R.I.P. Peter Boyle
I was joking around with my kids about something surprising in the household and my then-9-year-old middle daughter piped up with an enthusiastic response: "Holy Crap!"
As a parent, I was chagrined that my kid had picked up such a phrase from the crusty Frank Barone character on Everybody Loves Raymond. But I was also secretly pleased that my daughter had learned something I'd known since sitting in a dark theater in 1974, watching him ham up a portrayal of the Frankenstein monster in Mel Brooks' most excellent Young Frankenstein.
Peter Boyle is one hell of a comic actor.
According to the Web site TMZ.com and the Associated Press, Boyle died at New York Presbyterian Hospital, after suffering from multiple myeloma and heart disease. I'd noticed that Boyle -- who has had a heart attack and a stroke since 1990 -- seemed weak and a little out-of-it during some interviews on the end of Raymond's run lastyear, and wondered if something serious was afoot.
Boyle, who seemed in person to be a free-spirited artist, seemed to enjoy the contradiction of nailing signature roles as crusty, closed-off, conservative jerks. The guy who was close enough to John Lennon that the Beatle was Best Man at his 1977 wedding, played a murderous anti-hippie bigot (think a darkly relaistic Archie Bunker) in the classic 1970 movie Joe; red-baiting Sen. Joe McCarthy in the TV movie Tail Gunner Joe and, of course Frank Barone.
Maybe in heaven he'll get that Emmy the academy was never smart enough to hand him in this world. Check his What I've Learned interview with Esquire from 2002. And his sidesplitting duet with Gene Wilder on "Puttin' on the Ritz" from Young Frankestein on YouTube.
UPDATE: I see my pals at Stuck in the 80s have listed their Top 5 Boyle movies. I wonder, blogfriends, what you think? Got any cool Boyle moments to share here?
UPDATE, PART II: A&E's Biography series will re-run its episode on Boyle at 8 p.m. Saturday. Here's a description:
"Educated in Roman Catholic schools in his hometown of Philadelphia, Boyle spent three years in a world as far removed from acting as one might imagine. However, once he determined that his life was best spent wearing robes of a different color, he decamped for New York to study with famed teacher Uta Hagen. From there, the one-time friend of John Lennon (who was best man at Boyle’s wedding), landed roles in commercials, off-Broadway plays and, finally, films. It was here that Boyle first gained notice as angry working-man bigot in 1975’s sleeper hit, the Oscar-nominated Joe. Shrugging off type-casting, he then made a name for himself as the unforgettable singing, dancing Frankenstein monster in Brook’s classic farce. From here, Boyle starred in dozens of TV and film projects, winning an Emmy for a guest-starring role on “The X Files,” and seven nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his indelible ensemble work on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” And although he suffered a stroke in 1990 and an on-set heart attack in ’99, Boyle, who made New York home, always returned quickly to a job that defined him."