Adolphe Menjou


Actor
Adolphe Menjou

About

Also Known As
Adolph Majou, Adolphe Jean Menjou, Adolph Menjou
Birth Place
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
February 18, 1890
Died
October 29, 1963
Cause of Death
Chronic Hepatitis

Biography

The best dressed man in America, the ever debonair Adolphe Menjou quickly made his mark during the waning days of silent cinema as a suave ladies’ man, clad in the finest of formal wear and always sporting the most impeccable moustache in the room. After toiling in small roles for a few years, Menjou first gained notoriety in Charlie Chaplin’s "A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate" (1923) a...

Photos & Videos

Forbidden - Movie Posters
Forbidden - Lobby Cards
Forbidden - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Kathryn Carver
Wife
Actor. Second wife, married 1927-33.
Verree Teasdale
Wife
Actor. Survived him.

Biography

The best dressed man in America, the ever debonair Adolphe Menjou quickly made his mark during the waning days of silent cinema as a suave ladies’ man, clad in the finest of formal wear and always sporting the most impeccable moustache in the room. After toiling in small roles for a few years, Menjou first gained notoriety in Charlie Chaplin’s "A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate" (1923) and he settled into an easily discerned persona that he showcased wonderfully in films like "Morocco" (1930). His Oscar-nominated turn as an acerbic, fast-talking editor in "The Front Page" (1931) demonstrated his ease with verbal humor and he went on to give memorable portrayals in everything from the Shirley Temple confection "Little Miss Marker" (1934) to Stanley Kubrick’s bracing anti-war drama "Paths of Glory" (1957). Fluency in several languages also helped the Pittsburgh-born actor to convincingly play all manner of sophisticated foreigners, though Menjou’s exceedingly conservative political views and happiness to name names for the House Un-American Activities Committee eventually tarnished his reputation to a degree. Menjou appeared in well over 100 films, where he proved regularly that he was equally comfortable at being charming or villainous, and could also do a fine job of combining those two characteristics when called for.

Regarded by many fans as a quintessential Frenchman, Adolphe Jean Menjou was actually a native of Pittsburgh, PA. Born on Feb. 18, 1890 to a father who was a veteran hotelier, Menjou was expected to carry on the tradition of hotel management. He was not at all interested, but Menjou’s initial plans suggested a more traditional and stable career path than he ended up taking. Following stints at Culver Military Academy and Stiles University Prep School, he attended Cornel University and studied engineering. Acting entered Menjou’s life when he became involved in the institution’s dramatic productions. He soon switched from Engineering to Arts, but ultimately left Cornel before obtaining a degree. Seeking to establish himself as a professional performer, he relocated to New York City and helped to run his father’s restaurant, Maison Menjou. Film roles started to come in 1914, but he took time off to do his part in World War I by serving in the Ambulance Corps in France. Upon returning to acting, Menjou began to obtain jobs that were significant enough for him to start receiving screen credit.

Paramount Pictures put Menjou under contract and his notable early credits included a turn as the King of France in Douglas Fairbanks’ energetic take on "The Three Musketeers" (1921) and a supporting assignment in Rudolph Valentino’s silent classic "The Sheik" (1921). However, it was his performance as an arrogant French playboy in Charlie Chaplin’s "A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate" (1923) that earned Menjou his first real notice. The film – which featured Chaplin only in a cameo appearance – was not a commercial success in the U.S., but Menjou’s screen presence and poise aptly displayed his qualifications for the sort of dapper and urbane roles that would come his way for years to come. His emerging stardom was further strengthened by films like Ernst Lubitsch’s "Forbidden Paradise" (1924), "The Swan" (1925), and D.W. Griffith’s "The Sorrows of Satan" (1926), where he was wonderful as a debonair incarnation of the titular fiend, though the film itself turned out be among that year’s biggest disappointments. Audiences first heard Menjou’s voice in "Fashions in Love" (1929) and unlike some of his counterparts from the time, he had no trouble making the transition to talkies. Interestingly, some critics and audience members reportedly expressed surprise that this archetypal Frenchman spoke English with no accent whatsoever. His tenure with Paramount soon came to an end, though Menjou had one of his most memorable parts from that stage of his career in "Morocco" (1930), in which he battled with Gary Cooper for the hand of newly minted star, Marlene Dietrich.

His services were optioned by MGM, which took advantage of Menjou’s multilingualism to star him in four films – three in French and one in Spanish – that MGM was also simultaneously shooting in English with different casts, a common practice before dubbing became technically feasible. MGM specialized in elaborate and beautifully realized films and Menjou’s stately screen image was a fine fit, even if his drawing power had waned somewhat. However, one of his greatest roles came while he was on loan out for "The Front Page" (1931), a hilarious adaptation of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s like-named Broadway smash. The part of conniving newspaper editor Walter Burns was originated on stage by Osgood Perkins and imposing character actor Louis Wolheim was hired for the film incarnation. However, Wolheim’s sudden death just before shooting left it open and Menjou was enlisted. The rat-a-tat-tat comic dialogue fit Menjou’s style perfectly and he earned a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. While the film’s more popular remake, "My Girl Friday" (1940), largely supplanted "The Front Page" in the public’s perception, it featured some of Menjou’s finest comedic work.

MGM had not produced "The Front Page," but happily took advantage of the notoriety Menjou gained from it by keeping him busy throughout the duration of his time with the studio. He was one-third of a romantic triangle with Barbara Stanwyck and Ralph Meeker in "Forbidden" (1932) and played the Italian major whose jealousy compels him to try and separate Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes in the first screen adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s "A Farewell to Arms" (1932). Menjou proved his versatility with his splendid turn as a scruffy bookie whose heart is won over by adorable Shirley Temple in "Little Miss Marker" (1934). The role was a step away from his established identity, but "Sorrowful Jones" ended up being one of the actor’s best known and loved characters. He effectively played the understanding studio head in "A Star is Born" (1937) who oversaw the rise of new talent Janet Gaynor and the fall of alcoholic star Fredric March, while "Stage Door" (1937) found him to be just as persuasive as an unscrupulous promoter out to take advantage of young actresses. He reteamed with Stanwyck in the engaging prize fighting drama "Golden Boy" (1939) and amused as a conman in the screwball comedy "Hi Diddle Diddle" (1943), one of the few mid-career films for which he received star billing.

A dedicated Republican, Menjou co-founded the conservative organization the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, which also boasted such A-Listers as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Cecil B. DeMille, and Walt Disney and among its members. Like many performers, he also spent some time entertaining American troops fighting overseas during World War II. Even when he was not making movies, one could hardly glance at the entertainment news of the time and not find columnists remarking on how the actor seemingly always maintained the same degree of well-groomed perfection off-screen. In fact, Menjou was named the Best Dressed Man in America on several occasions over the course of his career and, fittingly, his 1947 autobiography was titled It Took Nine Tailors. In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee staged a series of hearings with the goal of publically identifying communists in the entertainment industry and called a number of suspects in to testify. However, some entertainment personnel voluntarily appeared as friendly witnesses and Menjou was prominent among them. He gave a fiery speech on November 3rd of that year in which he unrepentantly labeled himself "a witch hunter," denounced Communism as a "foul philosophy," and stated that he had seen movies (citing the pro-Stalinist 1943 film "Mission to Moscow" specifically) that he thought should never have been made. That overt stance and his whole-hearted cooperation with HUAC made for a prolonged state of chilliness on the set of "State of the Union" (1948), where an unapologetic liberal Katherine Hepburn would speak only to Menjou when delivering scripted lines in front of the camera.

The number of roles offered to Menjou had dwindled by the time the 1950s rolled around, but he did solid work as a dogged detective hunting a killer in "The Sniper" (1952). The tense and well-crafted B-thriller also gave audiences the all-but-unknown sight of Menjou sans moustache. He had quipped in interviews that he felt naked without it and quickly went back to his trademark look after the filming of this movie. During that time, he also made his television debut as host of the series "Your Favorite Story" (NBC/syndicated, 1953-55), which featured mini adaptations of classic works by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, and Herman Melville, among others. Menjou gave one of his finest latter day performances as a pitiless French general in Stanley Kubrick’s anti-war masterpiece "Paths of Glory" (1957) and returned to the small screen as host of "Target" (syndicated, 1958), a horror and suspense thriller anthology program that ran for one season. Menjou’s right wing politics and strong support of the blacklist sullied his reputation somewhat, a situation further heightened by his proud membership in the recently established John Birch Society. However, at the beginning of the new decade, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and provided solid support in an atypical role as a cranky old hermit who succumbs to the charms of Hayley Mills in the Walt Disney hit "Pollyanna" (1960). He retired from acting after that assignment, but early in 1963, Menjou contracted hepatitis and after a nine-month battle with the disease, died on October 29th.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Hollywood On Trial (1976)
Himself
Pollyanna (1960)
Mr. Pendergast
I Married a Woman (1958)
Frederick W. Sutton
Paths of Glory (1958)
Gen. Broulard
The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957)
Arthur Martin
The Ambassador's Daughter (1956)
Senator Jonathan Cartwright
Bundle of Joy (1956)
John B. Merlin
Timberjack (1955)
Swiftwater "Swiftie" Tilton
Man on a Tightrope (1953)
Fesker
The Sniper (1952)
Lt. Frank Kafka
The Tall Target (1951)
Col. Caleb Jeffers
Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
Pierre
To Please a Lady (1950)
Gregg
Dancing in the Dark (1950)
Melville Crossman
My Dream Is Yours (1949)
Thomas Hutchins
State of the Union (1948)
Jim Conover
Mr. District Attorney (1947)
District Attorney Craig Warren
The Hucksters (1947)
Mr. Kimberly
I'll Be Yours (1947)
J. Conrad Nelson
Heartbeat (1946)
Ambassador
The Bachelor's Daughters (1946)
Mr. Alexander Moody
Man Alive (1945)
Kismet
Step Lively (1944)
Wagner
Hi Diddle Diddle (1943)
Colonel Hector Phyffe
Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943)
Tom Morgan
Roxie Hart (1942)
Billy Flynn
Syncopation (1942)
George Latimer
You Were Never Lovelier (1942)
Edwardo Acuna
Road Show (1941)
Col. [Carleton] Carraway
Father Takes a Wife (1941)
[Frederick Osborne] Senior
A Bill of Divorcement (1940)
Hilary Fairchild
Turnabout (1940)
Phil Manning
Golden Boy (1939)
Tom Moody
The Housekeeper's Daughter (1939)
Deakon Maxwell
That's Right--You're Wrong (1939)
Stacey Delmore
King of the Turf (1939)
Jim Mason
Letter of Introduction (1938)
John Mannering
Thanks for Everything (1938)
J. B. Harcourt
The Goldwyn Follies (1938)
Oliver Merlin
One in a Million (1937)
[Thadeus] Tad Spencer
One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937)
John Cardwell
Café Metropole (1937)
Monsieur Victor [Lobard]
A Star Is Born (1937)
Oliver Niles
Stage Door (1937)
Anthony ["Tony"] Powell
The Milky Way (1936)
Gabby Sloan
Sing, Baby, Sing (1936)
Bruce Farraday
Wives Never Know (1936)
J. Hugh Ramsay
Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
Nicoleff
Broadway Gondolier (1935)
Professor [Eduardo] deVinci
Easy to Love (1934)
John [Townsend]
The Mighty Barnum (1934)
Mr. [Bailey] Walsh
Journal of a Crime (1934)
Paul [Moliet]
The Trumpet Blows (1934)
Pancho Gomez/Señor Montes
The Great Flirtation (1934)
[Stephan] Karpath
Little Miss Marker (1934)
Sorrowful Jones
The Human Side (1934)
Gregory Sheldon
Convention City (1933)
T. R. [Ted] Kent
The Worst Woman in Paris? (1933)
Adolphe Ballou
The Circus Queen Murder (1933)
Thatcher Colt
Morning Glory (1933)
Louis Easton
Forbidden (1932)
Bob [Grover]
Prestige (1932)
Capt. Remy Bandoin
Bachelor's Affairs (1932)
Andrew Hoyt
The Night Club Lady (1932)
Thatcher Colt
A Farewell to Arms (1932)
Rinaldi
The Easiest Way (1931)
Willard Brockton
Soyons gais (1931)
Bob
Men Call It Love (1931)
Tony [Minot]
The Great Lover (1931)
[Jean] Paurel
Friends and Lovers (1931)
Captain Geoffrey Roberts
New Moon (1931)
Governor Boris Brusiloff
The Front Page (1931)
Walter Burns
Amor audaz (1930)
Albert D'Arlons
Morocco (1930)
Kennington
L'énigmatique Mr. Parkes (1930)
Courtenay Parkes
Fashions in Love (1929)
Paul de Remy
Marquis Preferred (1929)
Marquis d'Argenville
A Night of Mystery (1928)
Captain Ferréol
His Tiger Lady (1928)
Henri, the "super"
His Private Life (1928)
Georges St. Germain
Service for Ladies (1927)
Albert Leroux
Serenade (1927)
Franz Rossi
Blonde or Brunette (1927)
Henri Martel
The Sorrows of Satan (1927)
Prince Lucio de Rimanez
A Gentleman of Paris (1927)
Marquis de Marignan
Evening Clothes (1927)
Lucien D'Artois
A Social Celebrity (1926)
Max Haber
The Ace of Cads (1926)
Chappel Maturin
The Grand Duchess and the Waiter (1926)
Albert Durant
Fascinating Youth (1926)
The Swan (1925)
H. R. H. Albert of Kersten-Rodenfels
Lost--a Wife (1925)
Tony Hamilton
A Kiss in the Dark (1925)
Walter Grenham
The King on Main Street (1925)
Serge IV, King of Molvania
Are Parents People? (1925)
Mr. Hazlitt
The Marriage Circle (1924)
Prof. Josef Stock
For Sale (1924)
Joseph Hudley
The Marriage Cheat (1924)
Bob Canfield
Sinners in Silk (1924)
Arthur Merrill
The Fast Set (1924)
Ernest Steele
Broadway After Dark (1924)
Ralph Norton
Forbidden Paradise (1924)
Chancellor
Open All Night (1924)
Edmond Duverne
Broken Barriers (1924)
Tommie Kemp
Shadows of Paris (1924)
Georges de Croy, his secretary
Rupert of Hentzau (1923)
Count Rischenheim
The Spanish Dancer (1923)
Don Salluste, a courtier
A Woman of Paris (1923)
Pierre Revel
The World's Applause (1923)
Robert Townsend
Bella Donna (1923)
Mr. Chepstow
Is Matrimony a Failure? (1922)
Dudley King
Clarence (1922)
Hubert Stem
Head over Heels (1922)
Sterling
The Fast Mail (1922)
Cal Baldwin
Pink Gods (1922)
Louis Barney
The Eternal Flame (1922)
Duc de Langeais
Singed Wings (1922)
Bliss Gordon
The Faith Healer (1921)
Dr. Littlefield
Through the Back Door (1921)
James Brewster
Queenie (1921)
Count Michael
Courage (1921)
Bruce Ferguson
The Three Musketeers (1921)
Louis XIII, King of France
The Sheik (1921)
Dr. Raoul de St. Hubert
The Amazons (1917)
The Moth (1917)
The Valentine Girl (1917)
Joe Winder
The Price of Happiness (1916)
Howard Neal
Man and His Angel (1916)
The Devil at His Elbow (1916)
Wilfred Carleton
The Crucial Test (1916)
Count Nicolai
The Lure of Heart's Desire (1916)
The Reward of Patience (1916)
Paul Dunstan
The Kiss (1916)
Pennington

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Hollywood On Trial (1976)
Other

Life Events

Photo Collections

Forbidden - Movie Posters
Forbidden - Movie Posters
Forbidden - Lobby Cards
Forbidden - Lobby Cards
Forbidden - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Forbidden - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Stage Door - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from RKO's Stage Door (1937), starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Stage Door - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters for Stage Door (1937), starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Adolphe Menjou.
Pollyanna (1960) - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Disney's Pollyanna (1960). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Front Page, The (1931) - L For Listerine! The boys in the press room tangle then we meet editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou), hunting Hildy (Pat O'Brien, not seen), with some remarkable shots from director Lewis Milestone, early in The Front Page 1931, from the play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.
Paths Of Glory (1958) - They're Scum Following the failed assault on the German position, Gen. Mireau (George MacReady) seems to have lost perspective, Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) both defiant and hoping to preserve their relationship, Gen. Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) officiating, discussing military justice, in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths Of Glory, 1958.
Hucksters, The (1947) - Nobody's Anybody's Friend As singer Jean (Ava Gardner) joins the table after her number, she visits with old pal and ad-man Vic (Clark Gable) and his new maybe-flame, war widow Kay (Deborah Kerr), before Vic's intoxicated boss "Kim" (Adolphe Menjou, a one-time Ivy Leaguer, with Gloria Holden as his wife) takes a bitter turn, in The Hucksters, 1947.
Hucksters, The (1947) - Don't Disagree With Him! Spectacular entrance of soap tycoon Evan Llewellyn Evans (Sydney Greenstreet) with a tirade for ad men Kimberly (Adolphe Menjou), Cooke (Richard Gaines) and Norman (Clark Gable) in The Hucksters, 1947.
Hucksters, The (1947) - I'll Carry A Pipe New York agency boss Kimberly (Adolphe Menjou) and his old acquaintance and prospective hire Vic (Clark Gable) drop in on embattled Clarke (Richard Gaines) as he struggles with the prized "Beauty Soap" campaign and their intimidating client, in The Hucksters, 1947.
Hucksters, The (1947) - Don't Tell Me 23-year old Ava Gardner (as singer "Jean Ogilvie," her voice dubbed by Cathy Lewis) performs Buddy Pepper's "Don't Tell Me" for an audience including Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Adolphe Menjou and Gloria Holden in director Jack Conway's The Hucksters, 1947.
State Of The Union (1948) - You've Cut Some Corners Industrialist Matthews (Spencer Tracy) visiting with political boss Conover (Adolphe Menjou), doesn't realize his estranged wife Mary (Katharine Hepburn) has arrived, then discussing a run for the White House, in Frank Capra's State Of The Union, 1948.
Farewell To Arms, A (1932) - No, I Mean Girls (First) World war ambulance driver Frederic (Gary Cooper) is happy to meet Italian surgeon pal Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou) at the hospital, early in Frank Borzage's A Farewell To Arms, 1932, from the Hemingway novel.
Front Page, The (1931) - Did You Ever Come Up Out Of A Sewer? Reporter Hildy (Pat O'Brien) and fiance` Mary (Peggy Grant) are introduced, planning their escape, unaware of editor Walter Burns' (Adolphe Menjou) close puruit, in director Lewis Milestone's The Front Page, 1931.
Man On A Tightrope (1953) - There'll Be Plenty Of Charges Notable in that director Elia Kazan had recently surrendered names of Communist Party members to congress, and actor Adolphe Menjou was one of Hollywood’s leading anti-Communists, here playing a Czechoslovak propaganda officer, collared by a superior (Philip Kenneally) for going soft on a wayward circus troupe, in Man On A Tightrope, 1953.
Man On A Tightrope (1953) - This Is Considered Amusing? Summoned by officials of the communist Czechoslovak government, circus manager Cernik (Fredric March) explains to interrogator John Dehner about his staff, and his difficulty in presenting politically skewed skits, with propagandist Adolphe Menjou listening, in Elia Kazan’s Man On A Tightrope, 1953.
Sniper, The (1952) - Open, Law Enforcement Is Helpless Journalistic and inflammatory, the dramatized quasi-factual prologue, and the introduction of Arthur Franz as the title character, in producer Stanley Kramer and director Edward Dmytryk’s first collaboration, The Sniper, 1952, also starring Adolphe Menjou and Richard Kiley, shot largely in San Francisco.

Trailer

Easy To Love (1934) - (Original Trailer) When she thinks her husband (Adolphe Menjou) has been unfaithful, a woman (Genevieve Tobin) claims to be having an affair of her own.
Broadway Gondolier - (Original Trailer) Joan Blondell and Adolphe Menjou cut up with Frank McHugh in the trailer for the "radio romance" Broadway Gondolier (1935).
Bundle of Joy - (Original Trailer) A shop girl is mistaken for the mother of a foundling in the musical remake of Bachelor Mother, Bundle of Joy (1956), starring Eddie Fisher & Debbie Reynolds.
Morocco - (Original Trailer) Marlene Dietrich plays a nightclub singer who falls hard for a Foreign Legionnaire (Gary Cooper) in her first American film Morocco (1930).
Step Lively - (Original Trailer) Fly-by-night producers dodge bill collectors while trying for one big hit in Step Lively (1944) starring Frank Sinatra.
Roxie Hart - (Original teaser trailer) To try and kick-start her show-business career, a woman (Ginger Rogers) admits to a Chicago murder in Roxie Hart (1942).
Star is Born, A (1937) - (Original Trailer) A fading matinee idol marries the young beginner he's shepherded to stardom in A Star is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor & Fredric March.
Gold Diggers Of 1935 - (Original Trailer) Gold Diggers Of 1935 was directed by Busby Berkeley and features his incredible choreography during the "Lullaby Of Broadway" number.
You Were Never Lovelier - (Original Trailer) Rita Hayworth is an Argentine heiress who thinks Fred Astaire is her secret admirer in You Were Never Lovelier (1942).
That's Right - You're Wrong - (Original Trailer) Lucille Ball helps Kay Kyser and his band overcome a film studio head's hatred to make it on the big screen in That's Right - You're Wrong (1939).
I Married A Woman - (Original Trailer) I Married A Woman (1958) and what a woman! as comedian George Gobel weds buxom Diana Dors.
Across The Wide Missouri - (Original Trailer) Clark Gable plays a fur trapper forced to marry a woman from the Blackfoot Indian tribe in Across the Wide Missouri (1951).

Family

Peter Menjou
Son
Adopted.

Companions

Kathryn Carver
Wife
Actor. Second wife, married 1927-33.
Verree Teasdale
Wife
Actor. Survived him.

Bibliography