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CHARLES BOYER

Discussion of the actors, directors and film-makers who 'made it all happen'

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charliechaplinfan
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CHARLES BOYER

Postby charliechaplinfan » August 22nd, 2010, 3:19 pm

I can't find a thread for Charles Boyer, I can't remember one if we have had one before. I've watched a few of his movies recently, by coincidence, he appears regularly with some of the stronger female leads of the thirties and forties and I started realising how much I enjoy his performances (and his accent) so I bought I book and took it on holiday with me.

Not a shred of gossip attached to his name, he got a lucky break when a lead actor couldn't go on stage and he could memorise all the part in time, he was untried but passed the test and a career on the French stage was his. He made some silent movies but theatre remained his main calling. He tried three times unsuccessfully to break into Hollywood, starring a couple of times with Claudette Colbert and sharing a house with Maurcie Chevalier. Finally he was successful, what kept him in Hollywood was his marriage at the age of 34 to Pat Patterson, he'd never been in love before and their marriage was a long lasting one that bore him one child at the age of 44.

With his success came many films mainly in America but some in France. His biographer Larry Swindell opinion was that he often helped actresses to Oscar winning performances without winning himself. Antole Litvak who directed Algiers stated that audiences didn't realise how good Charles Boyer was, Hedy Lamarr in her first film was a dreadful actress and the success of the partnership was all down to Boyer, his acting and his patience with the newcomer.

When he returned to the stage to Broadway, Ingrid Bergman was sitting in the audeince and heard the ladies in front of her say 'That can't be him, surely not, what is all the fuss about?' She lent forward and said 'wait until he speaks and then see how you feel' The ladies fell for him.
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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby charliechaplinfan » August 22nd, 2010, 3:27 pm

He appeared on stage with Charles Laughton and Agnes Moorhead reciting plays each standing at a podium and using only their famous voices to tell the story. Does anyone else know anymore about this? I'd love to have seen it.

I don't have a favorite film, so many are very good. I recently saw Mayerling for the first time and loved it and then followed it with Madame De. What a good screen coupling. Gaslight is a film I'm going to revisit, I haven't seen it in so long, it was the first Boyer movie I ever saw, he didn't play many bad guys. Anyone else got any favorites?
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby knitwit45 » August 22nd, 2010, 3:33 pm

Hands down, Hold Back the Dawn. One of THE most romantic movies, ever.

cruise over to "Aggies' Place", PT Tourist has posted quite a bit about the speaking tour of the 3 "voices".

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby charliechaplinfan » August 22nd, 2010, 3:39 pm

I've never seen Hold Back the Dawn, I'd love to see it, I'm a sucker for romantic movies.
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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby moira finnie » August 22nd, 2010, 4:32 pm

A few other films occurred to me to look for starring Charles Boyer, aside from Ophul's Madame de... and the films we touched on before are shown below. I wish I could say I'd seen more of Boyer's films made in Europe in the '50s. You can see Boyer's first scene on film from 1920 here if you are interested. Anyone else have suggestions?:

Mayerling (1936) directed by Anatole Litvak
In some ways it is just a romanticized version of history, except that Boyer and a teenage Danielle Darrieux bring something more to the sad story of Archduke Rudolph and Maria Vetsera.

The Garden of Allah (1936) directed by Richard Boleslawski
Most of this movie seems to exist to give Dietrich and the folks from Technicolor a chance to show off--not to mention Basil Rathbone, who is very effective. Boyer's performance as a runaway monk (yes, you read that correctly) somehow transcends all the silliness, and even makes me believe he could make Marlene's steely heart crack.

The First Legion (1951), directed by Douglas Sirk.
A fascinating character study of a Jesuit priest quietly struggling with his eroding faith, with Sirk doing some of his best non-melodramatic work about the effect of an alleged miracle on several foolish, well-meaning and venal people. Boyer really reminded me of Jesuits I've known, with their lively minds and senses of humor--and I sure can't say that about most other priests in movies.

Arch of Triumph(1948) directed by Lewis Milestone and based on a book by Erich Maria Remarque
I thought that Miss G. started a thread about this fascinating movie, even though Boyer and Ingrid Bergman sort of disowned the film. It has moments of enormous power, even if it doesn't all hang together.
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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby MichiganJ » August 22nd, 2010, 5:36 pm

moirafinnie wrote:Anyone else have suggestions?

Boyer is terrific in Fritz Lang's Liliom (1934), a noir/fantasy which was transformed into the musical Carousel (which I've never seen).
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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby Professional Tourist » August 22nd, 2010, 5:56 pm

For an early film I like Love Affair, and for a later work I love him in Barefoot in the Park. :)

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby feaito » August 22nd, 2010, 8:18 pm

Besides the already mentioned I'd recommend wholeheartedly "Tovarich" (1937), "Cluny Brown" (1946), "History is Made at Night" (1937), "Private Worlds" (1935), "All This and Heaven Too" (1940), "The Constant Nymph" (1943) and "Back Street" (1941).

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby JackFavell » August 22nd, 2010, 11:48 pm

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Here are some of my favorite Charles Boyer movies:

Liliom

Oh, this is the version for me, before the musical and after the Borzage film. The Lang film has a much drier feeling than any other version, relying on humor, making the tragedy more powerful, and more universal. Boyer is marvelous, his humor and somewhat lackadaisical qualities set the tone for the film. They offset the intensity of his self-loathing, the thing that makes him lash out at Julie. The way he shrugs the whole thing off at the end is wonderful. He is everyman, not good, not evil, but somewhere in between, lazy, pushed from pillar to post by a nameless, stupid bureaucracy. Even in heaven, life is the same! Lang really got this one right - this is how I pictured the play when I read it in school. Boyer is PERFECT, cynical, deadbeat, unwilling to make the effort until the end, and when he does, he sees that nothing much is different or changed by his attempts to do right. Even with such cynical themes, I find the movie oddly uplifting, knowing that we are all the same, with great faults, but with great capabilities.

History is Made at Night

I watched this one last week and realized I had seen it before - it is swooningly romantic, funny, heartbreaking, oh, I just loved it. Boyer took that role and created an entire world around it. It is solely due to his performance that we see the sophistication of Paris. He creates the whole city of light when he speaks, the way he holds himself, his carriage, the way he dances, the way he loves. He IS Paris. When he tells Jean Arthur that "a well-bred man does not tell a woman all that he longs to tell her".....well, there is this incredible, deep, longing, passionate pause halfway through the line.... that pause, and the look in his eyes reveals everything, a true, deep love, to us. It must have made women ga-ga from New York to San Francisco. It makes me blush, 73 years later. :oops:

The Garden of Allah

Just dive in and watch. Yes, it's silly. But YOU WON"T CARE.

Tovarich

I have a theory. Charles Boyer is not an actor that the young can appreciate. You must have some experience in life to really understand him. He is an acquired taste, like fine wine, or pate. You come to appreciate him over time. I never liked him much when I was a kid, up all night, watching old movies. He never did anything for me. But I knew I loved Charles Boyer after watching this movie. I was eighteen or so. I don't remember one bit of it, except for a blackmail(?) scene, and Boyer's classy and very serious response. I fell for that heavy lidded, noble guy like a ton of bricks. I long to see it again.

Tales of Manhattan

I watch this film whenever it is on, for two sections - The Charles Boyer section, and the Edward G. Robinson section. Boyer is wonderfully dark and ironic as Paul Orman. Cynical, he knows full well that if he falls for Rita, he will be making a huge mistake, but well, he is Charles Boyer, and cannot stop himself. Rita remains....fickle. I love his final scenes here, the overall feeling of doom, and the twist in the plot.

All This and Heaven Too is another favorite for his sadness and for the veneer he puts on at the beginning. How he and Davis can make love without ever once touching is really remarkable. And again, this film veers into darkness as Boyer deludes himself into thinking that murder will make everything alright.

In Gaslight, That humor is gone. I know some here don't like the film, but I really like Boyer's performance. He subverts his charm until all we see is his want. He pares his performance down to one thing - he is so very cold and methodical in his quest, completely devoid of feeling, except as it applies to his need for jewels. He becomes warmer as he reaches his goal, his true love, the jewels. He is conducting a love affair with the jewels and nothing must stand in the way. It is clear by the end that he is a madman, driven so by those glittering drops of ice, always out of reach.

There are more of his movies that I like, but I don't want to bore people. I watch any that are on, always.

Boyer at his best is able to convey desperation, sometimes delusion, incredible depth of feeling, thoughtfulness, great charm, and a sense of ironic humor - you can feel him laughing at the world, the world which mocks him. He laughs too, at himself. In the worst moments of betrayal or heartache he seems to be saying, "It's funny, really. Why aren't you laughing?"

He throws himself into the moment - I especially like it when he is forced to break a sweat. One of my favorite moments in History is Made at Night is when he is trying madly to make Jean Arthur go onto the lifeboat, to no avail. I really believe him, as he frantically shouts at her to go back. I believe that he is that wonderful man who would sacrifice himself for her well-being.

He also has an ability, despite his ironic bent, to exhibit a sweet belief in the magic of life, and a belief in youth that is shown in too few films.

And that is what makes Cluny Brown such a joy to watch. I love Belinski almost more than any other character - so worldly, and yet so unsure of himself where Cluny is concerned. He is thrown off-balance by this little plumber, but he is so protective, and it is maybe his most charming role.

I haven't seen some of Boyer's best performances yet - like Mayerling, The Earrings of Madame de.... , The Constant Nymph (I have a copy that I've been saving thanks to a lovely friend here), Hold Back the Dawn, and The First Legion. I can't wait to see them, and I want to revisit Tovarich, Algiers, Arch of Triumph, and Confidential Agent.

I have rattled on far too much here, but I would like to post some pictures. I have collected a lot of them over time, and would love to share them with you.

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby JackFavell » August 23rd, 2010, 12:05 am

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"I do not know when I became so nice-looking as they all say. I suppose it was when I lost my hair and began experimenting with the toupees. In silent films, I looked like a bandit who eats little children."

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with the troops, WWII

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with Peter Lorre
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with wife Pat Paterson
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with Thomas Mitchell, Norma Shearer and Edward G. Robinson
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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby knitwit45 » August 23rd, 2010, 7:55 am

Jackie, you NEVER bore. I hope you put Hold Back the Dawn at the top of your list...Have a box or two of Kleenex ready!

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby charliechaplinfan » August 23rd, 2010, 8:18 am

Wendy, thankyou for posting all the pictures and speaking so eloquently about him. I hadn't thought of him like a pate, good whisky and wine and strong cheese, flavours you grow into as you mature but I think that's just the kind of star he was. You need to live a little to appreciate what he offers.

I hadn't seen any young pictures of Charles Boyer before, he grew into his looks, he's too lean in the top picture. Your pictures show that he was handsome with or without toupee. I always think that Peter Lorre bears a resemblance to Charles Boyer, could be brothers almost.

I think his marriage to Pat is one of the most romantic love stories to come out of Hollywood, a confirmed bachelor not interested in marriage meets a young girl, they must have been soulmates, marrying 22 days later and continued to be soulmates throughout their lives.

I forgot to write about his war service. Too young to serve in the WW1 he joined the nursing corp and ended up creating entertainment for the convalesing soldiers. When WW II broke out he and pat set off for Europe, she went to Britain and he joined the French Army at the age of 40. He was assigned as a radio operator on the Maignot line, it seems that for a few weeks noone realised that Charles Boyer was the Charles Boyer, film and stage star. Once this was discovered he was persuaded to leave the army, go back to making films and be of diplomatic use to his country. He was instrumental in getting many people out of France amongst other duties. He went back to Hollywood with Pat and helped with the war effort there.

He must be the most gentlemanly and one of the nicest film stars I've ever read about.

I have too many favorite films to chose from. I must revisit Lilliom, I found it jarring on the first viewing because I kept imagining that he would become good, like the Boyer in his Hollywood films and he didn't.

I love Cluny Brown, both Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones make the film wonderful.

I've not watched Love Affair in the longest time because my copy isn't a good transfer, it takes away from the pleasure somehow, when I can see the full technicolour perfection of An Affair to Remember. I find Irene Dunne too jarringly perfect for her to ever melt a man like Boyer.

Madame De is Ophuls and like all Ophuls films I've seen it's sheer perfection. The leads are so different to Mayerling and they are prefect companion films.
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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby charliechaplinfan » August 23rd, 2010, 8:24 am

History is Made at Night is one of the most romantic of movies, Borzage the master, no one was more romantic than Boyer, he does impart all that is Parisian, he lends the film it's flavour, the romance is from him, who wouldn't fall in love with Paul. Both he and Borzage bring out more subtlety in Jean Arthur.

Algiers, is so watchable, he's such a rogue, an ever so charming one. He didn't want to make this according to his biographer, Jean Gabin's Pepe Le Moko being a great performance he didn't feel he could add anything but he was wrong. He's a different persona, his Pepe is different, more sensitive, less hardened.

The Garden of Allah, you've just got to enjoy the ride. It's a beautiful film, if an unbelieveable one.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby Professional Tourist » August 23rd, 2010, 10:09 am

Love Affair is public domain and is available at the Internet Archive, both the film and an audio-only version: film, audio version part 1, audio version part 2, audio version part 3.

Mr. Boyer's radio work may also be of some interest, such as this summer replacement series he did in 1950, Presenting Charles Boyer. Here is his episode of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir broadcast for Lux Radio Theater on 1 December 1947. And here is Flesh and Fantasy, broadcast for the Screen Guild Theater on 23 April 1945. There's more where this came from. :)

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Re: CHARLES BOYER

Postby JackFavell » August 23rd, 2010, 11:53 am

Oooh, PT! Thanks for the radio shows! Ahh, the next best thing to watching Boyer is hearing him. sigh

Nan, Hold Back the Dawn is the movie I most want to see - MissG told me about it some time ago when I was gushing about Boyer.... and now your second, highly valued opinion clinches the deal! I HAVE to see it!

History is Borzage at his best, he somehow ties everything together. I really loved it. But I think Tovarich might give it a run for it's money.

Some more Boyer pics:
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Oops! So sorry. This guy looks and sounds just like Boyer... my mistake. :D

Ahhh, yes. Here we go:


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Charles and Pat, with George Raft and Norma Shearer

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My favorite here is the second one down, the Tovarich still.... oh, he's inscrutable.

One of the things I love about looking at these still photos is Boyer's pinky ring. He wears it in every photo, and in every movie he ever made. Can you tell me if there is a mention of it in your book? I think I read somewhere that Pat gave it to him.


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