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Peter Boyle, whose versatility as a character actor took him from the Vietnam-era angst of “Joe” to a tap-dancing monster in “Young Frankenstein” to the cranky paterfamilias of the Barone clan on the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” has died. He was 71.
Boyle died Tuesday night at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He had been suffering from multiple myeloma and heart disease, according to the Associated Press.
With his bald pate, wide forehead, dark eyebrows and eyes that could jut from side to side, Boyle flashed a manic glint that could be scary or endearing. A one-time monastery student, he turned to acting after he felt the “normal pull of the world and the flesh.”
Boyle earned 10 Emmy nominations in his long career, seven of them for his role as Frank Barone on “Raymond,” which ran on CBS from 1996-2005.
“It’s like losing a spouse,” said Doris Roberts, who played Frank’s wife, Marie, on the show. “I’m going to miss my dear friend, so unlike the character he played on television. He’s a brilliant actor, a gentleman, incredibly intelligent, wonderfully well-read and a loving friend.”
Added Phil Rosenthal, the sitcom’s creator, called Boyle’s passing “a death in the family.” He recalled the actor was not happy when he was kept waiting for his “Raymond” audition.
“He came in all hot and angry,” Rosenthal said, “and I hired him because I was afraid of him.” But he also noted: “I knew right away that he had a comic presence.”
Patricia Heaton, who played Boyle’s daughter-in-law on “Raymond,” said that “Peter was an incredible man who made all of us who had the privilege of working with him aspire to be better actors. … He was loved by everyone that knew him and loved by his many fans who cherished his talent.”
Boyle’s sole Emmy win came not for “Raymond” but for a dramatic guest shot on Fox’s “The X Files” in 1996.
Boyle in recent years had suffered from heart trouble. In 1990, he suffered a stroke and couldn’t talk for six months. He had a heart attack on the set of “Raymond” in 1999 but quickly recovered.
Boyle won his first movie recognition for his portrayal of blue-collared bigot Joe in 1970’s “Joe,” and he played a taxi driver in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic “Taxi Driver,” one of the nocturnal cabbies who drove the same weird streets as Travis Bickel. More recently, he played Billy Bob Thornton’s racist father in “Monster’s Ball” (2001).
His wide range of off-center roles also included playing Robert Redford’s opportunistic campaign manager in 1972’s “The Candidate” and Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo lawyer Carl Lazlo in 1980’s “Where the Buffalo Roam.”
In 1974, Boyle turned to comedy in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” playing the monster created by the grandson (Gene Wilder) of the original Dr. Frankenstein. In a memorable scene, he performed a soft-shoe routine while singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Boyle met his wife, Lorraine Alterman, on the set of that film. She was a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and Boyle reportedly asked her for a date while he was still in his monster makeup. Rock icon John Lennon, whose wife Yoko Ono was a friend of Alterman’s, served as best man at their wedding. The couple made their home in New York.
Boyle’s supporting film roles included “Slither,” “Steelyard Blues,” “The Friends of Eddie Coble,” “Outland,” “The Brinks Job,” “F.I.S.T.,” “Medium Cool,” “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” “Johnny Dangerously,” “Turk 182!” “Malcolm X,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “The Adventures of Pluto Nash” and “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.” He played Father Time in the last two editions of the “Santa Clause” comedies starring Tim Allen.
On TV, Boyle won accolades and an Emmy nom for his portrayal of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1977 NBC telefilm “Tail Gunner Joe.” He also appeared in “The Man Who Could Talk to Kids” and did a stint as a guest host of “Saturday Night Live” and sang.
Born Oct. 18, 1935, Boyle grew up in Philadelphia and attended Roman Catholic schools there. He graduated from La Salle College in 1957. His father was an artist who became a TV personality known as “Uncle Pete” at a Philadelphia TV station where young Peter spent a lot of time.
He taught school and served briefly in the Navy. Following his discharge, Boyle joined a monastery. After two years as a member of the Christian Brothers religious order, he headed to New York and studied acting with Uta Hagen. Boyle appeared in numerous off-Broadway shows in the early ’60s, then toured for two years with the national company of “The Odd Couple.”
He gravitated toward Chicago where he joined the Second City. He became active in commercials while he pursued movie work. Landing the lead role as an angry, murderous bigot in “Joe” launched his movie career.
Boyle reportedly turned down the lead role of Popeye Doyle that went to Gene Hackman in 1971’s “The French Connection,” saying he did not want a role that glamorized violence.
In the 1980s, he starred onstage in “True West” at the Public Theater and “The Snow Orchid” at the Circle Repertory and “Roast” on Broadway.
In addition to his wife, Boyle is survived by daughters Lucy and Amy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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