John Boles (actor)

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John Boles
John Boles - Motion Picture, July 1930.jpg
Boles in 1930
Born(1895-10-28)October 28, 1895
DiedFebruary 27, 1969(1969-02-27) (aged 73)
Occupation(s)Actor, singer
Years active1922–1952
SpouseMarcelite Dobbs (m.1917–1969; his death)

John Boles (October 28, 1895 – February 27, 1969)[1] was an American singer and actor best known for playing Victor Moritz in the 1931 film Frankenstein.

Early life[edit]

Boles was born in Greenville, Texas to a middle-class family. He graduated from the University of Texas[2] in 1917.[note 1][3] Boles served in the intelligence service of the U.S. Army during World War I.[4] He returned to Greenville, where he was selected by an out-of-town producer to act in an opera at the King Opera House. This experience convinced John that he preferred music and the stage to the preference of his parents, who wanted him to pursue a medical degree.

While en route to a career as actor and singer, Boles earned a living by teaching French and singing in a high school in New York state and working as business manager and interpreter for a one-year tour of Europe by a student group. The latter venture led to his studying under tenor Jean de Reszke.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Boles married Marcelite Dobbs (1896-1982) in 1917, and they remained married until his death; they are interred at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles.


Lobby card for Rio Rita (1929)

He started out in Hollywood in silent movies, but became a huge star with the advent of talkies. After the war, Boles moved to New York to study music. He quickly became well known for his talents and was selected to replace the leading man in the 1923 Broadway musical Little Jesse James. He became an established star on Broadway and attracted the attention of Hollywood producers and actors.

Boles' Broadway credits include One Touch of Venus (1943), Kitty's Kisses (1925), Mercenary Mary (1924), and Little Jessie James (1923).[5]

He was hired by MGM to appear in a silent film in 1924. He starred in two more films for that studio before returning to New York and the stage. In 1927, he returned to Hollywood to star in The Love of Sunya (1927) opposite Gloria Swanson, which was a big success for him. Unfortunately, because the movies were still silent he was unable to show off his singing ability until late in the decade. In 1929, Warner Brothers hired him to star in their lavish musical operetta The Desert Song (1929). This film featured sequences in Technicolor and was a box-office success. Soon after, Radio Pictures (later known as RKO) selected him to play the leading man in their extravagant production (the last portion of the film was photographed in Technicolor) of Rio Rita, opposite Bebe Daniels. Audiences were enthralled by his beautiful voice, and John Boles suddenly found himself in huge demand. RCA Victor even hired him to make phonograph records of songs that he had sung in his films.

As soon as Rio Rita was completed, Boles went back to Warner Brothers as the leading man in an even more extravagant musical entitled Song of the West (1930) that was filmed entirely in Technicolor. Shortly after this film, Universal Pictures offered John Boles a contract, which he accepted. He starred in a number of pictures for them, most notably the all-Technicolor musical revue entitled The King of Jazz (1930) and a historical operetta entitled Captain of the Guard (1930). In 1931, he starred in One Heavenly Night (1931), which would prove to be his last major musical.

Boles portrayed Victor Moritz in Frankenstein (1931). He starred with Irene Dunne in a 1934 film adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel The Age of Innocence directed for RKO Radio Pictures by Philip Moeller, and took the role of Edward Morgan in Curly Top (1935), starring Shirley Temple. In 1937, Boles starred alongside Barbara Stanwyck in the King Vidor classic Stella Dallas. In 1943, he co-starred with Mary Martin and Kenny Baker in One Touch of Venus.

Later years[edit]

Boles retired from the screen and stage in 1952, after starring opposite Paulette Goddard in Babes in Baghdad. He later went into the oil business and lived the last 13 years of his life in San Angelo, Texas.[3]

For his contributions to the film industry, Boles was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star located at 6530 Hollywood Boulevard.[6]


Boles died on February 27, 1969, in San Angelo, Texas, at age 73.[3]

Partial filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Boles' obituary in the Chicago Tribune says, "World War I interrupted his pre-medical studies at the University of Texas. He never went back."


  1. ^ Ellenberger, Allan R. (May 1, 2001). Celebrities in Los Angeles Cemeteries: A Directory. McFarland. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-7864-5019-0. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b Bowers, Emilie (March 31, 1935). "That Boles Charm---'It's Devastating'". Oakland Tribune. p. 5. Retrieved 30 October 2021 – via
  3. ^ a b c "John Boles, Singing Film Actor, Dies". Chicago Tribune. February 28, 1969. p. A5. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  4. ^ Minor, David. "Boles, John (1895–1969)". The Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  5. ^ "("John Boles" search results)". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Archived from the original on 7 September 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  6. ^ "John Boles". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved November 29, 2017.

External links[edit]