Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Putting on his final Ritz

Peter Boyle is dead.

No, really.

I say, "No, really," because Boyle's death has been reported in error before.

As proof, I hold in my chubby fist a copy of Danny Peary's book Cult Movie Stars, published by Simon and Schuster in 1991. On page 70 of this otherwise fine reference work, Peary states that Boyle died in 1990, as you can see in the scan below. (Click on the image to expand the text to actual size.)

Of course, if that were true, I'd have no idea who that guy was who played Ray Romano's wiseacre dad all those years on Everybody Loves Raymond — a show that debuted in 1996, six years after Boyle slipped the surly bonds of earth, according to Peary's book. Or who won an Emmy that same year for a guest-starring appearance on The X-Files.

Since I reject the notion of human clones and doppelgangers outside of comic books and other fantasy fiction, I have to believe that Peary was mistaken, and that Boyle indeed survived until last evening.

(Here's what I suspect happened: Boyle suffered a massive stroke in 1990, which left him partially paralyzed and speech-impaired for several months. Danny Peary and his editors were probably sending Cult Movie Stars to the printer right at the time of Boyle's stroke, and given the severity of the attack as reported in the entertainment press, supposed that the actor would not survive. Rather than have the book appear immediately dated by the time it hit bookstores, they decided to roll the dice and reflect Boyle's death in his biographical sketch. Then, as fate would have it, Boyle not only pulled through, but he recovered fully and went on to costar in a long-running TV series — making Peary look like a colossal idiot.)

Like most movie fans, I'll always think of Peter Boyle first and foremost as the friendly monster in the classic Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein ("That's Frahnkensteen!"). The scene where Boyle wanders into the home of a blind man, played to perfection by a heavily disguised Gene Hackman, remains one of the truly inspired comedic moments in the history of cinema. But he was also excellent as Robert Redford's campaign manager in The Candidate, as Robert DeNiro's fellow cabbie in Taxi Driver, as Billy Bob Thornton hostile invalid father in Monster's Ball, and a host of other roles I could cite.

An interesting character on- and off-camera, Boyle spent three years as a Catholic monk in his young adulthood. Later, he became close friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono — according to some of Boyle's obituaries, Lennon was the best man at Boyle's wedding.

Sadly, this time, the reports of Boyle's death are not exaggerated.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

I didnt know he had "died" before. I do know Abe Vigoda has "died". Numerous times now in fact.

4:36 PM  

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