CHARLES BOYER by Larry Swindell


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Except for its tragic end (the last 10 pages here), actor Charles Boyer's off-screen life was uncommonly undramatic; so this bland but inoffensive biography concentrates on theater/movie details, Boyer co-stars, and film-by-film appreciations. A brainy lad from the provinces, Boyer pleased his prim, widowed mother by going to the Sorbonne--but couldn't suppress his yen for the theater: he became ""an overnight celebrity"" for taking over a lead role with a few hours' notice, then moved on to matinee-idol status as protÉgÉ of Paris impresario/playwright Henry Bernstein. With the advent of talkies, however, Hollywood called--though Boyer, knowing no English at first, had a rocky few years, with frequent trips back to Paris. And by 1935, with Private Worlds, he was a star (""And those eyes! It was soon evident that they were melting hearts""), typecast as a Great Lover. . . even if his ambitions were more serious, his talent more essentially tragic. (History Is Made at Night ""offers the quintessential Boyer in his charm both serious and light, in his emotional depth. . . ."") Swindell goes on to discuss each of Boyer's films, with special attention to Algiers (helping Hedy Lamarr to conceal her non-talent), Gaslight, the teamings with Irene Dunne. He notes Boyer's problems as a free-lance (high-priced) actor, as an aging leading-man (always with toupee) who didn't quite make the Hollywood transition to character-actor. He rather gushingly records Boyer's devoted marriage to English actress Pat, his anti-Nazism (he ""was a visionary and prophet of international politics"") and WW II dual-patriotism. And he fills in the post-Hollywood career--on Broadway, in television, as a Paris-based player in undistinguished international films. But only at the end, with the suicides of Boyer's playboy-son and Boyer himself (after the cancer-death of Pat), is there any private drama--and Swindell offers no particular insights into the moody Boyer personality. Adequate for film buffs; unusually dullish otherwise.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday