Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Style of Adolphe Menjou

Adolphe Menjou was one of the minor giants of American film. His career started in the silent era and continued on through the Golden Age of Hollywood. Through the '30s, '40s, and '50s, he was extremely prolific, although mostly a supporting actor; and from what I have seen, he was very good at what he did. What he is most famous for, though, is the way he dressed. He was the biggest clotheshorse and dandy in an era when most Hollywood leading men were clotheshorses and dandies. There are famous pictures of him standing next to his collection of shoes and boots, all bespoke, on racks covering his wall from floor to ceiling; and he cut an even better figure in white tie than did Fred Astaire, which is saying a lot.

Last night, I happened to flip to Turner Movie Classics, and they were playing one of Menjou's minor movies, Turnabout. It's a light romantic comedy with rich characters and an implausible plot, but it's enjoyable in spite (or perhaps because) of all that. To me, though, what is memorable is the way Menjou was dressed. He had three separate outfits. The last one was black tie, which he carried off admirably. But the other two were far more impressive. The first was a stroller with a wing collar and striped trousers. I suppose that this was not exactly unusual for the time (1940), but it's unusual to see anybody wearing such a get-up unselfconsciously, as Menjou did. The second outfit, though, really takes the cake. It was a dark tan lounge suit with a buff double breasted vest. A double breasted vest! And one that did not match the suit! It was brilliant. It makes me want one, even though I have utterly no use for it.

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