Stephen Boyd and Director Anthony Mann discuss cliche-free “Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1963 Interview; “Steve Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies”

Steve Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies

August 5, 1963

The Daily Intelligencer

By Erskine Johnson

Rome – Chunky, rugged, dimple-in-the-chin Steve Boyd has just completed movies with Doris Day and Gina Lollobrigida, Now he was playing love scenes with Sophia Loren.

So leave it to me. I came right out and asked him how they compared on his personal popularity chart.

There had been drama of a sort at Rome’s airport the day before. The two Italian film sirens were slated to arrive within 15 minutes of one another – Gina from Athens, Sophia from Madrid.

The photographers were told: “Sophia at Gate 3, Gina at Gate 22.”

One or the other could be missed between arrival times.

I was in the seat directly behind Gina on the plane from Athens. I didn’t know that the airport photographers faced a dilemma. 

Not until later did I check their popularity chart. With a choice, they waited for Sophia.

In Steve Boyd’s book it was the same story.

With a sudden, slightly startled smile he answered my candid question:

“There is no comparison. I wouldn’t die exactly for Sophia, but I’d come close to it.”

We were on the set here of Samuel Bronston’s latest big epic, “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” It was a big, colorful set, build for only two weeks work. Most of the filming had been in Madrid, and more scenes would be filmed there.

The size of the film and its colossal set put no damper on the small talk always associated with a movie set, at home or abroad.

Boyd talked about “Imperial Venus,” the movie he had made with Gina. It was a farce and this he regretted. He was sticking to straight drama from now on because:

“I just can’t play farce. When I say something, I mean it.”

Director Anthony Mann was delighted about the chance to be making a historical film about Rome “with positively no clichés.” He started counting them on his fingertips – the clichés the film did not have:

“No lions, no orgy, no shower of rose petals, no debauched emperor, no coliseum mobs.”

About the lack or orgy, he laughed:

“How can any movie have an orgy anyway? They always turn out to feature old men sitting around with young girls dropping grapes into their mouths.”

The film was in its 110th shooting day but Mann was right on schedule.

“We are filming history, not making history in putting this film on the screen,” he laughed, an obvious reference to “Cleopatra.”

On sets, in Rome or in Hollywood, the small talk is the same as always.

Anthony Mann and Stephen Boyd
Boyd as Livius
Stephen arrives in Madrid (?). Photo from http://www.lafototeca.com

50 Year Anniversary of Stephen Boyd in Denver for “The Bashful Genius”, August 1967

50 years ago today, Stephen Boyd was in Denver, Colorado, performing the last evening of “The Bashful Genius” at the Elitch Theatre Company. The performance ran from August 7-12th. He was interviewed by the local paper The Denver Post, and he speaks about the play, and specifically about the playwright he portrays, George Bernard Shaw.  I have also added some pictures of the Elitch Theatre as it looks today (since it’s in my hometown of Denver!), and a few ads from the paper at the time the play was here. Look below for the excellent review which the Stephen and play received while it played in Denver!

“Genius Ends 2-Year Hunt” by Del Carnes

The Denver Post, August 8, 1967

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“It took me two years to find a play I really wanted to do, ” Stephen Boyd said of his role as George Bernard Shaw in “The Bashful Genius”at the Elitch Theatre.

“The first time I saw the script, I turned it down because I felt there were certain deficiencies in it. Then producer Marshall Young told me ‘e realize there are changes that have to be made, but we can’t make them unless we do the play.’

“So I took the part, and we are making changes as we go along. We opened in Philadelphia, so Denver is only our second stop. Next week we go to Falmouth, Mass., after which we’ll do whatever rewriting and tightening up is necessary. Then it’s on to Broadway.”

“The Bashful Genius” is the story of two years in the life of the great British playwright, just prior to and immediately after he had written “the Devil’s Disciple,” and during his early friendship with Charlotte Payne-Townsend.

Boyd, a native of Belfast, Ireland, has a deep understanding of Shaw. “I’ve done about 11 plays f his and I think it’s impossible to do Shaw without knowing the man. The, of course, I use to hear him on the radio and constantly read about him in the papers when I was in England. And I’ve had long conversations with people who knew him.”

BRILLIANT PERFORMANCE

In short, Boyd has come prepared for his role as GBS and he turns in a brilliant performance on the Elitch stage. The play, by Harold Callen, is equally brilliant. The dialogue is sharp, crisp and witty.

“There has never been a play about Shaw,” Boyd said,” although a number of productions have concerned his writings and essays. I think Callen has done a masterful job in capturing Shaw, for he is not an easy man to depict. Not only has Callen written the Shaw role expertly, but he’s given the other characters a Shavian flavor at the same time.”

“I think Shaw is difficult for the audience to accept in the beginning. People unfamiliar with him don’t realize this brilliant man also was a clown, a facet that seems incompatible with his intellect.

“Yet, despite the caustic whit and his actions with people, he never purposefully hurt anyone, never cut up a person or individual. He sliced up organizations, but never people.”

“Shaw was an extremely honest person, who said exactly what he thought. But he never was sure people were ready for  honestly, so he tired to color it by clowning.”

SHAVIAN BEARD SUPERB

For the role, Boyd has cultivated a superb Shavian beard, and the gestures of GBS. “The only real difficulty I’ve had is in toning down the Irish accent. If it’s too thick, the audience cant understand it. But then Shaw had the same problem himself.”

Boyd isn’t worried about the mortality rate of shows like “The Bashful Genius” on Broadway.

“If you have a good show, people will buy it. With this show, the only thing that the critics might quarrel about is whether I play Shaw the way they think he should be played. But then that’s a risk actors take all the time.”

Boyd is a product of England’s repertory theatre which he believes is the most thorough theatrical training ground in the world.

“You do 42 plays a year, sometimes 50, and you’re lucky if five of them are really good productions. I did 15 years of repertory. Consequently doing a motion picture of a single play almost seems like a vacation.”

“Anyone who does something day in and day out has a marvelous opportunity to learn something,” he said, and “it even applies to the daily grind of television acting. But there is a a much greater temptation to be lazy for it’s easy to slide over something in that kind of situation. But if you discipline yourself, you can learn a great deal.”

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The Denver Post Review – August 8, 1967

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The Elitch Theatre in Denver Colorado, as it looks in today in 2017, 50 years after Stephen performed here.

 

Stephen Boyd and Barbara Perkins, 1965

Stephen took actress Barbara Perkins (a young actress from the TV show “Peyton Place”, and later on the movie “The Valley of the Dolls”) out on a date in 1965, either to the “Genghis Khan” premiere or the  “Hallelujah Trail” premiere. They look good together, although from the last picture I am not sure how well they mixed!

Here’s how Stephen Boyd got a date for the “Genghis Khan” premiere: He phoned Barbara Parkins (of “Peyton Place”), whom he’d never met, and she agreed.  (Detroit Free Press, June 25, 1965)

BARBARAFILM STAR STEPHEN BOYD WITH TV's PEYTON PLACE STAR, BARBARA PARKINS AT THE PREVIEW OF THE FILM, THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL IN THE WARNER CINERAMA THEATRE, HOLLYWOOD.BARBARA PARKINS and Stephen Boyd at the premiere of Hallelujah Trail.(Credit Image: A© Gilloon/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)BARBARA PARKINS with Stephen Boyd.Trail premiere.Supplied by   Photos inc.(Credit Image: A© Supplied By Globe Photos Inc/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com)BarbaraPerkinsFullscreen capture 10202015 112750 AM.bmp