Stephen filmed “Woman Obsessed’ with Academy Award winning actress Susan Hayward at 20th Century Fox Studios in the early months of 1959, very soon after he had finished working on “Ben Hur” at Cinecittà Studios in Italy for MGM. It is a movie based on a novel by John Mantley called “The Snow Birch”. It was directed by Henry Hathaway (“Niagara” and “True Grit”). It was more of a ‘hunky’ role for Boyd, but he definitely made the most of his time on screen. Working with an A list actress like Hayward was also a benefit. Susan Hayward had just won the Academy Award for her role in the dramatic film “I Want to Live!” Hayward was 14 years older than Boyd. Apparently Hayward started to pick up Boyd’s Irish accent during their scenes together. Boyd would later say that Hayward was one of the sexiest actresses he ever worked with; “She was really attractive. She threw a few tantrums if someone on the crew did something stupid but she was really sexy, really high-charged.” (Photoplay, 1976) For her part, Susan would describe Stephen Boyd as having “the virility of thunder.” (Cinémonde, 1964, “Stephen Boyd, Le Don Juan Invisible!”) No wonder these two charge up the screen with their chemistry!
During the filming at Fox Studios, Boyd was asked by a roving reporter if he had ever done any hunting in England since he was playing a rough outdoors man in the film. Boyd’s response : “No – even as a boy, I’m afraid all I ever hunted were girls.” (Lancaster Eagle Gazette, Feb 19, 1959) Boyd was also in the midst of his awkwardly painful divorce from Italian Music Corp. of America agent Mariella di Sarzana, whom he had wed the previous year in August of 1958.
As far as reviews, Stephen also received high marks for stealing the film. “Boyd, given the chance, made the most of it with a convincing portrayal of a semi-literate, hard working lumberman who moved in as the handyman a young widow’s farm.” (Times Daily, June 14, 1959). “Stephen Boyd plays a role midway between Tarzan and Marlon Brando.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, May 29, 1959) Some reviews considered this movie was below both Hayward and Boyd’s caliber. “Rugged Stephen Boyd, with dimple in the chin as well as those in his cheeks, has an uphill battle to overcome the animosity of the boy and the over-protection of Robbie’s mother. Dialog is banal and the situations are obvious.” (Detroit Free Press, 1959). Interestingly, and maybe perhaps due to Hedda Hopper’s powerful influence, Boyd was labeled “the New Gable” in the ads for the film. This was also one of the few movies Stephen made where he watched actually it all the way through (the director apparently insisted!). Boyd was very uncomfortable watching himself on-screen. He found watching “Woman Obsessed” to be agonizing and tried never to see one of his own movies again! Watching this film today, Boyd and Hayward have great chemistry. Boyd’s character is a perfect mix of quiet charm and brooding, underlying danger. It makes me think how marvelous the two of them would have been in a version of D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover”.