Monday, February 18, 2013

Adolphe Menjou, 1890-1963

Adolphe Menjou talks to Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in A Star is Born (1937)

I would have thought I'd done a birthday post on Adolphe Menjou before, but apparently not. Menjou had a long career, starting in silents in the teens and continuing to act up until 1960 and his final film, Disney's Pollyanna. If I had to pick just one movie to represent Menjou's body of work, I'm not certain which one I'd pick, just because he turned in so many good performances. He plays the newspaper editor in the 1931 non-comic The Front Page, a deeply cynical movie which is probably overshadowed by the comic 1940 remake His Girl Friday. Another good guy role is in 1952's The Sniper, in which Menjou plays a San Francisco police detective trying to determine who's the serial killer murering people with a sniper's rifle.

Menjou's moustache, I think, makes him always look elegant, as in the 1937 version of A Star is Born, or even 100 Men and a Girl, where as an unemployed musician he probably shouldn't look quite so elegant. Only in Hollywood can poverty look so good.

Left-aligned photo As for bad-guy roles, Menjou plays the Czechoslovak Communist functionary hovering over Fredric March's shoulder in Man on a Tightrope. He's also quite good as a French World War I general who court-martials a trio of soldiers for not carrying out a suicidal mission in Paths of Glory. The photo at left, in fact, is a scene from Paths of Glory with Menjou alongside Kirk Douglas, who has the thankless job of trying to defend the three soldiers in the court-martial. For a somewhat bad guy earlier in his career, albeit one who fits the elegant persona that imbues a lot of Menjou's performances, you could try The Easiest Way.

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