Adolphe Menjou

Adolphe Menjou

from the film A Star Is Born (1937).
Born Adolphe Jean Menjou
(1890-02-18)February 18, 1890
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 29, 1963(1963-10-29) (aged 73)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death Hepatitis
Resting place Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Occupation Actor
Years active 1914–1960
Spouse(s) Katherine Conn Tinsley (m. 1920–27)
Kathryn Carver (m. 1928–34)
Verree Teasdale (m. 1934–63)
Relatives Henri Menjou (brother)

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 Charles Chaplin's A Woman of Paris, in which 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. He was nominated for an Academy Award for The Front Page in 1931.

Early life

Menjou was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a French father, Albert Menjou (1858-1917), and an Irish mother from Galway, Nora (née Joyce) (1869-1953).[2][3] He had a brother named Henry Arthur Menjou (1891-1956) who was a year younger. He was raised Roman 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. He trained in Pennsylvania before going overseas.

Personal life

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

Career and Stardom

Returning from the war, he 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 later voted the Best Dressed Man in America nine times.[4] His 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 political ideology of Herbert Hoover's administration who rejected the belief that the federal government held responsibility for aiding the unemployed or that government should intervene to ameliorate social ills. Menjou confided to a friend that he feared that if a Democrat won the White House he "would raise taxes, destroy the value of the dollar," depriving him of a good portion of his wealth. He took precautions against this threat to his finances. "I've got gold stashed in safety deposit boxes all over town...they'll never get an ounce from me." [5] In 1944, he joined other celebrity Republicans at a rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum arranged by David O. Selznick in support of the DeweyBricker ticket as well as 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 good turnout at the rally, most Hollywood celebrities who took a public position sided with the RooseveltTruman ticket.[6]

In 1947, Menjou cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities in its hunt for communists in Hollywood.[7] 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. Other members included John Wayne, Barbara Stanwyck (with whom he co-starred in Forbidden in 1932 and Golden Boy in 1939) and her husband, actor Robert Taylor.

Because of his political sympathies, Menjou came into conflict with actress Katharine Hepburn. Menjou appeared with her in the films Morning Glory, Stage Door, and State of the Union, which also starred Spencer Tracy. Hepburn was strongly opposed to co-operating with the McCarthy hearings. Their clashes were reportedly instant, and mutually cutting; Menjou said of Hepburn during the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigation into alleged communist infiltration, "Scratch a do-gooder, like Hepburn, and they'll yell, 'Pravda'."[8] To this, Hepburn called Menjou, "Wisecracking, witty—a flag-waving superpatriot who invested his American dollars in Canadian bonds and had a thing about Communists."[8] Unsurprisingly, it was reported by William Mann in his biography of Hepburn, Kate, that during the filming of State of the Union, she and Menjou only spoke to each other when required to in the film script.[8]

Later years and death

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

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 an 1961 episode, "The Secret Life of James Thurber", based on the works of the American humorist James Thurber, of 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.[9] His final film role as the town curmudgeon in Disney's Pollyanna was one of his best known roles.

Menjou died on October 29, 1963 of hepatitis in Beverly Hills, California.[10] He is interred next to Verree at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[11]


In 1948, he published his autobiography, It Took Nine Tailors. Menjou has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6822 Hollywood Blvd.

Menjou had a brother Henri Menjou (1891–1956) who made an attempt to become an actor. He made three films for Paramount in the mid-1930s.

Cultural references

Adolphe Menjou

In Billy Wilder's 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, Jack Webb (as Artie Green) upon seeing his friend in evening clothes, asks William Holden (as Joe Gillis) "Judas E. Priest, who did you borrow that from? Adolphe Menjou?" to which Joe replies "Close, but no cigar".

Because of Menjou's public support of McCarthy's hunt for communists, the anti-imperialistic propaganda of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) used to display their western opponents typically with a Menjou-style moustache. Also, in the GDR it was rated as a statement of political opposition to trim one's moustache that way. This kind of beard became a general symbol for the demimonde, criminal Westler and in Germany it is still called Menjou-Bärtchen (Menjou beardlet). In German film and theatre play dubious gentlemen, opportunists, corrupt politicians, fraudulent persuaders, marriage impostors or other charming criminals are often equipped with such a Menjou-Bärtchen and in real life it is linked by prejudice and self-fulfilling prophecy to occupations like car trader, traveling salesman, insurance agent, pimp, investment consultant or estate agent.

In "The Bob Hope Show", the tenth episode of the thirteenth season of The Jack Benny Program, after announcing he won the American Tailors Association award for being the "Best Dressed Male Performer in Television", Jack says "and Rochester, Rochester says I was silly buying Adolphe Menjou's old clothes."

In "Irresistible Andy", the fifth episode of the first season of The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy Taylor compliments Barney Fife upon seeing him wearing his signature Salt and Pepper suit for the first time and calls him "The Adolphe Menjou of Mayberry."

In Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather, Dr. Jules Segal refers to Johnny Fontane's doctor as his "Adolphe Menjou medical man."

In "Abyssinia, Henry", the final episode of the third season of M*A*S*H*, Trapper John McIntyre compliments Henry Blake on his custom-made, pin-striped, double breasted suit by saying, "Henry, that suit is really you," to which Hawkeye Pierce responds, "If you're Adolphe Menjou."

In Honor Thy Mother, the thirteenth episode of the ninth season of Cheers (aired January 3, 1991) where Carla Tortelli's mother pressures Carla to follow the family tradition and name one of her sons with her father's first name and her mother's maiden name, resulting in the name Benito Mussolini, Rebecca Howe quips to the bar "Well, it could have been worse. What if her father's name had been Adolf?" to which Woody Boyd adds "Yeah, and her mother's maiden name could have been Menjou. Phew! She really dodged a bullet there."

In James Wilcox's novel, North Gladiola (1997), the heroine's husband is thus described: "Mr Coco's narrow brown eyes - they had once reminded her of Adolphe Menjou, whom she used to have a crush on - dimmed with resentment."

In The Golden Girls episode "The Bloom is Off the Rose" (season 6, episode 13), Sophia Petrillo remarks that Blanche's abusive boyfriend "makes Wallace Beery look like Adolphe Menjou."

In Gilmore Girls episode "The Incredible Shrinking Lorelais" (season 4, episode 14), Trix Gilmore (Marion Ross) complements her son Richard (Edward Herrmann) on his newly grown moustache by saying, "It makes you look like Adolphe Menjou." Richard's wife Emily (Kelly Bishop) retorted under her breath, "Or Adolphe Menjou's cocaine dealer."[12]

One of the most famous photographs by the Avant-garde photographer Umbo is a picture he titled "Menjou En Gros" ca. 1928.[13]

Partial filmography

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Screen Guild Players Experiment Perilous[17]
1946 This Is Hollywood The Bachelor's Daughters[18]


  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. Brumburgh, Gary. "Adolphe Menjou". FullMovieReview. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  4. Wilson, Victoria, " A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907–1940," Simon & Schuster, 2013, p. 266, ISBN 978-0684831688
  5. David M. Jordan, FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944 (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011), pp. 231–232
  6. "Hollywood Is a Main Red Center, Adolphe Menjou Tells House Body. Calls Hollywood A Center Of Reds". New York Times. May 16, 1947. Retrieved May 25, 2011. Adolphe Menjou, a veteran actor, told a House Un-American Activities subcommittee today that "Hollywood is one of the main centers of Communist activity in America." ...
  7. 1 2 3 Maltin, Leonard (2010). "State of the Union (1948)". Turner Classic Movies. Leonard Maltin Classic Movie Guide. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  8. "The Ford Show Episode Guide". Archived from the original on November 28, 2010. Retrieved November 23, 2010.
  9. "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, ...
  10. Adolphe Menjou at Find a Grave
  11. Gilmore Girls, Transcript 79 "The Incredible Shrinking Lorelais" (4.14).
  12. Umbo (1980) [1928 negative]. Menjou en gros. Philadelphia Museum of Art (Photograph). Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  13. Lewis, Mary Beth. "Ten Best First Facts", in Car and Driver, 1/88, p.92.
  14. Connic, Jennifer (June 6, 2014). "PHOTOS: Happy birthday, drive-in movies, a N.J. invention". New Jersey On-Line LLC. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  16. "Bennett, Brent, Menjou Star on "Screen Guild"". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 12, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved October 1, 2015 via
  17. "New Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 16, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 14, 2015 via

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