Actor Peter Boyle dead at 71
Everybody Loves Raymond star Peter Boyle, 71, died Tuesday night in New York after battling multiple myeloma and heart disease.
NEW YORK (AP) — Peter Boyle, the actor known for playing everything from a tap-dancing monster in Young Frankenstein to the curmudgeonly father in the long-running TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, has died. He was 71.
Boyle died Tuesday evening at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He had been suffering from multiple myeloma and heart disease, said his publicist, Jennifer Plante.
A Christian Brothers monk who turned to acting, Boyle gained notice playing an angry workingman in the Vietnam-era hit Joe. But he overcome typecasting when he took on the role of the hulking, lab-created monster in Mel Brooks' 1974 send-up of horror films.
The movie's defining moment came when Gene Wilder, as scientist Frederick Frankenstein, introduced his creation to an upscale audience. Boyle, decked out in tails, performed a song-and-dance routine to the Irving Berlin classic Puttin' On the Ritz.
It showed another side of the Emmy-winning actor, one that would be exploited in countless other films and perhaps best in Everybody Loves Raymond, in which he played incorrigible paterfamilias Frank Barone for 10 years.
"He's just obnoxious in a nice way, just for laughs," he said of the character in a 2001 interview. "It's a very sweet experience having this happen at a time when you basically go back over your life and see every mistake you ever made."
When Boyle tried out for the role opposite series star Ray Romano's Ray Barone, however, he was kept waiting for his audition — and he was not happy.
"He came in all hot and angry," recalled the show's creator, Phil Rosenthal, "and I hired him because I was afraid of him."
But Rosenthal also noted: "I knew right away that he had a comic presence."
Boyle first came to the public's attention more than a quarter century before. Joe was a sleeper hit in which he portrayed the title role, an angry, murderous bigot at odds with the era's emerging hippie youth culture.
Although critically acclaimed, he faced being categorized as someone who played tough, angry types. He broke free of that to some degree as Robert Redford's campaign manager in The Candidate, and shed it entirely in Young Frankenstein.
The latter film also led to the actor meeting his wife, Loraine Alterman, who visited the set as a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine. Boyle, still in his monster makeup, quickly asked her for a date.
He went on to appear in dozens of films and to star in Joe Bash, an acclaimed but short-lived 1986 "dramedy" in which he played a lonely beat cop. He won an Emmy in 1996 for his guest-starring role in an episode of The X Files, and he was nominated for Everybody Loves Raymond and for the 1977 TV film Tail Gunner Joe, in which he played Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
In the 1976 film Taxi Driver, he was the cabbie-philosopher Wizard, who counseled Robert DeNiro's violent Travis Bickle.
Other notable films included T.R. Baskin,F.I.S.T.,Johnny Dangerously, Conspiracy: Trial of the Chicago 8 (as activist David Dellinger), The Dream Team, The Santa Claus, The Santa Claus 2, While You Were Sleeping (in a charming turn as Sandra Bullock's future father-in-law) and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
Educated in Roman Catholic schools in Philadelphia, Boyle would spend three years in a monastery before abandoning his studies there. He later described the experience as similar to "living in the Middle Ages."
He explained his decision to leave in 1991: "I felt the call for awhile; then I felt the normal pull of the world and the flesh."
He traveled to New York to study with Uta Hagen, supporting himself for five years with various jobs, including postal worker, waiter, maitre d' and office temp. Finally, he was cast in a road company version of The Odd Couple. When the play reached Chicago he quit to study with that city's famed improvisational troupe Second City.
Upon returning to New York, he began to land roles in TV commercials, off-Broadway plays and finally films.
Through Alterman, a friend of Yoko Ono, the actor became close friends with John Lennon.
"We were both seekers after a truth, looking for a quick way to enlightenment," Boyle once said of Lennon, who was best man at his wedding.
In 1990, Boyle suffered a stroke and couldn't talk for six months. In 1999, he had a heart attack on the set of Everybody Loves Raymond. He soon regained his health, however, and returned to the series.
Despite his work in Everybody Loves Raymond and other Hollywood productions, Boyle made New York City his home. He and his wife had two daughters, Lucy and Amy.