Stephen Boyd has ‘savoir faire’ – 1966 interview


By Florabel Muir, Valley Morning Star, September 18, 1966

Hollywood – Stephen Boyd draws some of the loveliest ladies of the screen as his co-stars; it has been that way with him for years, but don’t ask him to tell which ones he prefers. He’s like the dashing fellow in the old song ‘Every Day Is Ladies Day With Me.’ He loves ‘em all and plays no favorites.

Among the famed beauties with whom he has appeared are Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, Gina Lollobrigida, and Sophia Loren. In his latest film he has outdone himself, having both Giovanna Ralli, a luscious Roman beauty, and Yvette Mimieux competing for his affections. Dodging the embarrassing query, he told me, “I’d rather talk about my work than about any leading ladies. They are all great girls and do indeed carry as great an impact off screen as on. A few observations may be pertinent. I will say, for example, that Doris Day is not the girl next door, as many may believe. In fact, she’s anything but. She’s a movie star down to her twinkly toes, with all the aura, the magnetism, and the sex appeal that go with it. As for Brigitte, I think she has been the victim of ill-advised publicity, blazoned to the world as a sex kitten who exposes her derriere, when the truth is she is a very disciplined actress. And Liz Taylor- well, I played scenes with her in ‘Cleopatra’ before she was stricken down by a near fatal illness. She’s more sensational in her beauty, her lavender eyes, without make-up, just being her natural self.”

It was doubtless a tough break for Boyd that Taylor fell ill when she did, for he was scheduled to play Mark Anthony opposite her, the role which eventually dropped into Richard Burton’s lap and led to the most famous of movie set romances since Doug and Mary.

What would have happened had Boyd played the role?  Well, it’s all conjectural, of course, but I don’t believe, and neither does he, that their screen kisses would have paved a route to the altar. The truth is that, at this stage in his career at least, Stephen is not the marrying kind. He has had one unhappy, marital experience, having taken a minor Italian actress, Mariella di Sarzana, as his bride in 1959. Their divorce came only a few months later in January 1960, and he has been a carefree bachelor ever since.

What attracts a multitude of beautiful stars to Boyd, so that they vie to be with him in pictures? I would think it has to be his ruggedly masculine good looks. Strong, even craggy features, a wide sympathetic mouth, firm chin, athletic build, wavy dark brown hair, roving 185-lb. frame – all that plus a musical voice and the savoir faire of a much-traveled fellow – his films have taken him to many places in the world, and a rolling stone acquires a high polish.

I wondered about his name, “I was born William Millar, “ he explained, “I dropped it professionally because another actor was using it. Boyd was my mother’s maiden name and Stephen I adopted from a relative. When I came to America I discovered that the United States is a the greatest country in the world and I lost little time in applying for citizenship, a goal which I achieved on Dec 23, 1963- and I still celebrate the date as if it were Christmas.”

Like his friend, Sir Lawrence Olivier, and virtually all other English- speaking stars who have scored outstandingly as actors, Boyd has a long apprenticeship at the profession after he decided at 18 what his career was to be. He appeared in hundreds of plays in the provinces and later in London, “but there were slack periods when I could find no job and I’d work as an attendant in cafeterias- that way you eat regularly.”

His big chance on the stage came when he was working as a doorman in a film theater and met famous actor Sir Michael Redgrave, who got him an opening with the Windsor Reperatory company. The talented Irishman was soon playing leads. By 1954, he was appearing with such notables as Siobhan McKenna, Faith Compton and Roger Livesay. Sir Alexander Korda signed him to his first motion picture contract in 1955.  In 20th Century- Fox’s ‘The Man Who Never Was’ he made a profound impression and Fox bought his contract and brought him to Hollywood. He appeared in a succession of films including ‘Seven Waves Away’ (on loanout to Columbia), ‘The Night Heaven Fell’ with Bardot for J. Arthur Rank then ‘Island in the Sun’ and ‘Bravados’ for his home studio. His greatest opportunity arrived when he won the role of Messala in Metro’s remake of ‘Ben Hur’ for which he received The Golden Globe, highest award voted by the Foreign Press.

Since then his career has zoomed. He has appeared in so many top-budgeted pictures that he has been unable to accept a deluge of attractive tv offers. His current release is 20th’s ‘Fantastic Voyage’ with ‘The Bible’ soon to follow, and ‘Caper of the Golden Bulls’ with two outstanding beauties, Ralli and Mimieux, in the cast, due for a winter release.

I found Stephen a personable and easy mannered fellow, indeed a man with definite ideas about a lot of things including how he clings to is his aversion to critics who don’t know their business, a breed of which we have an excess. The field of acting is one which he discusses with emotion.

“Actors,” he assured me, “have the courage of the devil, especially good actors, like Laurence Olivier. I say that there are three kinds of stars- the personalities, the entertainers, and the actors. Once in a blue moon you’ll find a man like Frank Sinatra, who combines all three. Here is a man whose talent is endless, the perfect combination— in spades.”

“Speaking of myself, I am continually surprised by my ability to survive in the tough jungle of show business. I just cannot understand it at all. My career is at a very happy stage—I have all the work I need, the price is right, and I am not tied down anymore to a studio contract.  I have freedom—and it’s invaluable.”

He still owes 20th one film a year. “I feel very grateful to Darryl Zanuck but I must say that in the final two or three years of my deal with his studio I kind of fell apart artistically and emotionally. A seven year pact can be both a blessing and a curse. It can be stifling. I’d like to do another stage play, but believe me, good plays are harder to find than good  scripts.”

Boyd is the youngest of nine children of James and Martha Boyd Millar. His father’s origins are Irish-Canadian, mother’s northern Irish. His acting talent manifested itself from a very early age. Indeed, he so impressed officials of the British Broadcasting corporation that he was appearing on radio at the age of 8. He had been a high earner in the upper income bracket for many years, now owns three homes in California in Encino (the San Fernando Valley), above the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, and in Palm Springs. In ‘Caper of the Golden Bulls,’ for Embassy, he plays the leader of a daring group of thieves who rob the Bank of Spain. It promises to be indeed a golden caper for him.

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