Friday, June 6, 2014

John Love Boles: Spy, Star, Hunk

I admit it – I’m a little gaga over early sound star John Love Boles (yes, that is his real middle name – so fitting, don’t you think?). In an era filled with stalwart and woodenly handsome leading men, John Boles fit the bill but proved to be oh so much more.
 
No - I am not Warner Baxter!
Spoiler: if you like your boys bad, stop reading.

He was a spy!!!
 
Shaken and Stirred
Yes, it’s true. John Love Boles (I love writing that) was born in 1895 in Texas. His parents wanted their boy to be a doctor, and being, a good son, he studied and got a degree (B.A.). He also married his college sweetheart and stayed married for life (!!). But, evidently there was something brewing beneath the surface.

While attending the University of Texas, Boles joined the army during World War I and served as a spy in Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey. I am coming up dry on this claim and would love to know more about these exploits. Was he an early James Bond?

Proving that you can’t keep ‘em down on the farm after they've seen Paree (or Turkey), JLB moved to New York to study voice and his matinee idol looks and creamy baritone lead him to starring roles on Broadway. After a false start in Hollywood, sharp-eyed Gloria Swanson spotted him back on Broadway and just knew she needed him for her leading man in her next film, "The Love of Sunya" (1927). Boles scored a huge success, even though his golden voice was not heard in the silent film.
 
With Gloria Swanson in "The Love of Sunya."
Gloria always could spot a winner!

So, how lucky for Mr. John Love Boles that the sound revolution and the explosive popularity of musical films and his rising stardom all dovetailed at the same moment? Warner Brothers knew they had a winner when they cast him as the dashing Red Shadow in the 1929 Technicolor production of “The Desert Song.”. Sadly, this film only survives as a black and white print and some pre-code high jinks have been lost.


Things only got better for our man with RKO’s super-hit, "Rio Rita." Here, he and Bebe Daniels wowed audiences with their beauty and vocal talents.


Sure, these old musicals creak, but their charm, high spirits and genuine joy survive intact. Here are JLB and Evelyn Laye getting all sexy in 1931's "One Heavenly Night."


Sadly for Boles, the musical craze died as quickly as it raged, but fear not. Our multi-talented man could act! Remember him in “Frankenstein”?



“Back Street”?



“Stella Dallas”?



"Curly Top"?

Some of Boles' other well known films are "The Age of Innocence," "The Song of the West," "Stand Up and Cheer," "The White Parade," and "Craig's Wife." He also re-teamed with Swanson in her musical debut, "Music in the Air."

He worked steadily, if quietly, through the 1930s and, in 1943, he returned to Broadway to appear in the hit play, “One Touch of Venus” with Mary Martin. He then happily toured the supper clubs and finally decided to head back home to Texas, where he became a successful oilman.

Was there nothing this man couldn't do?

All the while, his wife of over 50 years was by his side. By all accounts, his was a happy and fulfilled life. Hmmm… handsome, talented, and nice...that pretty much sums up John Love Boles.
 
Who says nice guys finish last?



11 comments:

Inge Gregusch said...

Excellent writing and illustrations as always. A fascinating actor and man I knew very little about. Thanks FC!

karen said...

I've seen him so many times, but now I have a better appreciation of him. Thanks. Karen Reilly

said...

Curly Top... THAT'S where I've seen him for the first time! Great bio post, I learned a lot. And I also learned guys whose middle name is Love ought to bee cool.
Kisses!

FlickChick said...

Thanks as always, Inge. I'll bet this man had a lot of amazing stories to tell.

FlickChick said...

Hi Karen - thank you for stopping by and spending some time with Mr. Boles.

FlickChick said...

Le - don't you just love that his middle name was Love?

Silver Screenings said...

I knew very little about him too! I "LOVE" hearing that he was married for such a long time. Very rare in Hollywood, no?

FlickChick said...

Silver Screenings - he seems like such a good guy - probably would make for a boring bio, but a swell friend.

Jazzy Moe said...

Strange you can't find from his leading ladies as to how was he to work with.

Keen on Keane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Boles Gal #1 said...

Just thought I'd let you know I am currently working on a book on John. I'll keep you posted. And yes, he was dreamy wasn't he? You know his mother's maiden name was Love. Hence how he got the middle name. So we can thank his mom for a lot ;-)