John Boles

Born: October 28, 1895 in Greenville, Texas, USA
Died: February 27, 1969 in San Angelo, Texas, USA
~Silent Filmography~
Scandal (1929) .... Maurice
... aka High Society (UK)
The Last Warning (1929) .... Richard Quayle
Romance of the Underworld (1928) .... Stephen Ransome
... aka Romance and Bright Lights
Man-Made Women (1928) .... John Payson
The Water Hole (1928) .... Bert Durland
Virgin Lips (1928) .... Barry Blake
Fazil (1928) .... John Clavering
We Americans (1928) .... Hugh Bradleigh
... aka The Heart of a Nation (UK)
The Bride of the Colorado (1928) .... John Barrows
... aka Bride of the Night (USA)
The Shepherd of the Hills (1928) .... Young Matt
The Love of Sunya (1927) .... Paul Judson
Excuse Me (1925) .... Lt. Shaw
So This Is Marriage? (1924) .... Uriah
The Sixth Commandment (1924) .... John Brant
He was born John Boles to John Monroe and Jane (Love) Boles on October 27th, 1895 in Greenville,
Texas. Having graduated from Greenville High School, he had been a star baseball player, learned
French and was the top performer in his glee club. He graduated from University of Texas at Austin
with honors majoring in medicine and it was at college that he met Marielite Dobbs whom he married
in 1917 and had 2 children with; Frances Marcelita and Janet.

When WWI broke out, he enlisted and because of his knowledge of French was placed as a spy in the
Army Intelligence and was stationed under General Pershing in Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey and
was wounded twice. Afterwards he dropped the medical studies (much to his parents chagrin) and
went to study music in New York where he starred in the Broadway musical LITTLE JESSE JAMES
(1923). He then went to Hollywood where he starred in 2 MGM silent films SO THIS IS MARRIAGE
and EXCUSE ME (both 1924) and then returned to New York. This was where his handsome physique
got him noticed by Gloria Swanson. She had seen him in the play KITTY’S KISSES in 1926. She
persuaded him to go back to Hollywood so he packed up his wife and kids and went west where he
was in the film LOVES OF SUNYA (1926 – United Artists).

Unfortunately, because the movies were still silent he was unable to show off his singing ability until
late in the decade where it was very easy for him to transfer over to talkies. He would then star in RIO
RITA (1929) and DESERT SONG (1930). The latter would make him a matinee’ idol and it was mostly
because of his singing voice. Loaned out to Warner Brothers, he played Pierre Birbeau who
masquerades as The Red Shadow, leader of the Riffs. – This incidentally was Hollywood’s first
operetta. He was endorsed by The New York Times who said “John Boles has a voice that is quite
pleasing.” RCA Victor would later hire him to make phonograph records of songs that he had sung in
his films – songs such as “You, You Alone” and "For You" both from the Universal musical CAPTAIN
OF THE GUARD (1930). The combo of LaPlante and Boles was magic for in the same year they teamed
them together in KING OF JAZZ and the previous year had paired in THE LAST WARNING and

It was because of his screen presence in CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD that Universal signed him to a
major movie contract. He would also record the two songs that made him a matinee idol – both from
KING OF JAZZ: "It Happened in Monterrey" (later recorded by Frank Sinatra) and “Song of the
Dawn.” These two songs were actually supposed to be recorded by the main star of that film, Bing
Crosby, however he was in jail because of drunk driving! Incidentally, Bela Lugosi is the master of
ceremonies in the Hungarian version of this film – replacing Paul Whiteman) Of course you will see
him in FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and unfortunately FRANKENSTEIN would also seal the lid on his
career – not because it was a horror film but because he would never star in any more musicals after
he did ONE HEAVENLY NIGHT in 1930.

In 1934 he made 9 movies just in that year alone so it is clear that he was in Demand. But he would
never have that many movies in a year again. After 1934 a filmgoer was lucky to see Boles in no more
than 4 films a year, so John did extensive personal tours. However, he would show up in some movies
and sing maybe one or 2 songs. But why did he quit musicals? Well, he really didn't quit musicals -
they quit him but not after having made some movies that allowed him to sing, mainly Shirley Temple
movies such as CURLY TOP, THE LITTLEST REBEL & STAND UP AND CHEER. Pairing with Shirley
however proved fruitful for John not only at the box office but it was from John Temple, Shirley's
father that he learned his business finesse. John Temple had managed Shirley's finances and taught
Boles a thing or two. But it was inevitable; moviegoers grew tired of musicals and operettas and
basically his singing services were no longer needed.

At the end of the 1930s he left movie-making for 11 years and then went into the oil business of his
home state of Texas and also toured extensively around the US and Great Britain. He would later
show up singing in the Broadway production of SHOWBOAT as the dashing Gaylord Ravenal and in
1942 he did ROAD TO HAPPINESS– singing Danny Boy and Opera, for Monogram Studios - a B
picture film company. They promoted him heavily and John took the weight of the movie almost
solely on his shoulders. He returned to Broadway in 1943 to star in ONE TOUCH OF VENUS and also
did some radio shows. He did show up in 1950 in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (3 years before Marilyn
Monroe would make it what it is today) and finally returned to the big screen in BABES OF BAGHDAD
(1952) starring Paulette Goddard and Gypsy Rose Lee. This was probably his worst movie. He once
admitted that if you didn’t see it “You didn’t miss much.” From the mid 50s he lived and worked in
San Angelo, Texas where in 1954 he helped to found Pipecoat Service Company, Incorporated which
serviced pipelines. When his career started to slow down he didn’t want to just sit around so when he
had the chance to get into the oil business he jumped at it. "All of the fun appears to have gone out of
making movies" he once said. "In the old days we used to enjoy ourselves". His final return to
Hollywood was in 1961 to promote the remake of one of his movies called BACKSTREET. He suffered
a stroke on February 27th, 1969 at the age of 73. He was survived by his wife, 2 daughters and 7

Biography written by: Kristin Dewey
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