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Charles Boyer (1897-1978)


  1. Lew  Ayres, The Kiss, 1929.        Paul Bern's plan for Greta Garbo's (and MGM's) final silent movie.
  2. Paul Muni, The Good Earth, 1936.    Chinese and Caucasian actors often tested for the same roles. Hence, Boyer was seen for Wang Lung. Muni was loaned by Warner to MGM in exchange for Robert Montomgery making Ever Since Eve. This was the only film with a credit for MGM’s in-house genius, Irving Thalberg - after his shock death at 36.  His boss, LB Mayer, had told him: “The public won't buy pictures about American farmers, and you want to give them Chinese farmers?”  Thalberg, as usual, was right - three Oscars from six nominations! 
  3. Ronald Colman, If I Were King, 1937.   The Frenchman passed the French vagabond poet François Villon to the Englishman.   William Farnum who played General Barbezier, was the first movie Villon… in 1919.
  4. Edward G Robinson, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse, 1938.     Better than Robinson as the shrink in a gangster's nest said the memos to Jack Warner, who also spurned  any idea of Ronald  Colman, Melvyn Douglas, Cary Grant - or Bette Davis.
  5. Laurence Olivier, Wuthering Heights, 1938.
  6. Ray Milland, Hotel Imperial, 1939.       Shooting began as I Loved A Soldier in  1936,  Marlene Dietrich quit, Margaret Sullavan was injured replacing her - and the film was shelved until re-cast. Meantime, Boyer and Dietrich entered The Garden of Allah.
  7. Fredric March, Victory, 1940.      Joseph Conrad’s  tropical island hermit called Hendrik Heyst was first to be played by John Howard as Paramount tried to make a star of him. Next came Charles Boyer and finally March. Cecil C De Mille rejected the third Paramount version sin ec 1919.  “I managed to read it all…  Just not interesting enough to bother with a film.”  And yet the Harrison’s Reports called it “somewhat sordid… somewhat brutal.” So right up CB’s street.
  8. Paul Henreid, Joan of Paris, 1941.Cary Grant passed  on WWII heroics, leading to the Hollywood debut of not only the Austrian Henreid but the French Michèle Morgan.  Also up for the WWII French Resistance leader Paul Lavallier were fellow Frenchies Charles Boyer and Jean Gabin (Morgan’s co-star in  the classsic Le quai des brumes, 1938). Also, Hollywood’s Thomas Mitchell and - somewhat  surprisingly - the unprepossessing Brit, Robert Morley.  Well, then again, he had  been  the French King Louis XVI in MGM’s Marie Antoinette in  1937.  Morley would  later claim that  he played the mad British  King George III in Beau Brummell, 1953, “in exactly the same way as Louis XVI. But no one noticed.  You see, I’d changed  my wig.”
  9. Paul Lukas, Watch on the Rhine, 1942.     Boyer and  Paul Henreid tested for Kurt Mulller, finally reprised from Lilian Hellman’s  anti-fascist Broadway hit by Lukas – as a German patriot hounded by Nazis in Washington, DC. Bette Davis had the support role of his American wife, almost as a thank you to Hellman for creating her 1941 fjlm, The Little Foxes. Bette Davisj thanking someone?! All; rather suprisingthat  producer Hal B Wallis was put off by Boyer’s accent.  Never an issue before in the Frenchman’s Hollywood career. Indeed,  eet was ze verray reason pour ’is ’Ollyvood career!
  10. Ray Milland, The  Crystal Ball, 1943.    Or how Charles Boyer-Ginger Rogers became Ray Milland-Paulette Goddard in the ex-Redheads Are Dangerous from actor-writer-producer-director Elliott Nugent.

  11. Arturo de Córdova, Frenchman’s Creek, 1943.     English lady. French pirate. Love at eight bells. Boyer was perfect for Daphne Du Maurier’s buccaneer Jean Benoit Aubrey. Yet Hollywood fell for a Mexican star trying his luck in Hollywood. Not. For. Long.
  12. William Eythe, A Royal Scandal, 1944. The great Ernst Lubitsch was ill. The not so great Otto Preminger took over direction -  ignoring The Master’s sumptuous choice of Greta Garbo (oh yeah!) and Boyer as her latest toy-boy, Alexei Chernoff.
  13. Claude Rains, This Love Of Ours, 1944.   Universal grabbed the rghts to the Pirandello play for Boyer - and, suggested director William Dieterle, why not Ingrid Bergman? They passed it to Rains and Merle Oberon.
  14. Rex Harrison, Anna and the King of Siam, 1945.     After musing about two Brits, Harrison and Ralph Richardson, plus Hollywood stars Robert Montgomery and William Powell, the French smoothie inherited King Mongkut’s throne - opposite Dorothy McGuire as his children’s governess.   Before being de-throned by Harrison and Irene Dunne. 
  15. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, The Lady in Ermine, 1947. Boyer and the 13-year younger Cornel Wilde were considered by director Ernst Lubitsch for Hungarian Colonel Ladislas Karolyi Teglas conquering Countess Betty Grable’s Bergamo and falling for her and the ghost of great-great-grandmother, Countess Francesca… leading to Betty’s daffy song, Ooo, What I'll Do to that Wild Hungarian. Tragically, Lubitsch died in mid-shoot and Otto Preminger finished off the movie… in a manner of speaking.
  16. Orson Welles, Black Magic (aka Cagliostro), 1949.     Producer Edward Small’s first plan - in 1943 - was Boyer as the notorious 18th Century alchemist, soothsayer, medium, “miraculous healer” and (behind it all) hypnotist. Next? George Sanders in Mexico, except that was not as cheap as Small hoped. And so, Orson Welles in Italy... having, he said, the most fun ever on a movie.
  17. Robert Mitchum, My Forbidden Past, 1950.      As part of her $150,000 (plus 10%) per film  deal, Ann Sheridan  had script, director and co-star approval. When Young had to leave, she listed her choices of replacements: Boyer, Richard Conte, John Lund, Robert Mitchum, Franchot Tone. Then, Howard Hughes bought RKO, dumped Sheridan and partnered  Mitchum with Ava  Gardner. 
  18. Victor Francen, Hell and High Water, 1953.      Head Fox Darryl F Zanuck first wanted Boyer as Professor Montel. Then, again, DFZ was far busier in promoting his latest French wench, Bayla Wegier, re-named Bella Darvi - made up from Dar(ryl Zanuck) and, Vi(rginia), his wife, who did not seem to know what was going on between DFZ and B.  
  19. Paul Lukas, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 1953.      Too busy to be Jules Verne’s Professor Arronax. And everyone suffered… Lukas was forever having trouble with his lines and then “he’d blow up at somebody,” reported director Richard Fleischer. Things got so bad on the set that Lukas even threatened to sue Fleischer, Walt Disney, Kirk Douglas and a great friend, Peter Lorre!  Probably because they didn't forget their lines?
  20. Jean Gabin, French Cancan, 1955.        Gabin hated other's leavings. He knew Boyer had refused Danglard, the Moulin  Rouge creator. But he made an exception  for this was special... his  first film in colour.

  21. Rick Jason, The Wayward Bus, 1957 When Marilyn Monroe , so  cruelly scorned by her studio, astounded us in Bus Stop, Fox dusted down John Steinbeck’s busload of Chaucerian passengers to do the same for Jayne Mansfield. (Hah!).  The main couple of the bus driver and his wife (running the pitstop diner) went from  the unlikely Franco-British Boyer-Gertrude Lawrence to Marlon Brando-Jennifer Jones to Robert Mitchum-Susan Hayward to Richard Widmark-Gene Tierney to, finally, Rick Jason-Joan Collins.  Others announced for Alice, as producers  kept changing, were Barbara Bel Geddes,  Geraldine Page and  Shelley Winters.  Incidentally,  Marilyn’s bus driver, Robert Bray, turned up here as a chopper pilot hovering  around  Joan Collins. (He then blew his career by refusing South Pacific).
  22. Rossano Brazzi, South Pacific, 1957. Broadway’s Emile De Becque - Ezio Pinza - died that year and stage-screen director Joshua Logan wanted Fernando Lamas to take over. However, he was committed to his own Broadway show, Happy Hunting. Boyer, Vittorio De Sica and Howard Keel also tested. Brazzi’s singing came from, as the credits put it, “The Voice of Giorgio Tozzi.”
  23. Jacques Dacqumine, A double tour (UK: Web of Passion; US: Leda), France-Italy, 1959.    For his third nouvelle vague drama (his first in colour), auteur Claude Chabrol wanted the Hollywood French old-timer. “I found him magnificent in George Cukor’s Gaslight.” Sure... but that was in 1944.
  24. James Mason, The Marriage Go-Round, 1959.       Co-playwright Leslie Stevens wanted the same Broadway couple, Boyer and Claudette Colbert. Instead, they became Mason and Susan Hayward. Sole Broadway star reprising was Julie Newmar as the ravishing Swedish woman wanting her US college professor host to sire her baby.  Echoing Dietrich and George Bernard Shaw. 
  25. James Mason, Lolita, 1960. 
  26. Charles Vanel, L'Ainé des Ferchaux, 1962.       Inspired as much by Howard Hughes as the Simenon novel, Une jeune homme  honorable,  director Jean-Pierre  Melville wanted a genuine US aura around Belmondo's co-star.  Spencer Tracy was too old, Boyer not old enough “and, anyway, too good-looking.” He was old enough to  join  Belmondo in Stavisky, 1973.
  27. Michel Serrault, Les fantômes du chapelier (US: The Hatter’s Ghost), France, 1981.      Chabrol + Simenon, enfin!   The father of la nouvelle vague had to wait ten years to work with his favourite writer, Georges Simenon (an earlier plan,  Le Sang dans a la tete, with  Jean Gabin never bore fruit). However, “Cha-Cha” could not entice Boyer. Again.
  28. Daniel Olbrychski,  La truite,  France, 1982.        Part of the  1962 plan of exiled US director Joseph Losey.






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