"Boy-genius" of MGM Irving Thalberg took personal charge of Boyer, and Charles was put into French versions of MGM's films (for the European market) while he learned English; Thalberg's plan was to build Boyer's star for American audiences as soon as he mastered the language. This plan was a little too long-range for Boyer, and he kept busy on both sides of the Atlantic, in both the theatre and films.

During one of his stays in Hollywood, he met a young Fox starlet, Pat Paterson, and three weeks later they married. The cautious and serious Boyer deviated from his withdrawn behavior this once -- and rightly so -- the marriage would last 44 years, until Pat's death in 1978.

 

Professionally, the turning point came with a summons from fellow-country woman Claudette Colbert, a rising star at Paramount Pictures. She requested that he star opposite her in the 1935 production of Private Worlds, and although the film was not a huge success, Charles Boyer was. The American screen had nothing like him, and it soon became apparent that women especially were captivated by his voice, his accent, and...those eyes! Boyer would make a few more European films, most notably Mayerling in 1936, but from 1935 on he became a bonafide Hollywood movie star and there was no turning back.

 

Boyer had acquired an agent, Charles Feldman, who believed that at this stage of his American career, Boyer needed the security of firm commitments. Boyer did make series of films for certain studios and producers, but he was almost unique, for those days, in that he never signed a long-term contract with any one of them.

The Boyers settled down and began to take advantage of his being a movie star. Along with a house in Beverly Hills (near Pickfair, no less!), they purchased new cars, a cabin cruiser, and a beach cottage -- they had "gone Hollywood", and fully enjoyed it.

But it was not in Boyer's temperament to live the wild lifestyle of some of his contemporaries; even his good friends referred to him as a "stick-in-the-mud". He had his own interests and ones he shared with his wife. One was reading: "He spoke, often in great complaint, of what he had not read," said friend Andre Daven. "There was so much he wanted to read...fiction of every type, the classics, modern novelists, and history -- history of all places and of all periods."

And of course there was his work: the late thirties and early forties were Boyer's peak years as a star and audiences could not get enough of the dapper Frenchman.

Graumann's Chinese Theater
Image courtesy Rosemary S., U.K.

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