Adolphe Menjou

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Adolphe Menjou

It takes quite a guy to discourse on Balkan politics of 1912 and make you like it. Adolphe will not only make you like it, [but] he will also teach you how to say 'hello' in Serbian, Rumanian and Greek.

"Adolphe's nonstop career as an actor speaks for itself," continued Clark Gable in his foreword to Menjou's 1948 autobiography It Took Nine Tailors. "He started in the business when any picture over two reels in length was considered a super-special, and he is still a leading film personality. It takes much more than a large and well-tailored wardrobe to stay on the screen for over thirty-five years."

Adolphe Jean Menjou was born on February 18, 1890, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first son of parents who had married a year earlier. His father, Jean Adolphe Menjou, was a spirited hotel and restaurant manager who had emigrated to the United States from his birth town of Commune D'Arbus, France. His mother, Nora Joyce Menjou, was born in County Galway, Ireland, and was a distant cousin of Irish novelist James Joyce.

The two met when Jean managed the Hotel Duquesne in Pittsburgh. Among the hotel employees were four Joyce sisters—the youngest, Nora, caught the eye of the manager. After a whirlwind French courtship, the two were married, in 1889—by coincidence, the year in which Thomas Edison perfected his motion picture machine.
The family was close, and Adolphe's childhood was stable and happy. He attended the famed Culver Military Academy in Indiana, and later went to Cornell University, initially studying engineering but soon transferring to the College of Liberal Arts, where he got involved in college theatricals and chose his path in life.

In the early 1910s, Menjou moved to New York City, working first in a haberdashery firm, then at his father's restaurant, Maison Menjou. Those endeavors quickly took a back seat to his acting career in the burgeoning medium of motion pictures. He started out as an extra, but rapidly rose to leading man status, where Menjou displayed an elegance that was quickly obvious: his famed mustache, grown on his 21st birthday, framed an expressive face, while his European roots lent an air of sophistication and grace to his movements.
During World War I, Menjou served as a captain in the ambulance service. Upon his return from the war, he became a star in such films as The Faith Healer (1921) and The Three Musketeers (1921), the year when a role with a soon-to-be-superstar propelled the career of Adolphe Menjou into screen immortality.
Rudolph Valentino set female hearts swooning worldwide in The Sheik (1921), which made stars of the trio of Valentino, Menjou and leading lady Agnes Ayres. From that point forward, Menjou became one of the most sought-after talents in Hollywood, making as much as $7,500 per week. When he starred in Charlie Chaplin's 1923 drama A Woman of Paris, he perfected the image of a well-dressed man about town, and spent the balance of the decade in solid vehicles, including The Marriage Cheat (1924), Are Parents People? (1925), The Sorrows of Satan (1927) and A Gentleman of Paris (1927).

Adolphe Menjou was credited with having been responsible for the use of the word "suave" as a noun—as in, "for this part we want somebody with plenty of suave—you know, the Menjou type."

Like many silent film actors, he had a rough transition to sound films, but as early as 1930, he received an Academy Award® nomination for his role in The Front Page, and continued a popular career that would span more than five decades. He rivaled Gary Cooper for the affections of Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930).

Although best known for his debonair roles, one of his most famous was as the shabby but loveable Damon Runyon gambler Sorrowful Jones in Little Miss Marker (1934), the film that made little Shirley Temple the world's most popular child star. In The Milky Way (1936), he made a boxer out of mild-mannered milkman Harold Lloyd; in Stage Door (1937), he seduced both Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers; in Father Takes a Wife (1941), he made a family woman out of Gloria Swanson; in State of the Union (1948), he worked to make a president out of Spencer Tracy; and in Across the Wide Missouri (1951), he joined Clark Gable and Ricardo Montalban on the adventure of a lifetime.

No matter what kind of role he played, Menjou in real life was immensely proud of his prominent presence on the nation's lists of best-dressed men.

After two failed marriages, Menjou married actress Verree Teasdale in 1934, and the two remained married for the rest of his life; they also appeared together in two films, The Milky Way in 1936 and Turnabout in 1940. They adopted a son, Peter, and maintained a home in Beverly Hills, enjoying quiet domesticity away from the studio. Menjou amassed an impressive collection of art and coins, and when service to his country beckoned, he answered the call once again, entertaining World War II troops, and making radio broadcasts in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and English.
He ended his career with roles as French General George Broulard in 1957's Paths of Glory and, in an unconventional choice, in the 1960 Disney classic, Pollyanna, playing an unkempt eccentric.

Adolphe Menjou died at his Beverly Hills home on Tuesday, October 29, 1963, at the age of 73, after a nine-month battle with chronic hepatitis. His wife and son were with him at his bedside.


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Born February 18, 1890, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Died October 29, 1963, Beverly Hills, California

Married to Katherine Tinsley, Kathryn Carver from 1927-1933, and Verree Teasdale from 1934-1963.

One adopted son, Peter

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The Sorrows of Satan Adolph Menjou Still Photo

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