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Helen Anna Bogart (Menken)

Birthdate:
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Death: March 28, 1966 (64)
New York, New York County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Frederick William Meinken and Mary Meinken
Wife of George N. Richard
Ex-wife of Humphrey Bogart; John Swanson and Dr. Henry T. Smith
Sister of Grace Menken

Occupation: Actress
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Helen Menken

Helen Menken (born Helen Meinken; December 12, 1901 – March 27, 1966) was a major American stage actress.

Helen Menken was an American actress, born Helen Meinken to a German-French father, Frederick Meinken, and an Irish-born mother, Mary Madden.

Menken was born in New York City to a German-French father, Frederick Meinken, and an Irish-born mother, Mary Madden. Her parents were deaf, and her early communication came via sign language. She did not begin talking until age 4.[1] Her sister, Grace Menken, was also an actress.[2] At age 12, she was sent to a school in Brighton, England.[3]

Born in New York City, Menken was originally a teenage actress who made her Broadway theatre debut in Parlor, Bedroom and Bath in 1917. Her greatest stage triumphs were Seventh Heaven in 1922 – 1924 (Janet Gaynor played her role of Diane in the 1927 classic film); Mary of Scotland in 1933 – 1934 as Elizabeth I opposite Helen Hayes in the title role (Katharine Hepburn played Mary in the 1936 film version); and The Old Maid, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play that starred Menken and Judith Anderson in 1935. Bette Davis would recreate Menken's role as the spinster with a secret in the 1939 film version.

Helen Menken was born in New York to deaf parents. Her original name was Meinken, her New York-born father Frederick being of French/German extraction. Her mother, Mary Madden, was Irish-born.

Before she turned 14, Menken performed in vaudeville for a season, primarily playing character parts with her brother-in-law. A dispute when the troupe was in Dallas led to her walking out and joining a Shakespearean company that was also in Dallas.[3]

Billed as Helen Meinken, Menken acted in 1915 in Brooklyn[4] and in 1916 with the Orpheum Players in Reading, Pennsylvania.[5] She made her Broadway theatre debut as a teenage actress in Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1917).[6] Her greatest stage triumphs were Seventh Heaven in 1922–1924 (Janet Gaynor played her role of Diane in the 1927 film version); Mary of Scotland in 1933–1934 as Elizabeth I opposite Helen Hayes in the title role (Katharine Hepburn played Mary in the 1936 film version); and The Old Maid, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play that starred Menken and Judith Anderson in 1935. Bette Davis would play Menken's role as the spinster with a secret in the 1939 film version. Menken's final Broadway appearance was in an unsuccessful play named The Laughing Woman, which ran for less than a month in 1937.

Her performance as Irene De Montcel in the first English-language production of The Captive, Edouard Bourdet's lesbian-themed drama, led to her arrest (along with the rest of the cast) on February 9, 1927. This arrest, reflecting 1920s attitudes about homosexuality, contributed to her lack of a film career and possibly to her divorce from Bogart.

Menken was a major presence behind the scenes in the theater world, especially at the American Theatre Wing. She served as its chairman during World War II and began serving as president of the group in 1957.[1]

She married Humphrey Bogart at the Gramercy Park Hotel on May 20, 1926, four years after taking out a marriage license in New York City. It was the first marriage for both. She was granted a divorce in Chicago in November 1928, after separating in April of that year.

She collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack at a party at The Lambs, 128 West 44th Street, New York City, on March 27, 1966. She was survived by her third husband, George N. Richard, a special partner of the Wall Street brokerage firm C. B. Richard.

Menken's final Broadway appearance was in an unsuccessful play named The Laughing Woman, which ran for less than a month in 1937. She was active on radio in the 1940s (notably recreating her performance opposite Judith Anderson in a 1946 radio adaption of The Old Maid) and a major presence behind the scenes in the theater world, especially at the American Theatre Wing. She received a special Tony Award posthumously in 1966 for her work.

Menken was active on radio in the 1940s (starring as Brenda Cummings in Second Husband[7] and notably recreating her performance opposite Judith Anderson in a 1946 radio adaption of The Old Maid).

In 1966, awarded a Special Tony Award posthumously "for a lifetime of devotion and dedicated service to the Broadway theatre."

Menken made a short film in New York City in 1925 for Lee DeForest, filmed in the short-lived DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The film is preserved in the Maurice Zouary collection at the Library of Congress.

Menken received a special Tony Award posthumously in 1966 "for a lifetime of devotion and dedicated service to the Broadway theatre."[8]

The first of her husbands was actor Humphrey Bogart. She was Bogart's first wife. They were married at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City on May 20, 1926, and she divorced him November 18, 1927. She married Dr. Henry T. Smith on July 12, 1932 and divorced him in 1947, then in October 1948 married George N. Richard who survived her.

Menken died of a heart attack at a party at The Lambs on March 27, 1966,[1] at the age of 64.

[on a performance of The Merchant of Venice for the hearing impaired, produced by her and her father] Instead of using the spoken language, as all the rest of the world is accustomed to do, we shall use sign language only. Do not confuse this with pantomime, for, I assure you, it is quite different and vastly more difficult than that. The story will be told by the use of the standard symbols and signs of the deaf. It will be quite a pretentious production of its kind and, I am sure, will prove highly diverting and extremely interesting to the audience of deaf persons. Not a word will be spoken, yet the tale will be clearly and vividly presented.

The first of her three husbands was actor Humphrey Bogart. She was Bogart's first wife. They were married at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City on May 20, 1926, they divorced November 18, 1927. She married Dr. Henry T. Smith on July 12, 1932 and they divorced in 1947, then married George N. Richard in October, 1948 who survived her. Helen Menken died from a heart attack at a party at The Lambs on March 27, 1966 at the age of 64.

Menken made a short film in New York City in 1925 for Lee DeForest, filmed in the short-lived DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The film is preserved in the Maurice Zouary collection at the Library of Congress.


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Helen Menken's Timeline

1901
December 12, 1901
New York, New York, United States
1966
March 28, 1966
Age 64
New York, New York County, New York, United States