … Bill
- Donald MacBride (Blondie Takes a Vacation, Buck Privates Come Home) … Foghorn
- Margaret Hamilton (13 Ghosts) … Mrs. Jackson
- Shemp Howard (Soup to Nuts) … Frankie
- Anne Nagel (Man Made Monster) … Jean
- Kathryn Adams (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939) … Peggy
- Maria Montez (Cobra Woman) … Marie
- Charles Lane (Miss Grant Takes Richmond) … Growley
- Mary Gordon (The Hound of the Baskervilles 1939) … Mrs. Bates
- Thurston Hall (Blondie’s Secret) … Hudson
- Eddie Conrad … Hernandez