I found this great description of Stephen’s excellent performance as Messala in “Ben Hur”. The writer makes a convincing case as to why Stephen Boyd should have won an Oscar.
Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart had a very special relationship. They starred in two films together–one was a TV special called To The Sound of Trumpets in 1960, and the other The Inspector (or Lisa) in 1962. They were two of the top 20th Century Fox rising stars- Boyd with his sex appeal and success in Ben Hur, and Hart with her Grace Kelly looks and her hit movie Where the Boys Are. When they initially did To The Sound of Trumpets, the studio had them pose for a few magazines together, hinting at a romance. This was not the case initially, but when they filmed The Inspector about a year and a half later, there was a romance afoot. According to Dolores in her autobiography The Ear of the Heart, she had very deep feelings for Stephen. Hart was a Catholic who would soon chose to become a nun. She found Stephen to be very spiritual and they had many in depth conversations together, several of them about religion. Dolores was truly heartbroken and baffled when Stephen gently rebuffed her romantic inclinations, telling her she was ‘marked.’ According to Dolores, he never explained what he meant, but she understood his words in time to mean that she was destined for the Church and a future cloistered life. In 1962 Dolores would complain publicly that the studio had cooked up a “phony romance” between her and Boyd. In late 1962 she become briefly engaged to businessman Don Robinson. She even teased Hedda Hopper at the time about inviting Boyd to both the wedding and the reception so “he can’t get out of sending me a present.” Around the same time she was asked about Doris Day’s apparent crush on Boyd. Dolores would reply, “I know nothing about it, but I can see how a girl could flip for him.” But truly, Dolores’s heart belonged to the Church. Later in 1963 she would break off her engagement to Robinson and permanently join the Abbey of Regina Laudis, shocking Hollywood and her fans. Later on in 1966, Stephen would visit her at the Abbey in Connecticut, but it was a brief and tense reunion. They would keep up a writing friendship for several years until Stephen’s interest in Scientology caused them to drift apart. Dolores appeared on TCM in 2014 to premiere the movie Lisa, which was her favorite role. She told some interesting stories about the filming of the picture. She and Stephen would go over their characters motivations repeatedly. He also apparently had to carry her on the beach for several takes while the director tried to get the perfect lighting for the scene. Dolores was also disappointed with the end of the film. Interestingly, Dolores said “I wanted to marry him” to Robert Osbourne when the film finished. It’s hard to say if she meant the characters in the film, or Stephen himself. Dolores still lives at the Abbey of Regina Laudis to this day.
Stephen Boyd Is Escaping Career in Costume Roles
Jan 7, 1962, The Reading Eagle
Hollywood (UPI) – Stephen Boyd rode to fame on a chariot in “Ben Hur,” but the horse drawn buggy took his career so far off course it’s only now getting straightened out.
“I finished Ben Hur in July, 1959,” Boyd said. “The next picture I made was in May of 1960 and the next in May of 1961. It slowed me down from at least 2 1/2 pictures a year to one a year.”
In discussing “Ben Hur,” Boyd qas quick to explain he wasn’t critical of the film. He said his appearance in the epic affected his contractual obligations to 20th Century Fox. The problems were reflected in the amount of pictures in which he worked.
When Boyd played Ben Hur’s evil adversary, Messala, in the Academy Award – winning movie, there were many picturegoers who thought the Irish actor should have won an Oscar. Charlton Heston was awarded one for his work in the title role.
“The miracle to me is that I’m still on my way,” said Boyd, lunching in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mater commissary during a break from his role in “Jumbo.” “It didn’t give me the push that some people thought it would.”
In the first place, Hollywood producers were anxious to keep Boyd in costume pictures for the rest of his life, hoping to capitalize on the image he had in the film.
“It seemed that everybody who was making costume pictures wanted Messala,” he said. “They didn’t ask for Stephen Boyd, they wanted Messala. One studio planned to make a picture called The Life and Times of Messala.”
It has been more than three years since Boyd became associated with “Ben Hur” and it’s still the most discussed aspect of his career. It would be only natural if he despaired in mention of the picture, but he doesn’t.
“I think you have to live with any successful picture as long as it’s playing,” he said. “I’ll be reminded of Ben Hur as long as Francis X. Bushman was for his part in the silent picture version. I personally finished with the picture when it opened, like every other film. Ben Hur, made in 1958, won’t pay my rent in 1962.”
Since he finished that picture, Boyd admits his career went off course. It has taken almost three years for him to get back on the track.
Boyd renegotiated his contract with 20th Century Fox and now has a non-exclusive agreement with that studio which allows him to do pictures for other producers. In fact, he did “Ben Hur” for MGM even before the renegotiation.
“I think the career began to get on track when I started my role in The Inspector last May,” he said. “From now on, things will start buzzing. There will be a different driver on my train, and by that I mean different producers and studios.”
The handsome actor is taking roles now that indicate an artistic branching out for him. He’s doing his first TV filmed show in a segment of “G.E. Theater” and takes a crack at singing in “Jumbo.” Following that, he’s back in a period costume again for a Napoleonic picture to be filmed in Italy.
Stephen is the last to claim vocal talents. Even his accompanying press agent was honestly silent on that point.
“I wouldn’t call it singing,” he said candidly. “There are scenes that have to be played with music and I vocalize. Nobody is going to say Stephen Boyd is a singer. If they do, I’ve failed.”
Looking into the future, Boyd said he would like to appear in what he described as simple, ordinary pictures.
“Even Ben Hur was that,” he said, “You didn’t want to go see a psychiatrist after watching it.”
The Third Secret by 20th Century Fox was a very intense drama which Stephen filmed in England during the later part of 1963 (after he had completed The Fall of the Roman Empire and the television movie War of Nerves). Stephen loved the script and apparently he did this movie for a very modest salary. He became well acquainted with Diane Cilento in this film (the wife of actor Sean Connery) as well as his 14 year old co-star Pamela Franklin. Pamela Franklin had nothing but praise for Stephen as he became good friends with the young actress and enjoyed playing chess with her on the set. The film also features Richard Attenborough and the great Jack Hawkins. It is essentially a British black and white, 60’s noir/psychological thriller. It is great to see Stephen as a complex character in this. He plays Alex Stedman, a world weary news reporter who is roped into investigating the death of his own doctor, the father of Pamela Franklin. Stephen is quiet, intense, brooding, but also careless of other people’s emotions as he uses them along the way to find out the information he needs. It’s one of Stephen’s best, most understated performances. His interactions with the other actors is superb, especially with Pamela Franklin. Their friendship is unusual, and at one point misconstrued by the young girls uncle. The deep friendship on screen was apparently just a reflection of how well Boyd and Franklin got along off screen.
Be sure to catch Stephen in one of his hottest roles opposite the French sex kitten herself, Brigitte Bardot, and also the elegant Alida Valli!