The Invisible Woman (1940)


Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, and John Howard star in this second, decidedly more comic installment of what would become Universal’s Invisible Man franchise. Howard plays a rich playboy looking to settle down with the right woman, while Barrymore plays the inventor who lives next door, benefiting from Howard’s financial generosity. When he’s ready for a test subject in his invisibility experiment, Barrymore puts an ad in the newspaper. Virginia Bruce answers the call, eager to use invisibility as a weapon against her malicious boss. And of course, the playboy and the invisible woman fall in love.

The Invisible Woman is a goofy movie, but the cast seem to know it and deliver an entertaining romp. It’s a brisk hour and twelve minutes, with Barrymore in full character-actor mode and memorable supporting roles by Margaret Hamilton (Oz‘s wicked witch) as the professor’s thankless housekeeper and Charlie Ruggles as the playboy’s butler, ever on the verge of submitting his two weeks’ notice. Jokes about the impropriety of female nudity abound, as of course, Bruce can’t appear invisible unless she takes all her clothes off. Highlights include the cast’s entanglements with gangsters looking to steal the invisibility machine and the ‘getting to know you’ section of the playboy’s blossoming relationship with a woman he can’t even see. The visual effects are also a noticeably refined from those in the previous ‘invisible’ movies.

Oscar Nomination: Best Effects (Visual and Audio)

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