Charles Boyer


Actor
Charles Boyer

About

Birth Place
France
Born
August 28, 1899
Died
August 26, 1978
Cause of Death
Suicide From Overdose Of Barbituates

Biography

With his dark good looks and resonant, deeply accented murmur, Charles Boyer personified European romance in his native France and Hollywood for over four decades in such films as "Algiers" (1938), "All This, And Heaven Too" (1941) and "Gaslight" (1944). Though a studious, retiring figure off-screen, Boyer left female moviegoers swooning in the 1930s and 1940s, earning him four Oscar nom...

Photos & Videos

Fanny - Movie Poster
Back Street (1941) - Scene Stills
Back Street (1941) - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Pat Paterson
Wife
Actor. Married from 1934 until her death on August 24, 1978.

Biography

With his dark good looks and resonant, deeply accented murmur, Charles Boyer personified European romance in his native France and Hollywood for over four decades in such films as "Algiers" (1938), "All This, And Heaven Too" (1941) and "Gaslight" (1944). Though a studious, retiring figure off-screen, Boyer left female moviegoers swooning in the 1930s and 1940s, earning him four Oscar nominations as dashing, boundlessly erotic men whose lives, spent either in pursuit of crime, fortune or royalty, made them unavailable to the women who fell hopelessly in love with him. He stepped gracefully into character roles in the 1950s, scoring a triumph on Broadway with "Don Juan in Hell" (1951) and moving into production as a co-owner of the successful television company Four Star Pictures. He remained active as a symbol of old Hollywood courtliness throughout the 1960s, earning a final Oscar nod for "Fanny" (1961) before retiring to care for his wife in the late 1970s. Her death in 1978 spurred the grief-stricken actor to take his own life that same year, forever enmeshing his life with his screen image as the tragic lover whose tremendous heart was his greatest burden.

Born August 28, 1899 in the Midi-Pyrenees town of Figeac, France, Charles Boyer was the only child of merchant Louis Boyer and his wife, Louise, an amateur singer. Boyer's father died when he was 10 years old, leading him to find solace in both theater and films. He soon developed a passion for acting, and gained his first experience performing sketches at a hospital for soldiers wounded during World War I. The arrival of a French film company in Figeac gave Boyer his first screen role as a bit player in a crowd scene, and he enlisted the film's lead to convince his mother to allow him to study acting at the Sorbonne. Despite her reservations, she granted his wish, and Boyer soon forged relationships with the Parisian theater community while pursuing his education. In 1920, he was recommended to a theater director by friends as a replacement for an ailing leading man; Boyer's uncanny ability to commit large passages of dialogue to memory scored him the job, and after completing his studies, began his career as a star of the Paris stage. He soon segued to feature films, where he established himself as a romantic leading man.

Though fluent in several languages, Boyer spoke no English, which made MGM's offer of a Hollywood contract in 1929 something of an anomaly. The extraordinary salary offered by the studio helped convince him to come to America, where he was cast in foreign-language versions of MGM features for the European market while learning English. He eventually became proficient enough to play seductive continentals in "Red-Headed Woman" (1932) opposite Jean Harlow, and "Caravan" (1934) with Loretta Young. Fellow French expatriate Claudette Colbert provided his big break in Hollywood by requesting him as her leading man in "Private Worlds" (1935). Female moviegoers fell for his deep, accented voice and dark eyes, both of which helped mint him as the latest matinee idol, giving Errol Flynn and Clark Gable a run for their money. His screen persona stood in direct contrast to his life off-camera, which was spent in pursuit of literature and a quiet life with his wife, actress Pat Paterson.

On the big screen, Boyer romanced many of the screen's most celebrated leading ladies throughout the 1930s, including Marlene Dietrich in his first Technicolor film, "The Garden of Allah" (1936) and Greta Garbo in "Conquest" (1937), which earned him his first Oscar nomination. His most enduring film role came the following year as the roguish thief Pepe le Moko in "Algiers" (1938), which brought a second Oscar nod. For decades, he was credited with uttering the line "Come with me to the Casbah" to his equally exotic co-star Hedy Lamarr, though no such dialogue appeared in the film. Nevertheless, dozens of comics used the line in their overripe impersonations of the actor, as did Pepe Le Pew, the amorous skunk in Warner Bros.' "Looney Tunes" cartoons, whose entire personality was borrowed from Boyer.

With the outbreak of World War II, the 40-year-old Boyer joined the French Army in hopes of aiding his countrymen of ridding their land of the Nazi menace. His stint in the military was short-lived, allegedly due to studio intervention, but he remained involved with the Free French Resistance throughout the European element of the war. Upon his return stateside, he enjoyed an exceptionally successful run of features in the early 1940s, playing the object of unrequited love for Bette Davis in "All This, And Heaven Too" (1940), as well as Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard in "Hold Back the Dawn" (1941). By this time, however, his onscreen charisma required considerable help by the makeup and wardrobe department: Boyer had begun to lose his hair, and developed a considerable paunch that, along with his short stature, frequently surprised his leading ladies expecting to ignite onscreen sparks with the ultimate continental lover.

In 1943, he received an Honorary Oscar Certificate for establishing the French Research Foundation, which he had founded in the late '30s as a research center for Hollywood productions to present truer representations of French culture on screen. The following year, he enjoyed one of his best roles as a scheming husband who conspired to drive his wife (Ingrid Bergman) mad in order to collect her riches in "Gaslight" (1944), which brought him a third Oscar nomination. Privately, Boyer believed that his days as a leading man were numbered, and after the failure of Lewis Milestone's epic "Arch of Triumph" (1948), also with Bergman, he shifted his focus to supporting roles and theater while developing a second career in production.

Boyer won a special Tony Award in 1952 for a dramatic reading of George Bernard Shaw's "Don Juan in Hell," which featured director Charles Laughton, Agnes Moorhead and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. That same year, he partnered with Dick Powell, David Niven and Ida Lupino to form Four Star Television, a production company that would oversee such popular programs as "Wanted Dead or Alive" (CBS, 1958-1961), "The Rifleman" (ABC, 1958-1963), "Honey West" (ABC, 1965-66) and "The Big Valley" (ABC, 1965-69). The four owners initially appeared together as part of the rotating cast of an anthology series called "Four Star Playhouse" (CBS, 1952-1956), and Boyer and Niven later co-starred with Gig Young as benevolent con men in "The Rogues" (NBC, 1964-65). The success of these and other shows helped to make Boyer a wealthy man in his final years, though the period was sorely tempered by the death of his only son, Michael, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1964.

Boyer continued to make appearances in features and on stage throughout the 1960s and 1970s, frequently as aging, philosophical roués in "Fanny" (1961), which earned him a fourth Oscar nomination, "How to Steal a Million" (1966) with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, and "Barefoot in the Park" (1967) as Jane Fonda's charming but still amorous landlord. His appearances slowed considerably in the 1970s, though he was one of the few performers to emerge from the debacle that was the 1973 remake of "Lost Horizon," for which he played the High Lama, with his dignity intact. The following year, he won a special tribute from the jury of the 1974 Cannes Film Festival for his turn as a friendly aristocrat opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo's embezzler in Alain Resnais' "Stavisky" (1974). It would be his final appearance in a French film. Boyer's last screen project was "A Matter of Time" (1976), an offbeat musical fantasy by Vincente Minnelli that reunited him with Ingrid Bergman. His wife, Pat, was diagnosed with cancer the following year, and Boyer devoted himself to her care. She succumbed to the illness on Aug. 23, 1978, and after putting his affairs in order, Boyer committed suicide two days later by an overdose of barbiturates.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

American Lifestyles (1987)
A Matter of Time (1976)
Count
Stavisky (1974)
Lost Horizon (1972)
The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
The Broker
The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1969)
Vastov
The April Fools (1969)
Andre Greenlaw
Barefoot in the Park (1967)
Victor Velasco
Casino Royale (1967)
Le Grand
How to Steal a Million (1966)
DeSolnay
Is Paris Burning? (1966)
Monod
A Very Special Favor (1965)
Michel Boullard
Adorable Julia (1964)
Michael Gosselyn
Love Is a Ball (1963)
Monsieur Étienne Pimm
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962)
Marcelo Desnoyers
Maxime (1962)
Maxime
Fanny (1961)
César
The Buccaneer (1959)
Dominque You
Nana (1957)
Count Muffat
Une parisienne (1957)
Prince Charles
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
M. Gasse, clerk at Thomas Cook in Paris
Paris Palace Hotel (1956)
Henri Delormel
The Cobweb (1955)
Dr. Douglas N. Devanal
The Earrings of Madame De... (1954)
General Andre de...
Thunder in the East (1953)
Singh
The Happy Time (1952)
Jacques Bonnard
The First Legion (1951)
Father [Marc] Arnoux
The 13th Letter (1951)
Dr. [Paul] Laurent
A Woman's Vengeance (1948)
Henry Maurier
Arch of Triumph (1948)
Dr. Ravic
Cluny Brown (1946)
Adam Belinski
Confidential Agent (1945)
Denard
Gaslight (1944)
Gregory Anton [previously known as Sergius Bauer]
Together Again (1944)
George Corday
The Constant Nymph (1943)
Lewis Dodd
Flesh and Fantasy (1943)
Paul Gaspar
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
[Paul] Orman
Appointment for Love (1941)
Andre ["Pappy"] Cassil
Back Street (1941)
Walter Saxel
Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
George Iscovescu
All This, and Heaven Too (1940)
Duc de Praslin
When Tomorrow Comes (1939)
Philip Andre Chagal
Love Affair (1939)
Michel [Marnet]
Algiers (1938)
Pepe Le Moko
History Is Made at Night (1937)
Paul [Dumond]
Conquest (1937)
Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
Tovarich (1937)
Mikail [Michel, Prince Ouratieff]
The Garden of Allah (1936)
Boris Androvsky, also known as Brother Antoine
Liliom (1935)
Liliom Ladowski
Shanghai (1935)
Dmitri Koslov
Private Worlds (1935)
Doctor Charles Monet
Break of Hearts (1935)
Franz Roberti
Mayerling (1935)
Caravan (1934)
Lazi
Thunder in the East (1934)
Marquis Yorisaka
Caravane (1934)
Lazi
The Man from Yesterday (1932)
Rene Gaudin
Red-Headed Woman (1932)
Albert
Le procès de Mary Dugan (1931)
Le procureur
The Magnificent Lie (1931)
Jacques
War Nurse (1930)
French surgeon
Le Capitaine Fracasse (1929)

Producer (Feature Film)

Destiny (1944)
Producer
Flesh and Fantasy (1943)
Producer

Cast (Special)

There Shall Be No Night (1957)
Dr Kurloy Valkay

Cast (Short)

Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (1955) (1955)
Himself
1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration (International) (1955)
Himself
Hollywood Goes to Town (1938)
Himself
The Candid Camera Story (Very Candid) of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures 1937 Convention (1936)
Himself

Life Events

1920

Stage debut and film debut (in "L'homme du large")

1959

Co-counded, with Thomas McDermott, David Niven and Dick Powell, production company Four Star Television

1964

Co-starred with Niven in Four Star production "The Rogues"

Photo Collections

Fanny - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster from Fanny (1961), starring Leslie Caron. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Back Street (1941) - Scene Stills
Back Street (1941) - Scene Stills
Back Street (1941) - Publicity Stills
Back Street (1941) - Publicity Stills
Back Street (1941) - Movie Posters
Back Street (1941) - Movie Posters
Back Street (1941) - Lobby Card Set
Back Street (1941) - Lobby Card Set
Back Street (1941) - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Back Street (1941) - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Gaslight - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos taken during the making of Gaslight (1944), starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.
Love Affair (1939) - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from Love Affair (1939), directed by Leo McCarey and starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.
Conquest - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster from Conquest (1937). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Gaslight - Movie Posters
Here is a group of American movie Posters from Gaslight (1944), starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten.
Gaslight - Lobby Card
Here is a Lobby Card from Gaslight (1944). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

All This, And Heaven Too (1940) - A Most Attractive Governess Young Raynard (Richard Nichols) and governess Henriette (Bette Davis) are surprised when their father and employer the Duc (Charles Boyer) and daughter Louise (Virginia Wiedler) arrive in Paris from the summer home, proceeding to the opera, in Warner Bros. All This, And Heaven Too, 1940.
Gaslight (1944) - You Shall Have Your Dream Vacationing at Lake Como, new husband Gregory (Charles Boyer) mentions his apparently coincidental dream of a home in London, identical to the home in which his traumatized wife Paula (Ingrid Bergman) found her murdered aunt, early in George Cukor's Gaslight, 1944.
Gaslight (1944) - Free Yourself From The Past From director George Cukor’s opening in foggy London, we jump ten years to Italy where Ingrid Bergman has matured, but is losing interest in opera, to the dismay of her devoted teacher (Emil Rameau as Maestro Guardi), and Charles Boyer appears in his first scene as a mere hired accompanist, in Gaslight, 1944.
Cobweb, The (1955) - Sprung Up Like A Toadstool! Gloria Grahame as Karen, lonely wife of one doctor at the psychiatric clinic, on the phone from a local concert with administrator Vicky (Lillian Gish) fighting about drapes, then sharing with her husband’s suave French senior colleague “Dev” (Charles Boyer), in Vincente Minnelli’s The Cobweb, 1955.
Cobweb, The (1955) - You're Going To Hate Yourself In The Morning Finally some background on Lauren Bacall, as Mrs. Rinehart, on staff at the psychiatric hospital, in the workshop visited by patient Stevie (John Kerr) who is, on the whole, grateful that she’s arranged for him to paint the new drapes, in Vincente Minnelli’s The Cobweb, 1955, from a novel by William Gibson.
Major And The Minor, The (1942) - Why I Hate Women Susan (Ginger Rogers), fed up and leaving New York, finds out her saved-up train fare home isn't enough, improvising her part of the premise, in Billy Wilder's first directing effort, The Major And The Minor, 1942.
All This, And Heaven Too (1940) - Call Me By Some Other Name Early in her long narrative flashback, Henriette (Bette Davis) arrives, a candidate to be governess to the children of Duc (Charles Boyer) and Duchesse (Barbara O'Neill) de Praslin, who have other problems, in 1840's France, in All This, And Heaven Too, 1940, directed by Anatole Litvak.
Cluny Brown (1946) - She's Cold, Conceited And Callous At the cocktail party, we meet pre-War Londoners Betty (Helen Walker), Andrew (Peter Lawford) and John (Michael Dyne), lamenting Hitler, discovering Belinski (Charles Boyer), mistaking him for a famous professor and introducing a key misunderstanding in Ernst Lubitsch's Cluny Brown, 1946.
Cluny Brown (1946) - I Know A Lot About Sinks Opening scene from Ernst Lubitsch's Cluny Brown, 1946, features Hilary Ames (Reginald Gardner) describing his plumbing dilemma and the arrival of philospher Adam Belinski (Charles Boyer).
Cluny Brown (1946) - Shall We Have A Go At It? Provocative amateur plumber Cluny (Jennifer Jones) arrives to the delight of socialite Ames (Reginald Gardiner) and philosopher Belinski (Charles Boyer) in Ernst Lubitsch's Cluny Brown, 1946.
Hold Back The Dawn (1941) - Those Are Not Her Eyes Having learned he can enter the U.S. if he marries an American, Romanian con man George (Charles Boyer) charms schoolteacher Emmy (Olivia De Havilland), stranded with students in a Mexican border town, in Hold Back The Dawn, 1941, from a largely autobiographical story by Ketti Frings.
Earrings of Madame De..., The (1954) - Opening, Prologue Opening credit sequence and prologue from director Max Ophuls' acclaimed The Earrings of Madame De..., 1954, starring Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer and Vittorio De Sica.

Trailer

Happy Time, The - (Original Trailer) A Canadian patriarch (Charles Boyer) fights to keep his wayward brother (Louis Jordan) from leading his son astray in The Happy Time (1952).
Fanny - (Original Trailer) Charles Boyer and Maurice Chevalier introduce you to Marseilles and the world of Fanny (1961).
Constant Nymph, The - (Original Trailer) A composer (Charles Boyer) marries a rich woman rather than her young cousin (Joan Fontaine) who loves him in The Constant Nymph (1943).
Buccaneer, The (1958) - (Original Trailer) French pirate Jean Lafitte (Yul Brynner) tries to redeem his name helping the U.S. in the War of 1812 in Anthony Quinn's The Buccaneer (1958).
Barefoot in the Park - (Original Trailer) Robert Redford and Jane Fonda star in Neil Simon's comedy Barefoot In The Park (1967) about newlyweds in New York.
All This, and Heaven Too - (Original Trailer) A French nobleman falls in love with his children's governess in All This and Heaven Too (1940) starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer.
How To Steal a Million - (Original Trailer) Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole learn How to Steal a Million (1966) in William Wyler's heist comedy.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The (1962) - (Original Trailer) Members of an Argentinan family fight on opposite sides during WW II in Vincente Minnelli's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962) starring Glenn Ford.
Casino Royale (1967) - (Pan-and-scan Trailer) The first movie version of the first James Bond novel Casino Royale (1967) was this wild 60's farce with 16 stars and 6 directors.
Conquest - (Original Trailer) Charles Boyer is Napoleon, Greta Garbo the Polish countess sent to seduce him to gain her country's independence.
Tovarich - (Original Trailer) Russian nobles flee the revolution and take jobs in Paris as servants in the romantic comedy, Tovarich (1937) starring Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer.
Confidential Agent - (Original Trailer) Charles Boyer and Lauren Bacall go undercover to fight the fascists in Confidential Agent (1945).

Family

Michael Boyer
Son
Birn in 1944; committed suicide in 1965.

Companions

Pat Paterson
Wife
Actor. Married from 1934 until her death on August 24, 1978.

Bibliography