Charles Boyer was a French actor who appeared in more than 80 films between 1920 and 1976. After receiving an education in drama, Boyer started on the stage, but he found his success in movies during the 1930s. His most famous role was opposite Ingrid Bergman in the 1944 mystery-thriller Gaslight. Other memorable performances were among the era’s highly praised romantic dramas, Algiers and Love Affair. He received four Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.
Born in Figeac, Lot, Midi-Pyrénées, France, to Maurice and Louise Boyer, Charles was a shy, small-town boy who discovered the movies and theater at the age of eleven. Boyer performed comic sketches for soldiers while working as a hospital orderly during World War I. He began studies briefly at the Sorbonne, and was waiting for a chance to study acting at the Paris Conservatory. He went to the capital city to finish his education, but spent most of his time pursuing a theatrical career. In 1920, his quick memory won him a chance to replace the leading man in a stage production, and he scored an immediate hit. In the 1920s, he not only played a suave and sophisticated ladies’ man on the stage but also appeared in several silent films.
MGM signed Boyer to a contract, and he loved life in the United States, but nothing much came of his first Hollywood stay from 1929 to 1931. At first, he performed film roles only for the money and found that supporting roles were unsatisfying. However, with the coming of sound, his deep voice made him a romantic star.
His first break came with a very small role in Jean Harlow’s Red-Headed Woman. After starring in a French adaptation of Liliom directed by Fritz Lang, he began to receive public favor; Boyer landed his first leading Hollywood role at the romantic musical Caravan with Loretta Young. French expatriate Claudette Colbert requested him in the psychiatric drama Private Worlds, which was a modest success.