A wealthy lawyer named Richard Russell (John Howard) provides the funding for the dotty old Professor Gibbs (John Barrymore) to create a device to render people invisible. The first subject is a department store model named Kitty Carroll (Virginia Bruce) who has been fired from her previous job. The procedure works and Kitty uses her invisibility to get revenge on her sadistic former boss, Mister Crowley (Charles Lane).

While the Professor and Kitty are off visiting Russell’s lodger, a gangster named Blackie Cole (Oscar Homolka) sends a gang of incompetent thugs, including Hammerhead (Shemp Howard) to steal the device. Once they have the machine in their hideout, however, they can’t get it to work, not knowing that an injection is required. By now, Kitty is visible again and the thugs decide to kidnap her and Professor Gibbs. But it seems that alcohol will restore her invisibility and she and Russell defeat the gang. Later, she has married Richard and they have a baby. It seems her invisibility is hereditary. When they rub the baby with an alcohol-based lotion, he disappears.

The film was directed by A. Edward Sutherland. It is neither science-fiction nor horror, but basically a screwball comedy. Curt Siodmak was hired to develop the idea with comedy writers Frederic Rinaldo and Robert Lees. Originally, Margaret Sullivan was supposed to play Kitty, but a better offer showed up. A deal was made and Virginia Bruce was hired as the Invisible Woman. John Barrymore was at the end of his career and beginning to forget his lines. He cut the script into strips and attached them to vases and phones so he could read them. The rest of the caste admired the way the great actor had no disdain for the rather silly part he was playing, and they loved working with him.

It was nominated for the 1942 Oscar for special effects, but was generally regarded as inconsequential, but fun. The dialogue was clever and sometimes quite funny—especially the flustered Charlie Ruggles. It was considered risqué at the time because a woman is naked most of the picture, even if you can’t see her. In most of the Invisible Man movies, the protagonist is already invisible at the beginning. In this one, the process of becoming invisible is shown. Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, plays the Professor’s sharp-tongued housekeeper, and Shemp Howard is, of course, one of the Three Stooges.

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