Charles Boyer

Active - 1920 - 1978  |   Born - Aug 28, 1899 in Figeac, Lot, France  |   Died - Aug 26, 1978   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Comedy Drama

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With his passionate, deep-set eyes, classical features, and ultra-suave manner, it is small wonder that French actor Charles Boyer was known as one of the great cinematic lovers. During the 1920s, Boyer made a few nondescript silent films but was primarily a theatrical actor. From 1929-31 he made an unsuccessful attempt to make it in Hollywood, before returning to Europe until 1934 when his films began to win public favor. He became a true star with Garden of Allah (1936), and went on to play opposite the most alluring actresses of the '30s and '40s, including Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo. During World War II, he became active in encouraging French-American relations and established the French Research Foundation, for which he was awarded a special Academy Award in 1942 for "progressive cultural achievement" (he was nominated as an actor four times but never won). Later Boyer became an American citizen and went on to play more mature roles, including the occasional stage appearance (notably in Shaw's Don Juan in Hell). With actors Dick Powell and David Niven, Boyer co-founded Four Star Television in 1951, starring in many of the company's TV productions during the '50s and '60s. His career tapered off after the suicide of his 21-year-old son in 1965, after which he mostly made European films, though he returned to America to appear as the ancient High Lama in the musical remake of Lost Horizon (1973). He won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for his work in Stavisky, his final performance. Two days after his wife of forty-plus years, actress Patricia Peterson, died of cancer in 1978, he took his own life with an overdose of Seconal.

Movie Highlights

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Factsheet

  • By his twenties he was already half bald and wore toupees for his movies.
  • Fluent in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.
  • Boyer's French voice and mannerisms inspired Chuck Jones' cartoon skunk Pepé Le Pew.
  • Met wife Pat Paterson at a dinner party in 1934 and became engaged after just two weeks of courtship.
  • On February 8, 1960, was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.