During Stephen’s 1960’s fame, he filmed 3 television programs – “To The Sound of Trumpets” for Playhouse 90, “The Wall Between” for General Electric, and “War of Nerves” for the Bob Hope Presents Chrysler Theater. You can view “To the Sound of Trumpets” at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. I have yet to find the a copy of “The Wall Between” (more information to come on that in a future blog). But luckily his performance in “War of Nerves” is actually available to view for free on YouTube! See below for the link!
Stephen filmed this program just after finishing “The Fall of the Roman Empire” in Europe. He came back to Hollywood to film this TV show during the summer of 1963, before returning to Europe to start work on “The Third Secret” with Pamela Franklin. The program aired on network television on January 3, 1964. This Chrysler Theater show was actually directed by renowned film director Sydney Pollack (very early in his career), and also features French icon Louis Jourdan in a small role. The film is set in Paris (or Hollywood’s set version of Paris), and revolves around the actions of the French terror group the O.A.S. Nowadays, many people have never heard of the O.A.S., but back in the 1960’s they were very prevalent. The O.A.S. was a right-wing paramilitary group which sprang into being in 1961 after Algeria won her independence from France. Stephen’s character, Robert MacKay, is an American living in Paris studying architecture. He encounters a mysterious and lovely student, played by Monique LeMaire, in a French café, then witnesses an assassination. He becomes entangled in the identification of the assassin, and subsequently becomes a target of the O.A.S. himself. Louis Jourdan plays the evil mastermind behind the O.A.S. activities, and Monique LeMaire is eventually softened by MacKay’s innocence and persistence, leaving behind her harsh idealism about the O.A.S.
Stephen is almost overly muted in this performance, which goes along with how he was acting during this time. His characters in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, “War of Nerves” and the “The Third Secret” almost mirror each other – the quiet, contemplative hero. But Stephen was also criticized during this time for being ‘dull’ on screen. After hearing those reviews, Stephen took it upon himself to totally change his screen performance in the mid-60’s, which can be seen in both “Genghis Khan” and “The Oscar”. He looks great in this production, although you can tell that his forehead was shaved higher, which makes him look different than his normal cinema persona. In fact, his hair is still growing back during the filming of “The Third Secret”. I am not sure why the studio though it necessary to do this- maybe to make him look less villainous?
The reviews of the production were very good when this was televised. This just preceded the release of “Fall of the Roman Empire” in April of 1964.
View “War of Nerves” on YouTube…
Season 1 episode 12 of the anthology series “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre”, directed by Sydney Pollack, with Stephen Boyd, Monique LeMaire, Émile Genest, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Marsac, Jacques Roux, Bernie Hamilton et al. Original air date: 3 January 1964.