Peter Boyle, R.I.P.

125832__boyle_lPeter Boyle, who died Tuesday at 71 after battling multiple myeloma and heart disease, was best-known for playing the grumpiest father in modern television in Everybody Loves Raymond, and for his classic scene in 1974’s Young Frankenstein, in which his melancholy monster broke into a tap-dance routine to the tune of “Puttin’ On The Ritz.”

Boyle was a complicated, fascinating man. Raymond may have made him rich and a household face, but he’d made his breakthrough decades earlier in the title role of Joe, the 1970 film in which he starred as a bigoted hard-hat construction worker who wreaked a murderous vengeance upon that era’s hippies. As was true of his committed performance as Frank Barone, Joe briefly stereotyped the prematurely-balding Boyle as a conservative icon, "It was a very strange experience,” Boyle once told The New York Times. “People coming up and saying, ‘That’s what they ought to do with all these hippies.’ I was in an identity crisis." That’s because Joe’s opinions couldn’t have been further from Boyle’s own life and many of his acting choices, which tended to be leftist and countercultural. Let me just throw this fact out for a start: John Lennon was the best man at Boyle’s 1977 wedding to Laraine Alterman, one of the first prominent female rock-music writers. (They had two children.)

addCredit(“Peter Boyle: Kevin Parry/”)

Boyle was frequently at the center of tumultuous pop-culturemoments. Born outside of Philadelphia in 1935, Boyle did brief stints inthe Navy and then in a monastery in training as a monk. He driftedinto acting, working with the Second City improvisational troupe, andwas among those tear-gassed during Chicago’s 1968 Democratic Convention. (Itwas an experience he would relive, in a way, in two films: HaskellWexler’s groundbreaking 1969 cinema vérité timebomb Medium Cool, and the 1987 HBO film Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago Eight.) With his friend Jane Fonda, with whom he costarred in the 1973 anti-Establishment comedy Steelyard Blues,he attended many anti-Vietnam War rallies. (I remember one night in thelate ‘70s being in a restaurant interviewing Bonnie Raitt when shestopped talking, jumped up and hugged Boyle, who was passing our table.“Hey, you’re gonna be at the No Nukes rally, right?” she asked. “Youknow it, sweetie!” he said with a huge grin.)

As Boyle went into middle-age, he alternated jobs probably taken for money, such as piddly movies like Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979) and The In Crowd (1988), with riskier projects like the Hunter Thompson biopic Where The Buffalo Roam (1980) and the excellent, short-lived TV series Joe Bash (1986), in which he played a lonely, sensitive beat cop. And of course, anyone who’s seen Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) probably remembers Boyle’s turn as the hardbitten cabbie The Wizard.

Boyle’s occasional work on the stage was distinguished. In the early ’80s, he co-starred with Tommy Lee Jones in the original New York Public Theater production of Sam Shepard’s knock-down, drag-out True West. In ’96, he won an Emmy for one of every sensible X Files-nut’s favorite episodes, taking the title role in “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” as a man who could see future deaths.

Even after he became a prime-time star in Raymond, it was great that Boyle still had the desire and skills to take a role such as the unforgivable racist in Monster’s Ball (2001). The next time you watch Frank Barone mutter and whine in an Everybody Loves Raymond rerun, remember that Peter Boyle was a very cool guy.

Comments (94 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2 3 7
  • aramis

    “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” to this day is one of my favorite episodes of XFiles.
    And his performance in “Monster’s Ball” was chilling.
    He was a great actor, may he R.I.P.

  • Honeybee111

    RIP, Peter Boyle, you created interesting, enlightening characters. You could be funny, sad, brilliant and irascible – but I think you were probably at your most interesting just being you.

  • Stephanie Travitsky

    His chemistry with Ray Romano and his quick wit were what made E.L.R. so funny. Television and movies have lost a good man.

  • Jakeem

    I am totally stunned because I was thinking about him last night. Frank Barone’s “Holy crap!” came in at No. 79 on TVLand’s ongoing list of “The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases.”
    My favorite all-time episode of the “X-Files” is “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose,” too. Thank goodness he won an Emmy for that.

  • Joe

    I’m usually indifferent when someone in the entertainment business passes away, but I do get somber and teary-eyed when someone of such underrated talent leaves us. Peter Boyle belongs on the Mount Rushmore of character actors. R.I.P., man, you’ll definitely be missed.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so saddened by this great loss. Peter Boyle, you made watching television such a joy to watch. We’re all going to miss you and your wry sense of humor so much.

  • Ep Sato

    I need 2006 to end like NOW. We have lost some great celebs this year, and not even a few weeks ago we were all joking about Boyle’s fantastic performance in Young Frankenstein.
    Could we please not lose any more of pop culture’s big contributors in the few weeks remaining year? It’s been a heartbreaker, and this one was unexpected.
    As always, I send love and regards to Mr. Boyle’s family, as we have lost yet another great.

  • Sarah

    We will miss you Peter! You did a fantastic job not only on Everybody Loves Raymond but also in “While You Were Sleeping”. Our prayers are with your family.

  • Erica

    I enjoyed his work in Young Frankenstein and in The Dream Team. In The Dream Team he was a mental patient who believed he was God. In one scene he was in the hospital and he told another patience Go ahead and walk, my son. The patient got up (believing he was God) and fell to the floor. He was hilarious.
    I immensely enjoyed him as Frank Barrone. That character reminded me a lot of my dad. I felt his character made the show. I lived to see what would come out of his mouth.

  • Daniel

    Too young to die. You will be sorely missed Mr. Boyle. This is such a sad day.

  • Katyna Singleton

    I always enjoyed Peter Boyle, but it was as Clyde Bruckman that I have the fondest memory of him. His appearance on the X-Files remains my favorite episode of any show that has been on tv before or since.
    He was an amazing actor and really gave life to any performance. May his memory live forever.

  • ummm

    A great tribute.
    Who knew? I was surprised countless times while reading this.
    Not only a great actor that will be terribly missed.
    A great man-and one heck of a cool guy too.

  • Robert

    Peter Boyle will most definitely be missed.
    His range as an actor, his passions as a human being, and his presence as a person brought class and dignity to this world.
    Somewhere, quietly, I will shed a tear for his family, and then I will remember him best by laughing through “Puttin’ on the Ritz’ in YF, for I think he would want to be remembered and honored with the laughter he was so effective at eliciting.

  • Steve Body

    My own 35+ year acting career can be directly traced to watching “Joe” as an artsy, unfocused high school junior and seeing a performance so unaffected and fully-committed that it changed everything I thought I knew about acting. He disappeared so completely into that role, mingling the ugliness, misery, fear, and humor so effortlessly that you can’t blame those arch-conservatives who mistook Boyle the Actor for Joe the Misanthrope. I already knew a little about him and I bought it completely. Over many years, I saw him invest that way in every single role he took, from the Frankenstein monster to Clyde Bruckman to Frank Barone. He never appeared to be sitting inside his own performance, critiqueing his every move. Watching him was the epitome of art without ARTifice, which is the truest form of art. I met him once, in Washington, DC, after a play we both attended and he couldn’t have been more gracious, humble, or down-to-earth. Many thanks, Peter, for all the teaching-by-example. American acting is far better for your presence.

  • Joel Sagar

    A great actor with excellent comic timing. I thoroughly enjoyed E.L.R. because of him. A great loss to TV & Film Industry. RIP Peter Boyle!

Page: 1 2 3 7
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by VIP