I enjoyed John Baxter ‘s new biography,Charles Boyer, The French Lover (2021,University Press of Kentucky).
Charles Boyer, born in 1899, certainly deserves this look at his life and career. He was the archetypal Frenchman , with four Oscar nominations to his name.
His early life in France is well covered. He moved to Paris in 1918, knowing he wanted to act.
As was the custom in the early days of sound, Hollywood studios ,rather than dub films for overseas audiences, would often re-shoot them with French, Spanish or German actors – with the same sets and crews.
(Sometimes studios would shoot the domestic and foreign versions concurrently, having the different casts take turns on the set! Yet another way was to shoot one version during the day and another at night.)
In 1929, MGM executive Paul Bern asked Charles to take part in the French version of “The Trial Of Mary Dugan”.
In the French version of “The Big House”, Charles played the part originated by Chester Morris. This film would be MGM’s last parallel production. ( After that, dialogue would be dubbed for foreign markets.)
He had small parts in a few films, meanwhile going back to a France from time to time. But his future was in Hollywood where he met and married the English actress Pat Paterson. They would remain together for the rest of their lives and die within days of each other in 1978.
He shrewdly chose Charles K.Feldman as his agent. Feldman negotiated terms for Boyer in “CARAVAN” – of which Boyer said, “I cringed to see myself wearing black curls and playing haunting melodies in the moonlight. I have never looked so ridiculous nor felt more uncomfortable in a part.”
Boyer was also fortunate to secure a 5 year contract with producer Walter Wanger . Boyer retained the right to work with other producers and visit France to work there either in theatre or film.
Claudette Colbert knew Charles and suggested him for a part in “Private Worlds”.
RKO borrowed Boyer for “Break of Hearts”, opposite Katharine Hepburn.
He then had success in “Garden of Allah” opposite Marlene Dietrich.
As an independent, Boyer did not employ a press agent. A part time secretary handled business correspondence and fan mail. He subscribed to no clippings service and requests for interviews were politely declined.
Boyer starred in the play KIND SIR, with Mary Martin in 1953 which premiered in New Orleans.Five years later the play was filmed as “Indiscreet.”
He left no diary, no extensive correspondence and had always refused to be interviewed at length.
The following photos are not from the book ( which has many illustrations)
As ‘Pepe le Moko’, Boyer had to endure generations of impressionists mimicking his “Come with me to the Casbah.” – a line he never said!
One of his films I’d like to see is APPOINTMENT FOR LOVE, with Margaret Sullavan. They also costarred in the second version of BACK STREET.
Boyer as a head waiter who falls for the recently divorced Jean Arthur. Love this film.
Boyer and Dunne also teamed in WHEN TOMORROW COMES, TOGETHER AGAIN.
GASLIGHT,surely one of Boyer’s best roles as the ruthless husband of Ingrid Bergman.
Boyer’s son, Michael was born during the filming of GASLIGHT. ( sadly, Michael died in 1965 of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. He was 21).
Another great role for Charles as the gigolo redeemed by Olivia de Havilland.
Charles joined forces with Dick Powell, David Niven , Ida Lupino in producing the TV series, FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE from 1952 to 1956. Charles appeared in 30 episodes.
He continued appearing in films through the 60s and 70s.