future American raves!
Boyer and Merle Oberon in the picture
"Thunder in the East."
was teacher's pet and her despair at one and the same time. She couldn't,
she said, "understand me." I was rather good at all the
studies I cared about -- Latin, all of the languages, in fact; history
raphy. I liked anything which I could dramatize, with myself as the
central figure. And I could dramatize history and geography. While
studying the latter, I would imagine myself scaling the Matterhorn,
exploring the mighty Amazon, riding the western prairies of America.
I always saw myself as one or another of the great figures in history.
I would go home one afternoon and pretend to be Atilla conq-
uering the Huns! Another day I would be one of the Louis's clad in
some satin breeches of a departed Boyer,
my face and hair whitened with my mother's talcum powder. But about
the studies which bored me I was obstinate. I said that I would not
brother with things I could not use. I have not changed in this.
"And," said Charles, with that enchanting
smile of his, half mockery, half earnestness, "I was always in
love. From my earliest recollection I was in love with one small Mademoiselle
or another. In this respect I did change later. As we shall see. In
Figeac, you know, as in all small French towns, boys and girls do
not go to school together. Therefore, from the beginning, girls were
more of a mystery to me than they are to American schoolboys. They
were forbidden fruit. We did not meet them as competitors in the classrooms.
We had no rough and tumble play with them on school playgrounds. We
"Consequently, I was greatly intrigued
with these mystical creatures. They were created, I thought solely
to be fallen in love with. And I obeyed that unwritten law of life.
"I learned early to connive for rendezvous.
I became very adept at passing notes to the object of my affections,
when I passed her on the street. I always managed to make friends
with the brother of some especially enchanting little Mam'selle and
then he was pressed into service as a go-between -- delivering notes
for me, small sticky packages of sweets and other tokens of affection.
"I spent all of my allowances on these
ruffled enchantresses," smiled Charles. "I may be said to
have 'sown my wild oats' around the age of six!"
you don't remember that Charles
played the chauffeur in Jean Harlow's
picture "Red-Headed Woman!"
it was a state of being in love, more than anything else. For now,
today, the faces of all those little girls are blurred to me -- they
have become a composite, lovely but without individuality. When I
now return to Figeac and meet this or that lady of my own age, I look
at her and wonder, were you one of them. . . .?"
Charles was possessed of a most amazing memory. At the age of three
he took to reciting, word for word, "The Passion," a difficult
and complicated religious writing from the Bible. He began, very early,
to shine in school theatricals. At the age of eight he was giving
one-man concerts. At the age of nine he was playing such parts as
"Cyrano de Bergerac" and other tremendous roles. Shakespeare
ran off his tongue as fluently as nursery rhymes from the lips of
He said to me, "I had no self-consciousness whatever. I was inclined
to be shy in 'private life,' so to speak. I still am. But on the stage,
facing an audience, I felt far more natural and at ease than at any
other time or place. I never experienced stage fright. I think this
was because I really became the character I was playing. I forgot
that I was Charles Boyer, aged eight or nine, and believed, with all
my heart, that I was Cyrano, Lysander, any character I was playing.
I still believe sincerely that I am the character I play. From infancy
the stage was my real life, the veritable substance -- and all of
the rest was shadow.