Adolphe Menjou

Adolphe Jean Menjou (February 18, 1890 – October 29, 1963) was an American actor.[1] 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.

Adolphe Menjou
Menjou in the
1937 film A Star Is Born
Adolphe Jean Menjou

(1890-02-18)February 18, 1890
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedOctober 29, 1963(1963-10-29) (aged 73)
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
Years active1914–1960
Katherine Conn Tinsley
(m. 1920; div. 1927)

Kathryn Carver
(m. 1928; div. 1934)

Verree Teasdale (m. 1934; his death)

Early life

Menjou was born on February 18, 1890, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a French father, Albert Menjou (18581917), and an Irish mother from Galway, 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

After returning from the war, Menjou became a star in such films as The Sheik and The Three Musketeers. When he starred in 1923's A Woman of Paris, he solidified the image of a well-dressed man-about-town, and was voted Best Dressed Man in America nine times.[4] 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.[5] His own career stalled with the coming of talkies, but in 1930, he starred in Morocco, with Marlene Dietrich. He was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page (1931).

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."[6] 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.[7]

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".[8] 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'."[9] 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."[9] 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.[9]

Later years and death

Menjou ended his film career with such roles as French General George Broulard in Stanley Kubrick's film Paths of Glory (1957).

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, 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] His final film role was that of the town curmudgeon in Disney's Pollyanna (1960).

Menjou died on October 29, 1963 of hepatitis in Beverly Hills, California.[11] He is interred beside Verree at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[12]

Personal life

Menjou was married to Verree Teasdale from 1934 until his death on October 29, 1963; they had one adopted son. He previously married Kathryn Carver in 1928; they divorced in 1934. A prior marriage to Kathryn Conn Tinsley also ended in divorce.

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


For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Menjou has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6826 Hollywood Boulevard.[13]

Cultural references

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.[14] He declared "la moustache d'Adolphe Menjou est surréaliste"[15] and began offering fake mustaches from a silver cigarette case to other people with the words "Moustache? Moustache?" Moustache?"[16]

One of the most famous photographs by the avant-garde photographer Umbo is titled "Menjou En Gros" ca. 1928.[17]


Radio appearances

1946Screen Guild PlayersExperiment Perilous[21]
1946This Is HollywoodThe Bachelor's Daughters[22]

See also


  1. Obituary Variety, October 30, 1963, page 71.
  2. Ed Sullivan (February 11, 1940). "Looking at Hollywood with Ed Sullivan". Chicago Daily Tribune. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
  3. Onofrio, Jan (January 1, 1999). "Pennsylvania Biographical Dictionary". Somerset Publishers, Inc. Retrieved December 30, 2017 via Google Books.
  4. Brumburgh, Gary. "Adolphe Menjou". FullMovieReview. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  5. With Love, the Autobiography of Maurice Chevalier (Cassell, 1960), p. 191.
  6. Wilson, Victoria (2013). A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907–1940. New York City: Simon & Schuster. p. 266. ISBN 978-0684831688.
  7. Jordan, David M. (2011). FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978-0253009708.
  8. Hill, Gladwin (May 16, 1947). "Hollywood Is a Main Red Center, Adolphe Menjou Tells House Body. Calls Hollywood A Center Of Reds". The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  9. Maltin, Leonard (2010). "State of the Union (1948)". Turner Classic Movies. Leonard Maltin Classic Movie Guide. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  10. "The Ford Show Episode Guide". Archived from the original on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  11. "Dapper Adolphe Menjou Dies After Long Illness". Associated Press. October 29, 1963. Retrieved May 25, 2011. He had been suffering from jaundice for some time. Death came at his home in Beverly Hills. With him were his third wife, the former Veree Teasdale, ...
  12. Resting Places
  13. "Adolphe Menjou - Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  14. Rob White; Edward Buscombe (2003). British Film Institute Film Classics. Taylor & Francis. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-57958-328-6.
  15. Nuridsany, Michel (2004). Dalí. Flammarion. p. 177. ISBN 978-2-08-068222-2.
  16. Descharnes, Robert (1984). Salvador Dali: The Work, the Man. H.N. Abrams. p. 291. ISBN 978-0-8109-0825-3.
  17. Umbo (1980) [1928 negative]. Menjou en gros. Philadelphia Museum of Art (Photograph). Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  18. Lewis, Mary Beth. "Ten Best First Facts", in Car and Driver, 1/88, p.92.
  19. Connic, Jennifer (June 6, 2014). "PHOTOS: Happy birthday, drive-in movies, a N.J. invention". New Jersey On-Line LLC. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  20. "The Victoria Advocate - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved December 30, 2017.
  21. "Bennett, Brent, Menjou Star on "Screen Guild"". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 12, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved October 1, 2015 via
  22. "New Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 16, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 14, 2015 via
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