The Invisible Woman (1940)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi  |  27 December 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 1,208 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 25 critic

An attractive model with an ulterior motive volunteers as guinea pig for an invisibility machine.


(original story) (as Kurt Siodmak) , (original story), 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Russell
George (as Charlie Ruggles)
Oskar Homolka ...
Blackie (as Oscar Homolka)
Edward Brophy ...
Donald MacBride ...
Mrs. Jackson
Anne Nagel ...
Kathryn Adams ...
Mary Gordon ...
Mrs. Bates
Thurston Hall ...


Eccentric Professor Gibbs, brilliant but impractical, invents an invisibility machine and advertises for a guinea pig. What he gets is Kitty Carroll, an attractive, adventurous model, who thinks being invisible would help her settle a few scores. Complications arise when three comic gangsters steal the machine to use on their boss. But they fail to reckon with the Revenge of the Invisible Woman! Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


IT'S A Ghost-to-Ghost HOOK-UP! See more »


Comedy | Romance | Sci-Fi


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 December 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La mujer invisible  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Margaret Sullavan, who owed Universal one picture on an old contract, was originally assigned the starring role. With more attractive roles being floated her way, she balked at appearing in the film, feeling it was beneath her. When she failed to appear for the rehearsals, the studio slapped her with a restraining order preventing her from working anywhere. Eventually she agreed to fulfill her contract by appearing in Back Street (1941) and Virginia Bruce stepped into the role. See more »


At the lodge, the invisible Kitty puts on stockings so Dick can "see" her but moments later when she faints she's completely undressed again. See more »


[first lines]
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.
See more »


Featured in Son of Svengoolie: The Invisible Woman (1940) (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

An Opportunity To Become Invisible
2 February 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Watching this film, the minute I saw the opening credits and saw who was in the cast, I knew I would enjoy this and I was not disappointed.

Bela Lugosi was quoted as saying that when Abbott&Costello met Frankenstein some years later, it killed the classic horror genre that Universal was known for. If that was the case, I'm not sure how the genre escaped the executioner here.

The original film of The Invisible Man saw Claude Rains give one of his great performances as the scientist who becomes invisible, but with the terrible side effect of losing his mind. It's classic acting at its best.

In The Invisible Woman John Barrymore is the scientist who plays it like a cross between his own Oscar Jaffe in Twentieth Century and Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein. Barrymore really looks like he's having all kinds of fun with the part. But he's smart enough not to experiment on himself.

Barrymore is a pet project of playboy John Howard who spends as much money on him as he does settling with women with whom he's had various amours, much to the distraction of Thurston Hall his family attorney. Hall breaks the news to Howard just as Barrymore seems on the verge of a breakthrough. All this is making butler Charlie Ruggles start looking for other employment. That and what follows.

So much so he's advertised for a human subject in an oblique newspaper ad. Two parties respond to the ad, the first is Virginia Bruce who likes the idea of invisibility. She wants to use it to even some accounts with her boss Charles Lane. Lane runs a department store and Bruce is one of several models he abuses with petty tyranny. Her scenes where she does even accounts are some of the funniest.

But a second party is also interested, but he doesn't just want to become invisible. Oscar Homolka wants to steal the secret and return to this country from Mexico where he's been living as a fugitive. So he sends henchmen, Edward Brophy, Donald MacBride, and Shemp Howard to steal Barrymore's machine.

I should point out that unlike Rains's film and other invisible man pictures, Barrymore invents some Young Frankenstein like contraption which you go into and are bombarded with rays to become invisible. In the hands of amateurs the machine does have some interesting side effects and not the ones Claude Rains suffered.

The Invisible Woman is used as an example of how low Barrymore's career had sunk. Yet even when Barrymore is slowly destroying himself with substance abuse in real life, the man's comic genius is apparent even in a film like this. In fact he led the entire cast in one big orgy of overacting where all these colorful people try to top themselves in scenery chewing.

The Invisible Woman did get an Academy Award nomination for Special Effects, but lost to Paramount's I Wanted Wings.

Note in the cast Maria Montez as one of Virginia Bruce's fellow models who shortly would be obtaining short lived stardom in her own genre for Universal Pictures.

The Invisible Woman is a very funny picture, a really good satire on the horror film genre. Made on a dime so to speak, don't miss it if it's ever broadcast.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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