St. Stephen’s Day is upon us, and even though Stephen Boyd himself was an Irish Protestant turned Scientologist by the early 1970’s, it still seems like a day where we need a few more Stephen Boyd pictures!
St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated by the Western Catholic Church on December 26th in honor of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, an early Christian deacon in Jerusalem who was stoned to death by Jewish authorities in 34 A.D. His death was witnessed by none other than Paul of Tarsus, who was later be known as the Apostle Paul. His name, Stephanos, in Greek means “crown.” Hence, Stephen Boyd’s namesake!
In Ulster, or Northern Ireland, which is mostly Protestant (where Stephen Boyd grew up), the day was celebrated as a secular holiday called ‘Boxing Day’, as it was in the rest of the U.K. In Catholic Ireland, however, it was “St. Stephen’s Day” where mummers (‘masked’ entertainers) , or wrenboys (a tradition of hunting wrens from long ago), dressed up in straw hats and suits, enacting folks plays in the streets with dancing and merriment. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wren_Day)
The popular Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” is a song that celebrates this day as well, hence the lyrics : “Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the feast of Stephen…”
“Good King Wenceslas” is a Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the Second Day of Christmas). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935). The name Wenceslas is a Latinised version of the modern Czech language “Václav“. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas)
Below is an interesting snippet told by Boyd of why he needed to change his name to get noticed!
What’s in a name? “Plenty,” says Stephen Boyd, star of 20th Century Fox’s “Third Secret. I couldn’t even get a chance for an audition with my real name – William Miller. My other’s maiden name is Boyd. My first agent in London thought ‘Stephen Boyd’ would be a very good name. To prove a point, he called a producer who had refused to see me. Then my agent added: ‘I have now taken over the handling of Stephen Boyd.’ And the producer replied: ‘Oh, yes, I would like to see HIM.’ And that’s how I got my first real movie role in ‘An Alligator Named Daisy’, from which I was signed to a long-term contract by Darryl F. Zanuck.” (Los Angeles Times Feb 23, 1964)
To learn more about Stephen’s last name (Boyd and Miller), see this previous blog post “What’s in a name?”
In the meantime, Happy St. Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day, and enjoy the Stephen pics!