Supporting Actors Pose Movie Woe by Bob Thomas, March 23, 1960 (The Corpus Christ Caller Times)
Hollywood – The Motion Picture Academy still hasn’t solved its supporting-actor problem.
The support category in the Oscar sweepstakes has vexed Hollywood ever since 1944. That was the year when Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for both star and support awards for his performance in “Going My Way.”
Absurd? Of course. The academy has kept changing its rules ever since (Fitzgerald finally won for support). For a while, actors in hit films permitted themselves to be demoted to supporting class to qualify in that less competitive race. Now the academy rules that any actor with star billing– usually denoted by having his name appear above the title — must compete in the star race.
That still isn’t the answer, as you can see in the case of Stephen Boyd. Recently he won the Hollywood foreign press award as best supporting player because of his work in “Ben-Hur.” Yet he drew no Oscar nomination, because he had star billing in the film.
“Ridiculous!” declares the outspoken Irishman. “I was a supporting player in the picture. Every other role in ‘Ben-Hur’ was in support of Chuck Heston.
“Why, not counting the chariot sequence, my role lasted only a half-hour on the screen. Now how can you call that a starring role?”
Boyd remarked that Hugh Griffith had a much larger role than he did. Yet Griffith was nominated for support, while Boyd remained a star.
“Nobody can tell me that Thelma Ritter is not a star, yet she was nominated for support for ‘Pillow Talk,” the actor added. That’s another incongruity. Some noted character performers never get star billing, though their roles are stellar. Yet some top names will accept minor roles as long as they get the balm of star billing. You figure it out.
Boyd has always managed to speak his mind in this town, and it made him a puzzle for his studio (20th Century Fox). For instance, the bosses were taken aback when he refused to take the role of Boaz in “The Story of Ruth.”
“It;s a good script, but I felt I couldn’t add anything to the role,” he remarked. “It wouldn’t have helped me and it wouldn’t have helped the picture.”
He was equally vocal about wanting to do “Let’s Make Love” with Marilyn Monroe after Gregory Peck walked out of the lead. But it went to Yves Montand instead.
“That was a part I would have done,” Boyd complained. “The studio didn’t think I could do comedy.
“Good lord, for about 10 years I played 50 different plays a year in repertory in England. About 10 of those would be dramas. I got my first big breaks in films doing comedy.”
Boyd takes rather a fatalistic view of his service with the 20th-Fox, which extends another two and a half years. He’ll stick it out – but in the roles he thinks he can do. During that time, he’ll make no move to change his citizenship.
“That’s a big step, and I’d never do it while I was under contract and had to stay in the country,” he reasoned.
There were some very eye catching newspaper advertisements, tag-lines and artwork for the Susan Hayward/Stephen Boyd film “Woman Obsessed” when it was released in the summer of 1959. Here are some of the entertaining captions:
“What was Mary Sharron’s Obsession?”
“As long as I live I’ll never forgive him for what he did!”
“You’ll never touch me again…this way or any other!”
“Raw! Bold! Turbulent!”
“She wanted the wildness in him…She wanted the nearness of him…She should never have taken the stranger’s love!”
“THIS WAS HER COMPLETE OBSESSION! This Man…This Love…This Boy…This Hunger!”
And below, some of the gorgeous newspaper ads. These would make me want to go into a nice cool theater on a hot summer day in 1959 to watch the ruggedly handsome Irishman Stephen Boyd take on the red-headed spitfire-diva Susan Hayward!
As Stephen said in a mid-1970’s interview, “I’m a completely practical actor.” So, to stay happily employed, Stephen worked overseas on many European films and earned a decent enough salary. One of the movies he made during this time was a crime caper called “A Billion For A Blonde”, or “Mil millones para una rubia”. This was filmed in 1972 in various locations around Europe, including Madrid, Geneva and Nice, according to IMDB. It was directed and written by Pedro Lazaga, who had an extensive filmography of Spanish films. The storyline concerns the escapades of Desiree Charrier (Analía Gadé), a professional jewel thief. Stephen plays Leon Urrutia, a somewhat sleazy upscale jeweler who is conned by one of her schemes and robbed. Suave French actor Jean Sorel is the policeman who is trying to track down Gadé. Espartaco Santoni plays a quirky doctor who also gets involved in these escapades. Eventually all the characters join forces and they work together to start their own jewelry heist ring.
I really like the vibe of this movie. It’s a light-hearted, sexy, nonviolent caper with a fun sense of humor. Gadé gets to wear some incredibly fashionable early 70’s outfits along with a variety of wigs and disguises. Stephen gets to show off some nice double-breasted 70’s jackets along with his very sexy mustache. All of the actors seem to be having a wonderful time making this movie. There is is a fun sense of camaraderie between them. The cast is also very international; Stephen (Ireland); Jean Sorel (France); J.L. Lopez Vazquez (Spain); Espartaco Santoni (Venezuela), also known as a Modern Casanova, counting actress Analía Gadé as one of his eight wives ; and Analía Gadé (Argentina).
The only version out there which I have found is in Spanish without subtitles, but even without understanding Spanish proficiently, you can still make out the story. It’s well worth finding!
with Analia Gade, 1972
Stephen and Analía Gadé seem to be in a flirtatious mood during “Mil millones para una rubia” cast gathering.
“The element of Water is associated with the signs Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, and it also rules the Fourth, Eighth and Twelfth Houses. … Water signs are intuitive and sensitive, and they feel more intensely than the rest. They are emotional and nurturing, and like a river, they run deep… When Cancer and Scorpio make a love match, the resulting relationship draws together the energies of two emotionally intense Signs. They both see life as a passionate and deeply emotionally exercise of human connection. The Moon (Emotion) rules Cancer, while Mars (Passion) and Pluto (Power) both rule Scorpio. A relationship between a Cancer and a Scorpio can go from one extreme to another, and although Cancer partner will try hard to stabilize it, it might be too difficult if Scorpio doesn’t have enough respect for their own emotions. When they find an emotional link, they can go very deep in search of true love, and unite on a level that is unreachable for other zodiac signs. This can make them speak without words, understand each other’s thoughts with only one shared glance and be synchronized in their approach to their future together. These Signs feel a strong sexual attraction, and when they are together the temperature in the room tends to rise! (www.astrology.com)
If their emotions aren’t shared on a deepest possible level, or Scorpio partner refuses to deal with them, it could be too hard for Cancer to handle the self-destructive nature of their partner. Their connection needs to be sincere and pure, in order for both of them to be ready to give in to this intense emotional contact. (http://www.astrology-zodiac-signs.com/compatibility/cancer-scorpio/)
Stephen Boyd is hoping he has better luck with “Marta,” shooting in Spain, than he did with “Imperial Venus,” which he filmed some seasons back with that Venus Gina Lollobrigida.
In Marta, Stephen ‘s playing his first nude love scene since his “Venus” endeavor, though American audiences would never know it. Venus was never released in the U.S. The Customs Service seized and held onto the print. That must have been some nude scene! (The Ithaca Journal, January 26, 1971)
In early 1971 Stephen Boyd traveled to Madrid to begin filming a production of “Marta”, a Giallo inspired Gothic romance about madness and obsession. The movie was based on a play “Estado Civil” written in 1969. The film involved love scenes with co-star and Austrian beauty Marisa Mell which required both stars take off their clothes, a situation all too familiar to Boyd! The first time Stephen encountered this was with French icon Brigitte Bardot in “The Night Heaven Fell (1958)” early on in his movie career. Miss Bardot, however, did most of the stripping down. “The Night Heaven Fell” was only shown in the USA as an “Adults Only” screening. Four years later Stephen was cast in a somewhat haphazard Italian production of “Imperial Venus (1962)” with Gina Lollobrigida. During this film it was Boyd who had to strip down to nothing under a bedroom sheet. Stephen was not pleased. Despite the sheet, “Imperial Venus” was still censored and banned from release in America. By the time “Marta” was released, the 1960’s had taken its toll on what was considered allowable on the movie screen. Nudity and rough language were no longer just exclusive to European audiences. Films had drastically changed. Still, the international version of “Marta” was initially censored, this time in Europe, in countries like Spain! “Marta” was eventually released both in Europe and in America after some extensive cuts.
“There were very serious problems…We had to make a lot of cuts. There was a specific scene that cost us a good deal. We did not realize during the … mixes because many of the scenes were positive in black and white, but the final copy in color, once finished, which the censors saw, contained a scene after all the cuts… in which Mell revealed everything under a thin nightgown. The worst thing is that we could not cut that, because it was an important scene, it was not one of those that we had more or less planned for the international version, and it was necessary to follow the story.” (José Antonio Nieves Conde (director)interview from Die Feuerblume (Marisa Mell Biography) by André Schneider, Page 335)
Below are some tactfully edited snippets from the unedited production and some very nice cast shots of Stephen Boyd and Marisa Mell on the set of “Marta” in and around Viñuelas Castle in Spain. Mell is sporting both a blonde wig and her own long dark tresses, as she played a dual role in the film. This was the beginning of a very special relationship Stephen Boyd had with actress Marisa Mell. You can certainly see the chemistry they had together both on and off the screen!