Charles Boyer Edit Profile
He studied at the Sorbonne and the Paris Conservatoire and, in his twenties, was a star of the French stage and screen.
He then joined UFA to make French versions of German movies, only to be lured away by MGM to play in French versions of The Trial of Mary Dugan and The Big House. When these duplications were stopped, Paramount used Boyer in his first American film, The Magnificent Lie (31, Berthold Viertel). He went back to UFA but was at Paramount again in 1932 for The Man From Yesterday (Viertel) and at MGM for a small part in Bed-Headed Woman (32, Jack Conway). A little bemused, he went back to UFA and thence to Paris where, at least, he was a lover in his own language: L’Epervier (33, LHerbier); Le Bonheur (33, LHerbier); La Bataille (33, Nicolas Farkas); and Liliom (33, Fritz Lang).
Twentieth Century now called Boyer back to the United States for Caravan (34, Erik Charrell), another American flop. At this point, he put himself in Walter Wangers hands and gradually built up his reputation for sultry romance: Private Worlds (35, Gregory La Cava); Break of Hearts (35, Philip Moeller); Shanghai (35, James Flood); in Paris, Mayerling (36, Anatole Litvak); opposite Dietrich in The Garden of Allah (36, Richard Boleslavsky); History Is Made at Night (37, Frank Borzage); Tovarich (37, Litvak); as Napoleon opposite Garbo in Conquest (37, Clarence Brown); back in France with Michele Morgan for Orage (37, Marc Allegret); with Hedy Lamarr in Algiers (38, John Cromwell). Wanger dropped Boyer, but the actor flourished, with Irene Dunne, in Love Affair (39, Leo McCarey) and When Tomorrow Comes (39, John Stahl).
Boyer was working in France when the war began and was sent back to the United States by the French authorities for his value as a propagandist. He then made All This and Heaven Too (40, Litvak); Back Street (41, Robert Stevenson); Hold Back the Dawn (41, Mitchell Leisen); Appointment with Love (41, William A. Seiter); Tales of Manhattan (42) and Flesh and Fantasy (43), both for Julien Duvivier; The Constant Nymph (43, Edmund Goulding); one of his best roles, as the husband of Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (44, George Cukor); Together Again (44, Charles Vidor); The Confidential Agent (45, Herman Shumlin); with Jennifer Jones in Cluntj Brown (46, Ernst Lubitsch); A Woman’s Vengeance (47, Zoltán Korda); with Bergman again in Arch of Triumph (48, Lewis Milestone). He went on to the New York stage and returned in 1951 as a clearly older man: The Thirteenth Letter (51, Otto Preminger); The First Legion (51, Douglas Sirk); and The Happy Time (52, Richard Fleischer).
After that, versatility was his watchword. In the early 1950s he began returning to France—for the magnificent Madame de . . . (53, Max Ophuls); Nana (55, Christian-Jaque); and La Parisienne (57, Michel Boisrond). For American TV, he was one of the founders of Four Star Playhouse and of a series, The Rogues. In the cinema, he kept up a stream of character parts: The Cobweb (55, Vincente Minnelli); The Buccaneer (57, Anthony Quinn); Fanny (60, Joshua Logan); The Four Horsemen of the Aj)ocah/pse (61, Minnelli); Love Is a Ball (62, David Swift); A Veny Special Favor (65, Michael Gordon); How to Steal a Million (65, William Wyler); Barefoot in the Park (67, Gene Saks); The Madwoman of Chaillot (69, Bryan Forbes); The April Fools (69, Stuart Rosenberg); as the sage of sages in Lost Horizon (72, Charles Jarrott); Stavisky (74, Alain Resnais); and A Matter of Time (76, Minnelli).
Boyer killed himself just two days after his wife died. It was a mark of the integrity and lasting feeling in a man famous as a “continental” seducer.
Although his screen image was often frivolous and lightweight, Boyer’s career speaks for the durability of a dedicated professional. But he did more than survive: he kept intact that very “continental," flirtatious waywardness that made him a Hollywood exotic. It is no small accomplishment to have maintained his rather vacant intimations of Gallic romance in the face of constant parody and imitation. Even at the height of his comic notoriety in America as the French lover, sighing with thoughts of “the Casbah,” he was a terrific and generous actor.
It is not the easiest career to record, simply because of Boyer’s ingenious pursuit of work in all quarters.
He was married forty-four years. The couple had the only child, a son, who killed himself in 1965.