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July 16, 2023

Vintage Portrait Photos of Helen Menken in the 1920s and ’30s

Born 1901 in New York City, American actress Helen Menken made her Broadway theatre debut as a teenage actress in Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1917). Her greatest stage triumphs were Seventh Heaven in 1922–1924; Mary of Scotland in 1933–1934; and The Old Maid, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play that starred Menken and Judith Anderson in 1935. Her final Broadway appearance was in an unsuccessful play named The Laughing Woman, which ran for less than a month in 1937.

Menken appeared as the leading lady for the summer stock cast at the Elitch Theatre, in Denver, Colorado, in 1922 and 1924. For the 1924 summer season, she appeared in the role of Cassie Cook, a role she originated on Broadway, in the play Drifting.

Menken was active on radio in the 1940s. She 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 died of a heart attack at a party at The Lambs in 1966, at the age of 64. She received a Special Tony Award “for a lifetime of devotion and dedicated service to the Broadway theatre.” Take a look at these vintage photos to see portraits of young Helen Menken in the 1920s and 1930s.


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