Voltaire – “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
My quest for trying to find a copy of the Playhouse 90 TV program “To the Sound of Trumpets” is finally complete, thanks to the Paley Center in NYC. More than 2 years ago I set out on trying to find this rare program, which stars Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart in their first venture together. In Dolores Hart’s autobiography “The Ear of the Heart”, she mentioned finding a rare 16mm tape of this show in her Abbey. The book stated how this was probably the only copy available, besides the Library of Congress. There are very few Stephen Boyd’s shows that are impossible to find, and this was one of them.The other program, the Hallmark TV show “The Hands of Cormac Joyce”, is luckily available for viewing at the UCLA media facility and the Paley Center (but more on that in a future blog!). So seeking to find this film, I actually emailed the Library of Congress myself to see if they could give me any clues. I also wrote to Dolores Hart, and began a lovely pen-pal relationship with her concerning this particular movie. The Library of Congress gave me the name of someone who might help- a wonderful lady by the name of Jane Klain, a Manager at the Research Services area at the Paley Center for Media in New York. After emailing Jane, she was so kind as to help get a digitized copy of “To The Sound of Trumpets” uploaded for me to view when I finally made my travel plans to New York about a year later.A huge thank you to Jane again for making this all work out as this program is now available to anyone that walks into the Paley Center!
Visiting the Paley Center was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. I met Mark Ekman when we walked in the door, and he escorted us up to the viewing area. You can pay a simple donation of $10 USD to have access for 1 1/2 hours to view all sorts of different programs in their viewing area. There a beautiful large, flat screens set up with ear phones at each station. Another friendly person there, Patty, got us all set up to view the shows we had requested. Jane Klain also came down to welcome us with some printed reviews of the program and inquire about our visit.
So after months and months of waiting, here I was, ready to see one of the rarest Stephen Boyd shows on the planet! It was well worth the wait.
“TO THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS”
This Playhouse 90 show aired on CBS on February 9, 1960. Besides starring Boyd and Hart, the program also included other big names such as Sam Jaffe (who also starred in Ben Hur with Stephen), Judith Anderson and Boris Karloff. It was essentially filmed like a live play. Boyd’s acting is marvelous and more fluid than his usual movie acting, giving you a sense of how great he would have been to see on stage in a theater production. Hart is also very impressive in this as well. Like a play, the two main characters get to interact constantly on screen, and they have loads of dialogue. The story has a “Farewell to Arms” feel to it in the atmosphere and despair of war within which love can blossom between a solider and a nurse. Both Boyd and Hart received good reviews when this came out, and the entire show was praised for being one of the better Playhouse 90’s of the season.
The story begins in a grimy WWI bunker, and Stephen, who plays a British office Leslie Cronyn, seems weary and he is trying to give orders to the men around him, who seem as equally despondent. After he sees one of his close officers killed by shrapnel, something snaps in Boyd and he feels the urge to flee the chaos around him- and he does. The story moves over to Dolores Hart, who plays a young nurse, Janet Marshall, who is stealing drugs for one of her patients. Boyd shows up at the hospital himself and passes out. After recovering and giving a false name, he mentions his plans to go to Paris. Hart is equally interested in finding passage to Paris to meet her husband. In one of the best scenes, as Boyd slips away to the lorry outside (in order to avoid bringing her along), but Hart jumps inside the lorry to catch a ride. Hart’s character is both talkative and naive, and she chatters on to a notably irritated Boyd who can’t help but roll his eyes at her behavior. In the next scene, the lorry is requisitioned, and the pair are literally thrown out; Hart without her luggage as well. After stealing bikes to make more headway, they finally arrive in Paris, but they have to hide out as the man from who they stole the bikes is looking for them. Boyd helps Hart get a hotel room by telling the man at reception that she is his wife. The best scene is the following interaction between Boyd (who is noticeably drunk) as he sits outside on the porch, and Hart, who keeps trying to make conversation. After describing her romantic marriage (to a man she barely knew before he was shipped off to war), Boyd is finally done with her naivety. She goes to bed and pulls the covers up tight. As Boyd enters to refill his drink he scoffs at her, saying “don’t bother- I’m not interested.” At this remark, Hart follows him outside again, trying to explain herself. Boyd laughs, a little maniacally, and reminds her how even now, with a strange man in a strange hotel, she is still dallying with romance. He also implies that should he actually desire her, her romantic visions would be changed into a sharp reality. Roughly, he grabs her wrists and presses her down on the bed to make his point before moving away in disgust. Outside he screams at the marching troops as they go by below singing “It’s a Long Way To Tipperary.” In his unheard drunken shouts, Boyd reminds them that the road to Tipperary is covered with corpses.
Below pictures From Dolores Hart autobiography “The Ear of the Heart”
The next half of the program focuses on the reason for Boyd’s desertion. Boyd meets with a man in a wine cellar, who just happens to be Boris Karloff, who might be able to offer him a safe escape. This is the heart of the story. Karloff questions Boyd’s courage, which Boyd denies, but also causes him to walk away in anger. As Karloff probes deeper, Boyd explains how he has lost his patriotism. Karloff asks if there is a girl involved with his emotions as well, and Boyd says no.Karloff mentions something about Voltaire, which Boyd echos in quoting the famous philosopher – “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” Boyd is very passionate in this scene as he describes the horrors of war, the falsity of the neat gunshot in the forehead, and the reality of throats cut out which muffle the sound of screaming men. His passion stirs Karloff, who agrees to help him while also admitting he himself is of German descent. After this conversation, Boyd finds Hart again, and she tells him the military police are on his tail. In a cafe, Hart admits his criticism of her romantic ideas was correct, and that she really doesn’t love her husband. She implies she had fallen in love with Boyd. She tells him that her worst fear was leaving him behind. She asks his real name, and he tells her. Both of them start to cry, and they leave the cafe hand in hand. They finding a hideout together in the backroom of a grocery store. In their room Hart asks Boyd to tell her he loves her to make the situation all right. She asks to be held, and he obliges, then they share a tender kiss. After a stone is thrown into the shopkeeper’s window, Boyd is told by the shopkeeper that he Parisian born but actually of German background. Hart returns with food to eat and the shopkeeper generously offers them more as Boyd laughs warmly at his generosity. In their room again, Boyd teases Hart, lifts her skirt playfully, spins her around in a hug and kisses her again. The two talk about asking the rats to join in their cheese breakfast. Hart talks about the news and the fact that the English are banning Wagner’s music. Boyd agrees and talks about facing the enemy in full, God, and the evils of war. Hart asks to go with him in his escape, and Boyd says no. Hart follows him across the room and mischievously pushes him back onto the bed and jumps on top of him, insisting. Boyd struggles feebly, trying to tell her that he doesn’t wish to endanger her more -he can only endanger himself. A noise startles them both, and the shop has been attacked by neighbors. Boyd tries to help fend off the attackers, but he is injured in the process. Waking up, he finds Hart gone again, but soon she reappears in the doorway. He approaches her with a kiss, then holds her closely and tells her “I love you.”
The next day Boyd meets Karloff in a hotel bar to discuss his escape. Immediately Karloff notices a change in Boyd–he is not as angry and sullen. Boyd admits that a girl is now involved, and he is in love. As Boyd speaks with Karloff, Hart receives a phone call that her husband is injured and recovering in nearby hospital. Boyd overhears the end of the conversation and understands that their relationship will have to come to an end. As they walk outside, Hart is distracted and tries to be happy about their rendezvous point which they have agreed upon. Boyd loads her in a carriage to go see her husband and tells her not to mention ‘us’. Hart expresses her fear at parting with him and with the future. Boyd touches his mouth, then places his fingers on her lips, and she holds them there, crying. The carriage drives off as Boyd watches.
Back at the war front, Boyd reappears with his old regiment. The officer who meets him isn’t too surprised to find him back. Boyd explains that he returned to the front because a shopkeeper’s store was ransacked, implying that people need to stand up for what is right. He realizes that as a common solider it really wasn’t his place to question the morality of war.