Who was Charles Boyer?
The handsome, suave and sometimes aloof man who swept many a beautiful woman off her feet in reel-life, Charles Boyer was a French actor who made it big in American cinema as a romantic hero. Best known for portraying glamorous gentleman who made ladies swoon, the actor was a bookish introvert in real life who tried his best to keep away from the limelight that Hollywood stars are hogged with. Also in contrast to the womanizing roles he played, Boyer was a family oriented man very much devoted to his wife, Pat. Growing up, Boyer was a shy and introverted boy who did not have many friends. How he got attracted to the profession of acting is a quirk of fate! He realized his love for acting as a youngster and began his career as a stage actor in France. After finding some success in French cinema he moved to Hollywood to try his luck there. Blessed with a deep voice and clean-cut looks, he fit the image of a romantic hero perfectly. After playing the romantic lead in numerous films he took to portraying character roles during his later years. Unfortunately his personal life was marred by tragedies and he died by committing suicide.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born in Figeac, France as the son of Augustine Louise and Maurice Boyer. His father, a merchant, died when Charles was just ten years old. He was then raised by his mother who doted on her only son.
He was a small, shy and introverted boy who did not make many friends. Instead he loved to interact with adults as he was quite mature for his age. He developed an interest in acting and dramatics from a young age.
During the World War I he volunteered at a hospital as an intern and used to perform comedy sketches to cheer up the convalescing soldiers. He was a student at College Champollion and used to act in college stage productions.
A chance opportunity to appear in a small role in a film that was shot near his village convinced him that acting was the career for him. He enrolled at the Sorbonne in 1918 to study acting.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
He got an opportunity to play the leading man in the play ‘Les Jardins de Murcie’ in 1920. This was entirely by chance as the original leading man fell sick and the director was looking for a replacement when someone suggested the name of Charles.
Blessed with a great memory, Boyer could memorize entire dialogues in a matter of minutes, and thus he performed very well as the replacement even at a short notice. Plus his good looks added to his charms and he became an overnight sensation.
Following this success, he was accepted at the Conservatoire National Superior de Musique et de Declamation, which was an advanced professional program for artists and actors.
He became a very successful stage actor and earned himself thousands of fans. In fact his name was so popular that the very presence of the actor in a play would guarantee its success. His on-stage success led to numerous film offers.
He made his Hollywood debut in a very small role in the film, ‘Red Headed Woman’ in 1932. Soon he began getting bigger roles as he was handsome and had a deep voice which made him an ideal choice for playing romantic leads.
His first role as the leading man in a Hollywood film came in 1934 when he starred opposite Loretta Young in the romantic musical ‘Caravan’. A French version of this film was also made in which he reprised his role.
He also worked in French films and appeared in the historical drama ‘Mayerling’ in 1936 which also had Danielle Darrieux and Jean Davy. This movie was a super hit and made him an international star.
In 1941, he played the protagonist in the romantic film, ‘Hold Back the Dawn’ in which he portrays a gigolo who marries an American woman to gain entry into the U.S. but ends up falling in love with her.
Even though famous for portraying romantic roles, he also experimented with different characters. He starred in the mystery thriller ‘Gaslight’ (1944) along with Ingrid Bergman in which he plays a murderer.
He always remained actively involved in theater and played the role of Don Juan in the Broadway play ‘Man and Superman’ in 1951. It was one of his most memorable stage roles.
In 1961, he played Cesar in the drama film ‘Fanny’ which was based on the stage musical of the same title. The film was a box office hit and was also critically appreciated.
With age he began portraying character roles and also started taking up supporting roles. Over the late 1960s he played supporting roles in ‘Is Paris Burning?’ (1966), ‘Casino Royale’ (1967) and ‘Hot Line’ (1968).
His portrayal of Pepe Le Moko, a notorious Jewel thief in the film ‘Algiers’ (1938) was one of his most popular roles. He played a handsome and suave criminal in the movie which earned him an Academy Award nomination and lots of fans.
Awards & Achievements
He was presented with the Academy Honorary Award in 1942 in recognition of his progressive cultural achievement in establishing the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles as a source of reference for the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry.
Personal Life & Legacy
He met actress Pat Paterson at a party in 1934 and fell in love with her instantly. The couple got married within three months of meeting! They had one son, Michael, who unfortunately died by committing suicide when he was just 21.
Boyer was deeply in love with his wife and was distraught when she got diagnosed with cancer. She died in August 1978 and unable to bear the grief, he committed suicide a couple of days later.