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Peter Boyle

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 13, 2006

''Everybody Loves Raymond'' was a golden part for Peter Boyle, who has died, and he filled it ably. In his book ''You're Lucky You're Funny,'' ''Raymond'' mastermind Phil Rosenthal says that there was concern at first about ''Raymond'' being ''too ethnic'' -- a fear about TV shows that goes back to the 1950s, when TV began breaking out of the urban areas that embraced ethnicity into so-called Middle America, where homogenization was the dream. Or so TV executives thought.


Anyway, Rosenthal says Boyle was ''the perfect example of the nonethnic ethnic. ... Peter Boyle says New York ethnic without saying Italian or Jewish.''


But that's not why he got the part. He got it because he showed up angry at the audition. ''At that moment, he wasn't just a movie star to me, he was a big, angry movie star,'' Rosenthal wrote. The show made ample use of Boyle's anger over the years -- as well as letting him be very, very funny.


Unfortunately, once I pulled Rosenthal's book off the shelf, I digressed from a point I wanted to make here. Which is that Boyle was an actor worth noticing even if ''Raymond'' had never come his way. On the comedy side, for instance, there's ''Young Frankenstein.'' ''Putting on the Ritz,'' for crying out loud. The scene with the hermit -- and the panic on Boyle's face. Then, after the brain change, the way he plays a smartened up monster and makes you accept that as absolutely as you accepted him before the change.


But there are all these other movies where Boyle is simply dangerous to the other actors. Go rent ''The Candidate'' and look at how he takes over scenes with Redford. Or his time in ''Taxi Driver.'' Or with Connery in ''Outland.'' I don't think it was only Rosenthal that he scared. Anyone acting with Boyle had to know how to play.

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