Charles Boyer Overview:

Legendary actor, Charles Boyer, was born on Aug 28, 1899 in Figeac, Lot. Boyer died at the age of 79 on Aug 26, 1978 in Phoenix, AZ and was laid to rest in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA.

Early Life

Charles Boyer was born on August 28th, 1899 in the small town of Figeac, France. His father, Maurice, was a self-made man who worked as successful merchant in the coal industry. His mother, Louise, was an amateur musician who would sing around the town, whether others wished to hear her or not. A shy but precocious child, Boyer often felt more comfortable in the presence of adults and thus had difficulty making friends in his early life. At the age of ten, Boyer's father died of a stroke and soon after his mother sold the family business to raise her child as gentleman. At the age of 11, the young Boyer began to take a great interest in both film and the theatre. He would spend hour upon hour at his town's small movie theatre, completely ruptured by the projected image. Boyer would also frequent the streets of Paris with his mother, who would expose her son to the best of Parisian theatre. Even though Louise Boyer fostered her son's interest in the arts, she had high hopes that he would pursue a career in the medical or legal fields.

Boyer got his first true taste of performance during WWI, when the young teen would perform sketches for wounded troops at his local hospital.  He eventually enrolled at Sorbonne in Paris as a philosophy major, but spent more of his time reading and auditioning for plays than reading and writing about Spinoza or Lao-Tzu. Despite his mother's high-hopes for his academic career, Boyer quickly integrated himself with the theatre community of Paris. In 1920, gained his first leading role when the original male lead was forced to back out at the last moment. Thanks to his great memory and ability to learn large passages of text quickly, Boyer was offered the leading role in Les Jardins de Murcie. The play was a hit and soon his career would take off.

Early Stage and Film Career

After the massive success of Les Jardins de Murcie, Boyer was accepted in to the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris, where he studied acting in earnest without distraction. He began acting in more plays, quickly making a name for himself on the Paris stage. Like many stage actors of the time, Boyer was unable to resist the call to film and made his debut with a strong supporting role the 1920 French drama L'Homme du large. Although at this point in his career Boyer considered himself to be a man of the stage, he continued to find work on the screen, starring in the 1921 film Chantelouve. Boyer's popularity as an actor only continued to grow and by the mid-1920s he was one of busiest thespians in Paris.

Despite his inability to speak English, his popularity as a leading man grew to such heights that by the end of the decade MGM came knocking on Boyer's door. Although initially hesitant to sign with the American studio, Boyer was wooed by the hefty paycheck and in 1930 packed his bags for Hollywood. Because Boyer was unable to speak English, MGM made sure to exploit his popularity by using Boyer in their French language films, specifically marketing said films on the European market. His first film for his new studios was the French-co produced Le Proces de Mary Dugan, quickly followed by the drama Revolte dans la prison. During this time, the studio made sure that Boyer mastered the English language, as they were eager to put their import to the test. By 1932 Boyer had command over the language and was cast in a small supporting role in the Jean Harlow vehicle Red-Headed Woman. In 1934 Boyer was loaned to Fox Europa for the Fritz Lang fantasy Liliom, which helped the actor gain more international attention. It would not be until the next year however, that Boyer would rise to level of stardom.


In 1935, fellow French import Claudette Colbert insisted she star opposite Boyer in the romantic drama Private Worlds. The film was hit, especially with the ladies as many immediately fell in love with Boyer's deep accent and dark but distinct good looks. Despite his off-screen bookishness and quiet life outside of Hollywood, he quickly became one of Hollywood's most dashing of leading men. Now one of Hollywood's matinee idols, Boyer's romantic on-screen persona began courting some of Hollywood's hottest leading leadings. In 1936 he starred the love-struck monk, caught between passion and duty opposite Marlene Dietrich in his first Technicolor picture, The Garden of Allah. The next year he worked with yet another European import, Greta Garbo, starring as Napoleon in the historical romance Conquest. For his efforts he would be nominated for his first of four academy award nominations.  He continued wooing ladies of European birth when he starred with Hedy Lamarr as the romantic jewel thief, Pepe, in the proto-noir romance Algiers. Not only did this role give the actor his second Academy Award nomination for best actor but also served as the inspiration for the overly romantic cartoon skunk, Pepe le Pew. The next year he starred opposite Irene Dunn in one of his most remembered films of that decade, Love Affair.

After spending a brief time in the French Military during WWII, he returned states side where he would continue to enjoy his onscreen popularity.  In 1940 he starred as the subject of Bette Davis's unrequited love in the period-piece romance All This, and Heaven Too. The next year he played a Romanian gigolo in center of a love triangle featured Olivia de Havilland and Paulette Goddard in the Mitchell Leisen romance Hold Back the Dawn. In 1944 he played against type as the mentally abusive husband scheming to drive his wife, Ingrid Berg, crazy to collect her wealth in Gaslight. The dark performance earned Boyer his third Oscar nomination.

Post War Career

Although Boyer remained a leading man into the 1940s, he began spending extra time in the make-up chair to do so. Not only was the romantic lead going bald and in need of a toupee, he also began to gaining weight.  By the end of World War II many of Hollywood's leading men once stationed over seas began returning and soon after Boyer began losing popularity. Films like Confidential Agent and The Battle of the Rails lost money and Boyer's own interest in Hollywood began waning as well. After starring in the massive flop Arch of Triumph, Boyer returned to the theatre where he worked as a supporting actor. In 1948 he made his Broadway debut as Hoederer in the Jed Harris staged Red Gloves. In 1952 He starred in the Broadway telling of Don Juan in Hell starring as the titular character himself, Don Juan. He would on to win a special Tony Awards for his work in the successful stage play.

Outside of the stage he also turned his turned his attention towards television, becoming one of the producers and stars of the Four Star Theatre production company, working along side David Niven, Dick Powell and Ida Lupino. He would oversee and act in popular shows such as Wanted Dead or Alive, The Rifleman and The Big Valley, earning a fortune in the process.

Later Career and Life

Boyer continued to work on the stage and screen into the 1960s and 1970s. He appeared on Broadway in hit such as The Marriage-Go-Round, Lord Pengo, and Mand and Boy. Screen side, Boyer received his final Academy Award nomination for his work in the 1961 Joshua Logan film Fanny. By this time he cultivated a new on-screen persona as the older, philosophical gentleman, one much closer to his own, bookish off-screen personality. In 1966 he starred opposite Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in the comedy How to Steal a Millionaire and the next year appeared as Jane Fonda's landlord in the yet another youthful comedy Barefoot in the Park. Boyer remained particularly busy in 1969, appearing in the films The April Fools and The Madwoman of Chaillot while making an appearance on the TV series The Name of the Game. By the 1970s, he had slowed down his career, only appearing in three films. In 1973 he played the High Lama in the remake of Lost Horizon. The next year he returned to France appears opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in the Alain Resnais film Stavisky. The role would earn the veteran actor a special tribute from the jury of the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. It would be his final French film. Two years later, Boyer would make his final screen appearance opposite Ingrid Bergman in the Vincent Minnelli musical Fantasy A Matter of Time. In 1977, Boyer's wife of nearly 40 years, Pat, was diagnosed with cancer. Boyer promptly retired from the screen to dedicate himself to her care. She would succumb to the disease a year later on August 23rd, 1978.  Two days later, on August 25th, Charles Boyer died of suicide, overdosing on barbiturates. He was 78 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Boyer was nominated for four Oscars, he never won a competitive Academy Award. However he won one Honorary Oscar Award in 1942 for his progressive cultural achievement in establishing the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles as a source of reference for the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry .

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1937Best ActorConquest (1937)Napoleon BonaparteNominated
1938Best ActorAlgiers (1938)Pepe Le MokoNominated
1944Best ActorGaslight (1944)Gregory AntonNominated
1961Best ActorFanny (1961)CÚsarNominated

Academy Awards (Honorary Oscars)

1942Special Awardfor his progressive cultural achievement in establishing the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles as a source of reference for the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry


He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Charles Boyer's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #66 on Jul 24, 1942.

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Charles Boyer Quotes:

Andrew Carmel: [hearing news of the war] I intend to write another letter to the Times.
Adam Belinski: Good.
Andrew Carmel: [uncertainly] No... No, I'll join the R.A.F.
Adam Belinski: Better... join the R.A.F, and rise above the Times.

Adam Belinski: I would build you the most beautiful mansion, with the most exquisite and complicated plumbing, I would hand you a hammer, and say "Ladies and Gentlemen, Madame Cluny Belinski is about to put the pipes in their place".

Cluny Brown: You must never become a victim of my circumstances, and, if you should ever seem romantic to me - don't hesitate. Just kick me.
Adam Belinski: Yes, let's kick each other.

read more quotes from Charles Boyer...

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Charles Boyer Facts
Half bald by his twenties, he only wore a toupee for his movie roles. Out in public, he never wore it.

Took a fatal dose of barbiturates two days following his wife's death.

Earned a degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne.

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