Adolphe Menjou was known as one of Hollywood's most debonair actors, a symbol of sophistication in his signature fine suits and black, smooth mustache.
Menjou first gained his suave reputation after starring in Charlie Chaplin's "A Woman of Paris," establishing a sophisticated persona that would be seen in more than 100 films.
Yet, when Menjou cast aside his dapper persona for a shabby gangster, he struck gold as the threadbare Sorrowful Jones, a rough-edged bookie whose callous heart was melted by Shirley Temple's character, Marky, in Damon Runyon's "Little Miss Marker" (1934). The touching father-daughter chemistry that grew between Jones and Marky was considered perfection in casting, shooting young Temple's fame into the stars.
By that time, Menjou had established himself as a leading man and character actor who seamlessly transitioned through the silent film era to talking films, receiving a best actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Walter Burns, a tough, fast-talking newspaper editor in "The Front Page" (1931). Menjou's characterization of the crusading editor, determined to bring down the government while keeping his star reporter on board, bridged both his dramatic and comedic skills, earning him critical acclaim.
Menjou's interest in politics was also seen in his personal life, particularly following World War II, when he became concerned with the rise of communism. He began to participate actively in Republican politics, becoming a co-founder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.
While his contributions to the political arena garnered attention, it was the top hat that he bought for 50 cents that won him a role on the stage, he often said. When talking about what makes an actor successful, he gave due props to his props: "I always tell young actors that one good suit is worth three superior ones. Good clothes are important — especially during slumps." It was fitting that he named his 1948 biography "It Took Nine Tailors."
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