Charles Boyer was born in the country town of Figeac in Southwestern France on August 28 1899.
(click here to see C.B.'s birth home as it is today)

Charles was an only child, born to Maurice and Louise Boyer. His father Maurice was a self-educated man, a merchant who dealt in farming implements and coal; his mother Louise was an amateur musician. Her son would recall: "When I was a little boy, my mother seemed always to be singing arias from the grand opera, and I had the distinct impression that no one enjoyed hearing her." Charles was a precocious child, and something of an introvert. "I did not dislike other children but I had more to say to adults. I was a very old man with a strong resemblance to a little boy, with whom other children had difficulty in forming friendships."

When Charles was ten years old, his father died suddenly of a stroke. His mother Louise sold the family business and concentrated on raising her son as a young gentleman of leisure.

At the age of 11, Charles was smitten with both the cinema and professional theatre. The town of Figeac had a small movie theatre that he frequented whenever possible, and he and his mother also made trips to Paris where they took in plays. Mme. Boyer tried to pretend that her son's infatuation with dramatics was only a phase, convinced that he would eventually become a doctor or a lawyer, or even a priest.

Charles entered the College Champollion, where his academic career suffered from his constant attention to reading plays, reading history of the theatre, reading anything but what his studies required. He was a volunteer orderly at a local hospital when the War broke out, and he began to entertain the convalescing soldiers with revue sketches, engaging nurses and other civilians as fellow performers. He also began to act in college productions. Performing enabled the introvert to become someone else, anyone else, and Charles reveled in his success.

Toward the end of the War, a film company came to a nearby village to do some location shooting, and the budding actor was offered a bit part in a group scene. As a film debut, it was singularly inauspicious, but with the help of the leading actor in the production, Charles was able to persuade his mother that he needed to go to Paris and seriously pursue an acting career. She in turn convinced him not to abandon his formal education entirely, and Charles left Figeac in 1918 to enroll at the Sorbonne. He would not return to his birthplace for more than 30 years.

As was to be expected, Charles neglected his studies at the Sorbonne and lapped up the society of post-War Paris with enthusiasm, mingling as much as possible with theatre people. His socializing paid off: in 1920 he was called in as an emergency replacement for the leading man in the play Les Jardins de Murcie. Friends had conveyed to the play's director that Charles had the uncanny ability to memorize entire plays almost on sight. The director took a chance, and the somberly handsome young Boyer was an overnight sensation in the part. Charles was accepted at the Conservatoire National Superior de Musique et de Declamation, an advanced professional program for artists and actors, where he at last began to study in earnest. He obtained roles in plays, and although a dedicated stage actor, was not immune to the financial lure of motion pictures -- he became one of the busiest actors in Paris. By the mid-1920s he had obtained such status that his acceptance of a role would guarantee a play's production, and film offers increased accordingly as well.

It was inevitable that Hollywood would beckon, and Boyer's invitation came from Paul Bern of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Although quite fluent in German, Italian and Spanish, Charles had absolutely no English. Yet the salary offered him ($400 a week) seemed phenonomenal to him and he agreed to give MGM a try. And he enjoyed himself -- he loved America, he loved the people, and especially, he loved "all thees mon-ee"!                     continue

 

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