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Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne | by Truus, Bob & Jan too!
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Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne

British postcard in the "Film Partners" Series, London, no. P 268. Photo: R.K.O. Radio. Publicity photo for Love Affair (1939, Leo McCarey).


Suave and sophisticated French actor Charles Boyer (1899-1978) began his career in French silent films and in 1936 he became an international star with his role in Mayerling opposite Danielle Darrieux. His long career earned him the title of "the last of the cinema's great lovers."


Charles Boyer was born in Figeac in the French Pyrenees to Maurice and Louise Boyer. He was just a shy small-town boy who discovered the cinema at the age of eleven. Working as a hospital orderly during the First World War, he started to come out of himself performing comic sketches for the soldiers there. Boyer began a philosophy studies at the Sorbonne while waiting for a chance to study acting at the Paris Conservatory. In 1920, he replaced the leading man in a stage production, and he scored an immediate hit. In the 1920’s he became a popular ultimate ladies' man on the stage who also appeared in silent films. His first film was L’homme du large (1920, Marcel L'Herbier), followed by productions like La Barcarolle d'amour (1929, Carl Froelich, Henry Roussel) with Annabella, and Le Capitaine Fracasse (1929, Alberto Cavalcanti, Henry Wulschleger) starring Pierre Blanchar.


In 1929 Boyer was signed by MGM, but nothing much came of this first Hollywood stay. But with the coming of sound, his deep voice made him a romantic star: “suave and sophisticated beyond a woman's wildest dreams”. Back in European he starred in productions like Tumultes (1932, Robert Siodmak) and La Bataille (1933, Nicholas Farkas, Victor Tourjansky) with Annabella. In 1934, after starring in a French adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s Liliom directed by Fritz Lang, he eventually decided to return to the USA. He played his first major Hollywood role in the romantic musical Caravan (1934, Erik Charell) with Loretta Young. He also continued to make European films, and his role in the French historical love-drama Mayerling (1936, Anatole Litvak) opposite Danielle Darrieux made him an international star. In the following years he whispered declarations of love to Marlene Dietrich in The Garden of Allah (1936, Richard Boleslawski), Jean Arthur in History Is Made at Night (1937, Frank Borzage), Greta Garbo in Conquest (1937, Clarence Brown), and Irene Dunne in the classic tearjerker Love Affair (1939, Leo McCarey). One his most famous role was Pepe le Moko, the thief on the run, in Algiers (1938, John Cromwell) an English-language remake of the French film hit Pépé le Moko (1937, Julien Duvivier) with Jean Gabin. In 1942 Boyer became a naturalized citizen of the United States.


After World War II, Charles Boyer continued his international career in films and on television, Broadway and the London stage. During his career he was nominated four times for the Academy Award: for his parts in Conquest (1937), Algiers (1938), Gaslight (1944, George Cukor) and Fanny (1961, Joshua Logan), but he never won. In the 1950’s he moved into television as one of the pioneering producers and stars of Four Star Playhouse (1952-1956). Onscreen, he continued to shine with older roles in many Hollywood productions and in European films like Madame de... (1953, Max Ophüls) and Stavisky (1974, Alain Resnais). The latter role won him the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the Cannes Film Festival Special Tribute. In 1948, France had already made him a chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. Boyer's distinguished career would last longer than other romantic leading men, and earned him the title of "the last of the cinema's great lovers." In real life Charles Boyer was faithfully married for 44 years to British actress Pat Paterson whom he met at a dinner party in 1934. In 1978, two days after his wife died from cancer, and two days before his own 79th birthday, he committed suicide.


Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.


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Taken on October 26, 2008