Adolphe Menjou

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Adolphe Menjou
Adolphe Menjou 1938.jpg
Menjou in 1938
Born
Adolphe Jean Menjou

(1890-02-18)February 18, 1890
DiedOctober 29, 1963(1963-10-29) (aged 73)
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
OccupationActor
Years active1914–1960
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)
Katherine Conn Tinsley
(m. 1920;div. 1927)

(m. 1928;div. 1934)

(m. 1934)
Children1

Adolphe Jean Menjou (February 18, 1890 – October 29, 1963) was an American actor. His career spanned both silent films and talkies. He appeared in such films as Charlie Chaplin's A Woman of Paris , where he played the lead role; Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas; Ernst Lubitsch's The Marriage Circle ; The Sheik with Rudolph Valentino; Morocco with Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper; and A Star Is Born with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page in 1931. [1]

Contents

Early life

Adolphe Jean Menjou was born on February 18, 1890, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a French father, Albert Menjou (18581917), and a mother from Ireland, Nora ( née Joyce, 18691953). [2] [3] His brother, Henry Arthur Menjou (18911956), was a year younger. He was raised Catholic, attended the Culver Military Academy, and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in engineering. Attracted to the vaudeville stage, he made his movie debut in 1916 in The Blue Envelope Mystery . During World War I, he served as a captain in the United States Army Ambulance Service, for which he trained in Pennsylvania before going overseas.

Career and stardom

Menjou in The Spanish Dancer (1923) Adolphe Menjou, film actor (SAYRE 1363).jpg
Menjou in The Spanish Dancer (1923)

After returning from the war, Menjou gradually rose through the ranks with small but fruitful roles in films such as The Faith Healer (1921) alongside supporting roles in prominent films such as The Sheik (1921) and The Three Musketeers (1921). By 1922, he was receiving top or near-top billing, with a selection of those films being with Famous Players-Lasky and Paramount Pictures, starting with Pink Gods (1922), although he did films for various studios and directors. His supporting role in 1923's A Woman of Paris solidified the image of a well-dressed man-about-town, and he was voted Best Dressed Man in America nine times. [4] He was noted as an example of a suave type of actor, one who could play lover or villain. [5] In 1929, he attended the preview of Maurice Chevalier's first Hollywood film Innocents of Paris , and personally reassured Chevalier that he would enjoy a great future, despite the mediocre screenplay. [6] He closed the end of the 1920s with star roles such as His Private Life (1928) and Fashions in Love (1929).

Menjou in A Star Is Born (1937) Adolphe Menjou in A Star is Born.jpg
Menjou in A Star Is Born (1937)
Trailer for Stage Door (1937) Adolphe Menjou in Stage Door trailer.jpg
Trailer for Stage Door (1937)

The crash of the stock market in 1929 meant that his contract with Paramount was cancelled, but he went on to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and continued on with films (now talkies) in a variety of ways, with his knowledge of French and Spanish helping at key times, although his starring roles declined by this point. In 1930, he starred in Morocco , with Marlene Dietrich. He was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page (1931), after having received the role upon the death of Louis Wolheim during rehearsals. [7] [8] A variety of supporting roles in this decade were films such as A Farewell to Arms (1932), Morning Glory (1933), and A Star Is Born (1937). [9]

His roles decreased slightly in the 1940s, but he did overseas work for World War II alongside supporting roles in films like Roxie Hart (1942) and State of the Union (1948). Over the course of his career, he bridged the gap of working with several noted directors that ranged from Frank Borzage to Frank Capra to Stanley Kubrick.

Later career

Menjou had just eleven roles in the 1950s, but he managed to snag one last leading role with the film noir The Sniper (1952). Incidentally, the director of that film was Edward Dmytryk, who had been a member of the Hollywood Ten, in which he was blacklisted from the film industry for not testifying to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the 'Red scare' before deciding to testify and name names as a brief member of the Communist Party.

In 1955, Menjou played Dr. Elliott Harcourt in "Barrier of Silence", episode 19 of the first season of the television series Science Fiction Theatre . He guest-starred as Fitch, with Orson Bean and Sue Randall as John and Ellen Monroe, in a 1961 episode, "The Secret Life of James Thurber", based on the works of American humorist James Thurber (especially "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"), in the CBS anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson . He also appeared in the Thanksgiving episode of NBC's The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford, which aired on November 22, 1956. [10] Menjou ended his film career with such roles as French General George Broulard in Stanley Kubrick's film Paths of Glory (1957) and his final film role was that of the town curmudgeon in Disney's Pollyanna (1960).

Political beliefs

Menjou was a staunch Republican who equated the Democratic Party with socialism. He supported the Hoover administration's policies during the Great Depression. Menjou told a friend that he feared that if a Democrat won the White House, they "would raise taxes [and] destroy the value of the dollar," depriving Menjou of a good portion of his wealth. He took precautions against this threat: "I've got gold stashed in safety deposit boxes all over town... They'll never get an ounce from me." [11] In the 1944 presidential election, he joined other celebrity Republicans at a rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum, organized by studio executive David O. Selznick, to support the DeweyBricker ticket and Governor Earl Warren of California, who would be Dewey's running mate in 1948. The gathering drew 93,000, with Cecil B. DeMille as the master of ceremonies and short speeches by Hedda Hopper and Walt Disney. Despite the rally's large turnout, most Hollywood celebrities who took public positions supported the RooseveltTruman ticket. [12]

In 1947, Menjou cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities saying that Hollywood "is one of the main centers of Communist activity in America". He added: "it is the desire and wish of the masters of Moscow to use this medium for their purposes" which is "the overthrow of the American government". [13] Menjou was a leading member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a group formed to oppose communist influence in Hollywood, whose other members included John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck (with whom Menjou costarred in Forbidden in 1932 and Golden Boy in 1939) and her husband, actor Robert Taylor.

Because of his political leanings, Menjou came into conflict with actress Katharine Hepburn, with whom he appeared in Morning Glory , Stage Door , and State of the Union (also starring Spencer Tracy). Hepburn was strongly opposed to the HUAC hearings, and their clashes were reportedly instant and mutually cutting. During a government deposition, Menjou said, "Scratch a do-gooder, like Hepburn, and they'll yell, 'Pravda'." [14] To this, Hepburn called Menjou "wisecracking, witty—a flag-waving super-patriot who invested his American dollars in Canadian bonds and had a thing about Communists." [14] In his book Kate, Hepburn biographer William Mann said that during the filming of State of the Union , she and Menjou spoke to each other only while acting. [14] [ citation needed ]

Personal life

Menjou with second wife, actress Kathryn Carver, in 1928. Adolphe Menjou, Kathryn Carver, 1928.jpg
Menjou with second wife, actress Kathryn Carver, in 1928.

Menjou was married three times. His first marriage, in 1920 to Kathryn Conn Tinsley, ended in divorce. He married Kathryn Carver in 1928; they divorced in 1934. His third and final marriage, to Verree Teasdale, lasted from 1934 until his death on October 29, 1963; they had one adopted son, Peter Menjou.

In 1948, Menjou published his autobiography, It Took Nine Tailors.

Menjou died on October 29, 1963, of hepatitis in Beverly Hills, California. [15] He is interred beside Verree at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. [16]

Legacy

For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Menjou has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6826 Hollywood Boulevard. [17]

Cultural references

Portrait photogragh of Adolphe Menjou Portret van Adolphe Menjou To J. van der Linde Jr. ordially, Adolphe Menjou (titel op object), RP-F-F01577.jpg
Portrait photogragh of Adolphe Menjou

Because of Menjou's public support of HUAC, the propaganda of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) often depicted their western opponents with Menjou-style moustaches, and it was considered a statement of political opposition to trim one's moustache that way. The style became a symbol for the resourceful criminal, and in Germany is still called Menjou-Bärtchen (Menjou beardlet). In German film and theatre, dubious men, opportunists, corrupt politicians, fraudulent persuaders, marriage impostors and other "slick" criminals often wear Menjou-Bärtchen. In real life, the style is often associated with opportunism.

Salvador Dalí admired Adolphe Menjou. [18] He declared "la moustache d'Adolphe Menjou est surréaliste" [19] and began offering fake mustaches from a silver cigarette case to other people with the words "Moustache? Moustache? Moustache?" [20]

One of the most famous photographs by the avant-garde photographer Umbo is titled "Menjou En Gros" ca. 1928. [21]

Filmography

Radio appearances

YearProgramEpisode/source
1946 Screen Guild Players Experiment Perilous [25]
1946This Is Hollywood The Bachelor's Daughters [26]

See also

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  26. "New Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg Telegraph. November 16, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 14, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg