Here are some of my favorite Charles Boyer movies: Liliom
Oh, this is the version for me, before the musical and after the Borzage film. The Lang film has a much drier feeling than any other version, relying on humor, making the tragedy more powerful, and more universal. Boyer is marvelous, his humor and somewhat lackadaisical qualities set the tone for the film. They offset the intensity of his self-loathing, the thing that makes him lash out at Julie. The way he shrugs the whole thing off at the end is wonderful. He is everyman, not good, not evil, but somewhere in between, lazy, pushed from pillar to post by a nameless, stupid bureaucracy. Even in heaven, life is the same! Lang really got this one right - this is how I pictured the play when I read it in school. Boyer is PERFECT, cynical, deadbeat, unwilling to make the effort until the end, and when he does, he sees that nothing much is different or changed by his attempts to do right. Even with such cynical themes, I find the movie oddly uplifting, knowing that we are all the same, with great faults, but with great capabilities.History is Made at Night
I watched this one last week and realized I had seen it before - it is swooningly romantic, funny, heartbreaking, oh, I just loved it. Boyer took that role and created an entire world around it. It is solely due to his performance that we see the sophistication of Paris. He creates the whole city of light when he speaks, the way he holds himself, his carriage, the way he dances, the way he loves. He IS Paris. When he tells Jean Arthur that "a well-bred man does not tell a woman all that he longs to tell her".....well, there is this incredible, deep, longing, passionate pause halfway through the line.... that pause, and the look in his eyes reveals everything, a true, deep love, to us. It must have made women ga-ga from New York to San Francisco. It makes me blush, 73 years later. The Garden of Allah
Just dive in and watch. Yes, it's silly. But YOU WON"T CARE. Tovarich
I have a theory. Charles Boyer is not an actor that the young can appreciate. You must have some experience in life to really understand him. He is an acquired taste, like fine wine, or pate. You come to appreciate him over time. I never liked him much when I was a kid, up all night, watching old movies. He never did anything for me. But I knew I loved Charles Boyer after watching this movie. I was eighteen or so. I don't remember one bit of it, except for a blackmail(?) scene, and Boyer's classy and very serious response. I fell for that heavy lidded, noble guy like a ton of bricks. I long to see it again. Tales of Manhattan
I watch this film whenever it is on, for two sections - The Charles Boyer section, and the Edward G. Robinson section. Boyer is wonderfully dark and ironic as Paul Orman. Cynical, he knows full well that if he falls for Rita, he will be making a huge mistake, but well, he is Charles Boyer, and cannot stop himself. Rita remains....fickle. I love his final scenes here, the overall feeling of doom, and the twist in the plot. All This and Heaven Too
is another favorite for his sadness and for the veneer he puts on at the beginning. How he and Davis can make love without ever once touching is really remarkable. And again, this film veers into darkness as Boyer deludes himself into thinking that murder will make everything alright.
, That humor is gone. I know some here don't like the film, but I really like Boyer's performance. He subverts his charm until all we see is his want. He pares his performance down to one thing - he is so very cold and methodical in his quest, completely devoid of feeling, except as it applies to his need for jewels. He becomes warmer as he reaches his goal, his true love, the jewels. He is conducting a love affair with the jewels and nothing must stand in the way. It is clear by the end that he is a madman, driven so by those glittering drops of ice, always out of reach.
There are more of his movies that I like, but I don't want to bore people. I watch any that are on, always.
Boyer at his best is able to convey desperation, sometimes delusion, incredible depth of feeling, thoughtfulness, great charm, and a sense of ironic humor - you can feel him laughing at the world, the world which mocks him. He laughs too, at himself. In the worst moments of betrayal or heartache he seems to be saying, "It's funny, really. Why aren't you laughing?"
He throws himself into the moment - I especially like it when he is forced to break a sweat. One of my favorite moments in History is Made at Night is when he is trying madly to make Jean Arthur go onto the lifeboat, to no avail. I really believe him, as he frantically shouts at her to go back. I believe that he is that wonderful man who would sacrifice himself for her well-being.
He also has an ability, despite his ironic bent, to exhibit a sweet belief in the magic of life, and a belief in youth that is shown in too few films.
And that is what makes Cluny Brown
such a joy to watch. I love Belinski almost more than any other character - so worldly, and yet so unsure of himself where Cluny is concerned. He is thrown off-balance by this little plumber, but he is so protective, and it is maybe his most charming role.
I haven't seen some of Boyer's best performances yet - like Mayerling
, The Earrings of Madame de....
, The Constant Nymph
(I have a copy that I've been saving thanks to a lovely friend here), Hold Back the Dawn
, and The First Legion
. I can't wait to see them, and I want to revisit Tovarich
, Arch of Triumph
, and Confidential Agent
I have rattled on far
too much here, but I would like to post some pictures. I have collected a lot of them over time, and would love to share them with you.