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What was the appeal of Adolphe Menjou?


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He was very popular, appearing in silents and sound films, and often cast as a romantic interest (as a good guy and as a bad guy)...but I have never understood his appeal. Maybe this should be directed to the ladies here to have them explain it, what it is they find romantic about him.

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I'm gonna guess that it was either his close resemblance to Milburn Pennybags(you know, the "Monopoly Man"...'cause who didn't like playin' that board game back in the day ;) ) OR maybe that he almost always played the rather "cool, detached and knowing" type, and which I think is why he was perfectly cast as the ultimate example of that type later in his career in Paths of Glory .

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Darned if I know what his appeal might have been. I'm "of his era," and I never found him attractive in any way until recently, when I saw him in one of the Sheik movies with Valentino. He was quite nice in that, very much the good friend to the young sheik, and very believable. As to being a romantic lead, forget it. Too stiff.

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I find his appeal is much in that he is a gentleman and as such you know that he may very well lie to you to cover his shortcomings or he may have affairs or he may steal from you but he will never mean to hurt you and he will be truly sorry if he finds he did hurt you.

 

He is reasonably handsome and I imagine that he is a good dancer.

 

I can not imagine him as a suitable husband but I can relish the idea of a fling with him.

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The appeal of Menjou to me is that he was a heck of a good actor. The fact that a lot of the characters that he played were not likable is perhaps a distraction from that reality. Who better portrayed on screen a continental man about town than Menjou, immaculately dressed in sartorial splendour. Perhaps that's not a type with appeals to many people but, when it comes to playing those roles, no one did it better than Menjou in his prime.

 

He brought a subtle urbane sophistication to the role that first put him on the filmland map, as Edna Purviance's wealthy suitor in Chaplin's A Woman of Paris. That's a wonderful perrformance, with Menjou actually surprisingly sympathetic in the role.

 

In complete contrast to that there is the conniving cold blooded arrogance that Menjou brought to the role as, arguably, the most morally corrupt of all the French generals in Kubrick's memorable Paths of Glory. That great cathartic moment for the audience in which Kirk Douglas tells the General that he is not his boy and he can go to hell would not be nearly so effective if Menjou had not already made that same audience totally despise him as a human being.

 

 

Menjou instills intelligence in all of his portrayals. Perhaps some may regard his character in Morocco, that of Dietrich's wealthy patron who is clearly second fiddle to Gary Cooper's legionnaire in the lady's affections a bit of a chump but I thought Menjou brought a sense of decency to the role.

 

 

But my favourite Menjou performance of all was as theatrical, over-the-top lawyer Billy Flynn in William's Wellman's often hilarious Roaring 20s satire Roxie Hart. He plays a slimy attorney with no scruples with a diamond hard comic brilliance, in my opinion. This is a conniver for whom scruples would only get in the way of his next courtroom scheme.

 

 

8707587186_26da14008b.jpg

 

 

Roxie Hart, with a brassy sexy Ginger Rogers more than matched by Adolphe Menjou's slimeball lawyer performance

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SansFin, I think you've done a great job of explaining the appeal of Adolphe Menjou. An actor today would go broke or play boring secondary parts if he were best suited to play the gentleman, but times were different then. I might add that there aren't many leading men types in the early 30s. So many pre-Codes have a great leading lady, but an inadequate leading man. Actors like Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Spencer Tracy who came to prominence at this time had very little competition.

 

 

By the way, I'm not sure that Spencer Tracy is any better-looking than Menjou.

 

 

 

 

 

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I agree that Roxie Hart offers one of Menjou's best roles. What a great film it is, I prefer it by far to the show and film Chicago. I think of Menjou as a sort of oily character, slick and rich, always ready to seduce some sweet young girl or to connive with wicked Angela Lansbury in State of the Union. A somewhat non-characteristic role for Menjou, which I like, is as Bailey Walsh in The Mighty Barnum. He plays the rather meek Bailey to Wallace Beery's blustery Barnum, and he is very effective and endearing.

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I waited to respond to the question because, at least to me, the answer was clear; Menjou was convincing in the roles he played.

 

Yea, he plays a lot of cads but again, his profession was being an actor. As you noted he didn't overplay the cad. To me a cad with charm is a lot more interesting than an over the top one.

 

 

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> {quote:title=Mr.Froy wrote:}{quote}I'm sure The American Society of Tailors, Haberdashers,

> and Clotheshorses would be happy to explain his appeal.

There's a great line in the episode of MASH where Henry gets his discharge papers and is going home. He is given a pin-striped suit as a going-away gift. Trapper John says "That suit is you." And Hawkeye says "Yeah, if you're Adolphe Menjou."

 

(Lots of great old film references in MASH.)

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He's just totally suave and cool, to me.

 

When I first saw him, I didn't think I'd care much for him. I also thought I'd probably never see many films with him in them. Then wow...he shows up just about anywhere and everywhere, and...it works! He grew on me and I dig him now. He's not the "type" I tend to prefer, but whatever type he is, it definitely has an appeal to me when it's Adolphe bringing the bacon!

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When you see Menjou in a movie he is convincing as the character he plays? Does he pull off the role? I say yes because he was good at his craft.

 

But of course by 'appeal' maybe this thread wasn't about Menjou as an actor or the roles he played and more a question of 'if you saw Menjou on the street, would you want to date him'?

 

I have no opinion about the latter! :)

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Yep and of course the chracters in M*A*S*H were there on the first go

round for the studio era movies. One reference I recall was when Potter,

a western fan, showed Red River and My Darling Clementine for some

R & R. There were no commercials, but quite a few interuptions since

the projector kept on breaking down on Klinger.

 

I haven't seen a whole lot of Menjou flicks, but like a lot of actors, he

often played a certain type of character--in his case a well-dressed,

well-spoken gentlemen on the outside who was actually rather shady

and untrustworthy, some more charming than others, and he did that

to a tee. That mustache didn't hurt either.

 

 

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I much prefer Menjou in his later character roles. He is BRILLIANT in STATE OF THE UNION and remarkably subtle in THE SNIPER (he even shaved off his trademark moustache). His comic timing was never better than in HI DIDDLE DIDDLE (aside to mother nursing twin babies - "Wedding breakfast AFTER the ceremony, PLEASE!").

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