Charles Boyer (French: [bwaje]; 28 August 1899 – 26 August 1978) was a French actor who appeared in more than 80 films between 1920 and 1976. After receiving an education in drama, Boyer started on the stage, but he found his success in American films during the 1930s. His memorable performances were among the era's most highly praised, in romantic dramas such as The Garden of Allah (1936), Algiers (1938), and Love Affair (1939), as well as the mystery-thriller Gaslight (1944). He received four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.
Charles Boyer in 1942
|Born||28 August 1899|
|Died||26 August 1978 (aged 78)|
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.
|Cause of death||Severe secobarbital overdose|
|Burial place||Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Pat Paterson (1934–1978; her death)|
|Children||Michael Charles Boyer (1943–1965)|
|Awards||Academy Honorary Award (1943)|
Boyer was born in Figeac, Lot, France, the son of Augustine Louise Durand and Maurice Boyer, a merchant. Boyer (which means "cowherd" in the Occitan language) was a shy, small town boy who discovered the movies and theatre at the age of eleven.
Boyer performed comic sketches for soldiers while working as a hospital orderly during World War I. He began studies briefly at the Sorbonne, and was waiting for a chance to study acting at the Paris Conservatory.
He went to the capital city to finish his education, but spent most of his time pursuing a theatrical career. In 1920, his quick memory won him a chance to replace the leading man in a stage production, Le Jardins de Music. He was successful. Then he appeared in a play La Bataille and Boyer became a theatre star overnight.
In the 1920s, he not only played a suave and sophisticated ladies' man on the stage but also appeared in several silent films.
At first, he performed film roles only for the money and found that supporting roles were unsatisfying. However, with the coming of sound, his deep voice made him a romantic star.
Boyer focused on theatre work for a number of years. He returned to the screen with Infernal Circle (1928), Captain Fracasse (1929), and La barcarolle d'amour (1930).
Then he did the English-language The Man from Yesterday (1932) with Claudette Colbert at Paramount again directed by Viertel. He had a choice small role in Jean Harlow's Red-Headed Woman (1932) at MGM.
Boyer went back to France where he starred in F.P.1 Doesn't Answer (1932), Moi et l'impératrice (1933), Les Amoureux (1933) (The Sparrowhawk), and La bataille (1933) with Anabella. The latter was also filmed in an English language version called The Battle with Merle Oberon replacing Anabella and Boyer reprising his role.
Back in Hollywood he was teamed with Marlene Dietrich in The Garden of Allah (1936) for David O. Selnick. He and Dietrich were reunited on I Loved a Soldier (1936) for director Henry Hathaway at Paramount but the film was abandoned.
Boyer paired with Jean Arthur in History Is Made at Night (1937) for Wanger, and Greta Garbo in Conquest (1937) at MGM (where he played Napoleon Bonaparte). Boyer's fee for the latter was $150,000 but with all the re-takes he wound up earning $450,000.
In 1938, he landed his famous role as Pepe le Moko, the thief on the run in Algiers, an English-language remake of the classic French film Pepe le Moko with Jean Gabin, produced by Wanger. Although in the movie Boyer never said to costar Hedy Lamarr "Come with me to the Casbah," this line was in the movie trailer. The line would stick with him, thanks to generations of impressionists and Looney Tunes parodies. Boyer's role as Pepe Le Moko was already world-famous when animator Chuck Jones based the character of Pepé Le Pew, the romantic skunk introduced in 1945's Odor-able Kitty, on Boyer and his most well-known performance. Boyer's vocal style was also parodied on the Tom and Jerry cartoons, most notably when Tom was trying to woo a female cat. (See The Zoot Cat).
He went back to France to make Le corsaire (1939) for Marc Allegret. He was making the movie in Nice when France declared war on Germany in September 1939. Production ceased on the declaration of war. Boyer joined the French army. The film was never completed, although some footage of it was later released.
By November Boyer was discharged from the army and back in Hollywood as the French government thought he would be of more service making films.
Boyer played in three classic film love stories: All This, and Heaven Too (1940) with Bette Davis, directed by Litvak at Warners; as the ruthless cad in Back Street (1941) with Margaret Sullavan, at Universal; and Hold Back the Dawn (1941) with Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard, at Paramount.
In contrast to his glamorous image, Boyer began losing his hair early, had a pronounced paunch, and was noticeably shorter than leading ladies like Ingrid Bergman. When Bette Davis first saw him on the set of All This, and Heaven Too, she did not recognize him and tried to have him removed.
In January 1942 Boyer signed a three-year contract with Universal to act and produce. The contract would cover nine films.
Boyer was reunited with Sullivan in Appointment for Love (1942) at Universal and was one of many stars in Tales of Manhattan (1942), directed by Julien Duvivier and Immortal France (1942). He became a US citizen in 1942.
In 1943, he was awarded an Honorary Oscar Certificate for "progressive cultural achievement" in establishing the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles as a source of reference (certificate).
Boyer had one of his biggest hits with Gaslight (1944) with Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten. He followed it with Together Again (1944) with Dunne; Congo (1944), a short; and Confidential Agent (1945) with Lauren Bacall, at Warners.
In 1947, he was the voice of Capt. Daniel Gregg in the Lux Radio Theater's presentation of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, played in the film by Rex Harrison. In 1948, he was made a chevalier of the French Légion d'honneur. That year he did a thriller A Woman's Vengeance (1948).
Another film he did with Bergman, Arch of Triumph (1948), failed at the box office and Boyer was no longer the box office star he had been. "If you are in a big flop, nobody wants you," he said later.
In 1951, he appeared on the Broadway stage in one of his most notable roles, that of Don Juan, in a dramatic reading of the third act of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman. This is the act popularly known as Don Juan in Hell. In 1952, he won Broadway's 1951 Special Tony Award for Don Juan in Hell. It was directed by actor Charles Laughton. Laughton co-starred as the Devil, with Cedric Hardwicke as the statue of the military commander slain by Don Juan, and Agnes Moorehead as Dona Anna, the commander's daughter, one of Juan's former conquests. The production was a critical success, and was subsequently recorded complete by Columbia Masterworks, one of the first complete recordings of a non-musical stage production ever made. As of 2006, however, it has never been released on CD, but in 2009 it became available as an MP3 download.
Boyer did not abandon cinema: he had leading roles in The 13th Letter (1951), The First Legion (1952), and The Happy Time (1952). He had a character role in Thunder in the East (filmed 1951, released 1953) an Alan Ladd film.
Boyer moved into television as one of the pioneering producers and stars of the anthology show Four Star Playhouse (1952–56). It was made by Four Star Productions which would make Boyer and partners David Niven and Dick Powell rich.
He returned to Broadway for Norman Krasna's Kind Sir (1953–54) directed by Joshua Logan which ran for 166 performances. (In the film version, Indiscreet (1958), Boyer's role was taken by Cary Grant.)
Back in Hollywood, Boyer had a support role in MGM's The Cobweb (1955).
On 17 March 1957, Boyer starred in an adaptation for TV of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, There Shall Be No Night, by Robert E. Sherwood. The performance starred Katharine Cornell, and was broadcast on NBC as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame.
In France, Boyer was one of several stars in It Happened on the 36 Candles (1957) and he co-starred with Brigitte Bardot in La Parisienne (1957) and Michele Morgan in Maxime (1958), the latter directed by Henri Verneuil.
In Hollywood Boyer had a support role in The Buccaneer (1958).
Boyer co-starred again with Claudette Colbert in the Broadway comedy The Marriage-Go-Round (1958–1960), but said to the producer, "Keep that woman away from me". The production was a hit and ran for 431 performances. Boyer did not reprise his performance in the film version. He kept busy doing work for Four Star.
Onscreen, he continued in older roles: in Fanny (1961) starring Leslie Caron; Demons at Midnight (1961), in France, the lead; MGM's remake of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962); Adorable Julia (1962) with Lili Palmer; several episodes of The Dick Powell Theatre; and Love Is a Ball (1963).
Boyer was reunited with Niven in The Rogues (1964–65).
He had good support roles in A Very Special Favor (1965) with Rock Hudson; How to Steal a Million (1966) with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole; Barefoot in the Park (1967) with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. He had cameos in Is Paris Burning? (1966) and Casino Royale (1967) and was top billed in The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1968).
His career had lasted longer than that of other romantic actors, winning him the nickname "the last of the cinema's great lovers." He recorded a laid-back album called Where Does Love Go in 1966. The album consisted of famous love songs sung (or rather spoken) with Boyer's distinctive deep voice and French accent. The record was reportedly Elvis Presley's favorite album for the last 11 years of his life, the one he most listened to.
Boyer's son had died in 1965 and Boyer was finding it traumatic to continue living in Los Angeles so in March 1970 he decided to relocate to Europe.
Boyer's final credits included the musical remake of Lost Horizon (1973) and the French film Stavisky (1974), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, the latter winning him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, and also received the Special Tribute at Cannes Film Festival.
Boyer was the star of Hollywood Playhouse on NBC in the 1930s, but he left in 1939 "for war service in France," returning on the January 3, 1940, broadcast. When he went on vacation in the summer of 1940, an item in a trade publication reported: "It is an open secret that he doesn't like the present policy of a different story and characters each week. Boyer would prefer a program in which he could develop a permanent characterization." Boyer would later star in his own radio show entitled "Presenting Charles Boyer" during 1950 over NBC.
Boyer was the husband of British actress Pat Paterson, whom he met at a dinner party in 1934. The two became engaged after two weeks of courtship and were married three months later. Later, they would move from Hollywood to Paradise Valley, Arizona. The marriage lasted 44 years until her death. Boyer had become a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1942.
Boyer's only child, Michael Charles Boyer (9 December 1943 – 21 September 1965), committed suicide at age 21. He was playing Russian roulette after separating from his girlfriend. On 26 August 1978, two days after his wife's death from cancer, and two days before his own 79th birthday, Boyer committed suicide with an overdose of Seconal while at a friend's home in Scottsdale. He was taken to the hospital in Phoenix, where he died. He was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, alongside his wife and son.
Boyer never won an Oscar, though he was nominated for Best Actor four times in Conquest (1937), Algiers (1938), Gaslight (1944) and Fanny (1961), the latter also winning him a nomination for the Laurel Awards for Top Male Dramatic Performance. He is particularly well known for Gaslight in which he played a thief/murderer who tries to convince his newlywed wife that she is going insane.
He was nominated for the Golden Globe as Best Actor for the 1952 film The Happy Time; and also nominated for the Emmy for Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic Series for his work in Four Star Playhouse (1952–1956).
|1952||Best Actor - Drama||The Happy Time||Nominated|
Only the motion pictures star is listed
Both stars are listed
Algiers is a 1938 American drama film directed by John Cromwell and starring Charles Boyer, Sigrid Gurie, and Hedy Lamarr. Written by John Howard Lawson, the film is about a notorious French jewel thief hiding in the labyrinthine native quarter of Algiers known as the Casbah. Feeling imprisoned by his self-imposed exile, he is drawn out of hiding by a beautiful French tourist who reminds him of happier times in Paris. The Walter Wanger production was a remake of the successful 1937 French film Pépé le Moko, which derived its plot from the Henri La Barthe novel of the same name.Algiers was a sensation because it was the first Hollywood film starring Hedy Lamarr, whose beauty became the main attraction for film audiences. The film is notable as one of the sources of inspiration to the screenwriters of the 1942 Warner Bros. film Casablanca, who wrote it with Hedy Lamarr in mind as the original female lead. Charles Boyer's depiction of the main character, Pepe Le Moko, inspired the Warner Bros. animated character, Pepé Le Pew. In 1966, the film entered the public domain in the United States because the claimants did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.Appointment for Love
Appointment for Love is a 1941 film made by Universal Pictures, directed by William A. Seiter. The film stars Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan.
It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound, Recording (Bernard B. Brown).Arch of Triumph (1948 film)
Arch of Triumph is a 1948 American drama war romance film starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Charles Laughton. It was directed by Lewis Milestone and is based on the 1945 novel Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque, which he wrote during his nine-year exile in the United States.Back Street (1941 film)
Back Street is a 1941 American drama film directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan. It is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name, also from Universal. The film is adapted from the 1931 Fannie Hurst novel and the 1932 film version which it follows very closely, in some cases recalling the earlier film scene-for-scene. It is a sympathetic tale of an adulterous couple.
The 1941 version was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music (Score of a Dramatic Picture) (Frank Skinner).
Margaret Sullavan so much wanted Charles Boyer to play her leading man, that she relinquished top billing in order to persuade him to appear in this unsympathetic role.Conquest (1937 film)
Conquest (also called Marie Walewska) is a 1937 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film which tells the story of the Polish Countess Marie Walewska, who becomes the mistress of Napoleon in order to influence his actions towards her homeland. It stars Greta Garbo, Charles Boyer, Reginald Owen, Alan Marshal, Henry Stephenson, Leif Erickson, Dame May Whitty, George Zucco, and Maria Ouspenskaya.
The movie was adapted by S. N. Behrman, Samuel Hoffenstein, Helen Jerome and Salka Viertel from the novel Pani Walewska by Waclaw Gasiorowski. It was directed by Clarence Brown and Gustav Machatý (uncredited).
It was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Charles Boyer) and Best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons and William A. Horning).Its worldwide gross amounted to $2,141,000. But its massive budget led to a loss of $1,397,000.Flesh and Fantasy
Flesh and Fantasy is a 1943 American anthology film directed by Julien Duvivier, starring Edward G. Robinson, Charles Boyer, Robert Cummings, and Barbara Stanwyck. The making of this film was inspired by the success of Duvivier's previous anthology film, the 1942 Tales of Manhattan. Flesh and Fantasy tells three stories, unrelated but with a supernatural theme, by Ellis St. Joseph, Oscar Wilde, and László Vadnay. Tying together the three segments is a conversation about the occult between two clubmen, one played by humorist Robert Benchley.Gaslight (1944 film)
Gaslight is a 1944 American mystery-thriller film, adapted from Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play Gas Light, about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay; winning two for Best Actress and Best Production Design.
The 1944 version was the second version to be filmed, following the British film Gaslight, directed by Thorold Dickinson and released in 1940. This 1944 version was directed by George Cukor and starred Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in an Oscar-nominated screen debut (Supporting Actress). Gaslight had a larger scale and budget than the earlier film, and lends a different feel to the material. To avoid confusion with the first film, this version was originally given the title The Murder in Thornton Square in the UK. This film features numerous deviations from the original stage play, though the central drama of a husband trying to drive his wife insane in order to distract her from his criminal activities remains.Hold Back the Dawn
Hold Back the Dawn is a 1941 American romantic drama film in which a Romanian gigolo marries an American woman in Mexico in order to gain entry to the United States, but winds up falling in love with her. It stars Charles Boyer, Olivia de Havilland, Paulette Goddard, Victor Francen, Walter Abel, Curt Bois and Rosemary DeCamp.
The movie was adapted by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder from the book by Ketti Frings. It was directed by Mitchell Leisen.
It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Olivia de Havilland), Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture.Love Affair (1939 film)
Love Affair is a 1939 American romantic film starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer and featuring Maria Ouspenskaya. It was directed by Leo McCarey and written by Delmer Daves and Donald Ogden Stewart, based on a story by McCarey and Mildred Cram.Nana (1955 film)
Nana or Nanà is a French-Italian film by Christian-Jaque starring Charles Boyer. It is an adaptation of Émile Zola's novel Nana.Private Worlds
Private Worlds is a 1935 drama film which tells the story of the staff and patients at a mental hospital, and the chief of the hospital who has problems dealing with a female psychiatrist. The film stars Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer, Joel McCrea, Joan Bennett, and Helen Vinson.
The movie was written by Phyllis Bottome, Gregory La Cava and Lynn Starling, and was directed by La Cava. Cinematographer Leon Shamroy used early zoom lenses to create special effects for the film.
It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress (Claudette Colbert).
The film is based on a story by novelist Phyllis Bottome who has had several of her works transferred to film, such as The Mortal Storm (MGM, 1940).Shanghai (1935 film)
Shanghai is a 1935 film directed by James Flood, produced by Walter Wanger, distributed by Paramount Pictures, and starring Loretta Young and Charles Boyer. The picture's supporting cast features Warner Oland, Alison Skipworth, Charley Grapewin, Olive Tell and Keye Luke, and the running time is 75 minutes.The Cobweb (film)
The Cobweb is a 1955 American Eastmancolor MGM drama film. It was directed by Vincente Minnelli, and based on a novel by William Gibson. The film stars Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, and Gloria GrahameThe Constant Nymph (1943 film)
The Constant Nymph is a 1943 romantic drama film starring Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Alexis Smith, Brenda Marshall, Charles Coburn, May Whitty, and Peter Lorre. It was adapted by Kathryn Scola from the Margaret Kennedy novel and play by Kennedy and Basil Dean, and directed by Edmund Goulding.The Dick Powell Show
The Dick Powell Show is an American anthology series that ran on NBC from 1961 to 1963, primarily sponsored by the Reynolds Metals Company. It was hosted by longtime film star Dick Powell until his death from lung cancer on January 2, 1963, then by a series of guest hosts (under the revised title The Dick Powell Theater) until the series ended. The first of these hosts was Gregory Peck, who began the January 8 program with a tribute to Powell, recognizing him as "a great and good friend to our industry." Peck was followed by fellow actors such as Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Glenn Ford, Charles Boyer, Jackie Cooper, Rock Hudson, Milton Berle, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Robert Taylor, Steve McQueen, David Niven, Danny Thomas, Robert Wagner, and John Wayne.The Garden of Allah (1936 film)
The Garden of Allah is a 1936 American film made by Selznick International Pictures, directed by Richard Boleslawski and produced by David O. Selznick. The screenplay was written by William P. Lipscomb and Lynn Riggs, who based it on the 1905 novel by Robert S. Hichens. Hichens's novel had been filmed twice before, as silent films made in 1916 and 1927. This sound version stars Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer with Basil Rathbone, C. Aubrey Smith, Joseph Schildkraut, John Carradine, Alan Marshal, and Lucile Watson. The music score is by Max Steiner.
It was the fifth film to be photographed in Three-strip Technicolor, and (uncredited) cinematographers W. Howard Greene and Harold Rosson received a special Oscar for advances in color cinematography. The filming locations were in Buttercup, California and Yuma, Arizona.The Happy Time
The Happy Time is a 1952 American comedy film directed by the award-winning director Richard Fleischer, based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Robert Fontaine, which Samuel A. Taylor turned into a hit play. A boy, played by Bobby Driscoll, comes of age in a close-knit French-Canadian family. The film stars Charles Boyer and Louis Jourdan as his father and uncle respectively. The play was also adapted into a musical in 1968 by composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb, and librettist N. Richard Nash, and starred Robert Goulet. Included in the orchestra was the soloist john Serry Sr..The Rogues (TV series)
The Rogues is an American television series that appeared on NBC from September 13, 1964, to April 18, 1965, starring David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Gig Young as a related trio of former conmen who could, for the right price, be persuaded to trick a very wealthy and heinously unscrupulous mark. Although it won the 1964 Golden Globe award for Best Television Series, the show was cancelled after one season consisting of thirty episodes.Tovarich (film)
Tovarich (the Russian word for "comrade") is a 1937 American comedy film directed by Anatole Litvak, based on the 1935 play by Robert E. Sherwood, which in turn was based on the 1933 French play Tovaritch by Jacques Deval. It was produced by Litvak through Warner Bros., with Robert Lord as associate producer and Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner as executive producers. The screenplay was by Casey Robinson from the French play by Jacques Deval adapted into English by Robert E. Sherwood. The music score was by Max Steiner and the cinematography by Charles Lang.
The film stars Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer with Basil Rathbone, Anita Louise, Melville Cooper, Isabel Jeans, Morris Carnovsky and Curt Bois in his American debut role.