A great review of “The Oscar” from The Daily News, 1966

Finding a positive review of “The Oscar” is a bit of a challenge, but I really like this particular review!

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Stephen Boyd, Elke Sommer

Bitter Drama Looks Inside Hollywood by Kate Cameron

March 5, 1966, Daily News, New York

There have been many “inside” film stories about Hollywood producers and stars, including the current attraction at the Music Hall, “Inside Daisy Clover.” But there has never been as bitter a pill for Hollywood to swallow as “The Oscar” which had a gala premiere Thursday night at Loew’s State with a number of the film’s stars in attendance. It opened to the public yesterday at both the State and Festival Theatres.

The Embassy Pathe Color production is being released in the nick of time as the balloting on the 1965 awards is going on right now in Hollywood. The results will be announced by the Academy April 18. As unseemly as the fight for the coveted award is shown to be, and in spite of the shockingly violent stripping of a star’s glamor during the course of the film, “The Oscar” is bound to attract attention from other than inveterate movie-goers. For anyone with a modicum of interest in the behind-the-scenes of a movie studio, “The Oscar is a must-see film.

The the first place, it gives Stephen Boyd a chance to prove that he is a fine actor, as well as a handsome profile in a wide screen colorful epic, is role, penned with acid by Harlan Ellison, Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene from Richard Sale’s novelistic expose, is a fascinating portrayal of a heel.

The sorry tale is about Frankie Fane’s rise from manager of a stripper for stag parties to a top Hollywood star to his slipping career, suddenly stopped on the slide downhill by is nomination for the Academy Award. Fane’s ruthless, despicable maneuvers to cop the Oscar and revitalize his screen career are shown in all their naked baseness on the screen. Frankie is exposed as a man without feeling and, as on of his erstwhile friends says of him, carrying the seed of rot inside himself.

The role of the Hollywood heel is played with remarkable verisimilitude by Boyd. He is surrounded bu a bevy of beauties, each one adding to the success of the production. Elke Sommer represents the beautiful and talented clothes designer who becomes the star’s wife. Eleanor Parker is the woman who gives him his first big boost towards success. Jill St. John plays the gorgeous stripper in the early part of the film and Edie Adams helps him with a battle with a blackmailer.

The surprise of the film is the excellent performance that Tony Bennett contributes in his first screen role and Milton Berle’s fine portrayal in the straight dramatic role as Fane’s agent. Joseph Cotton, Ernest Borgnine, Peter Lawford, Ed Begley, Broderick Crawford and a feminine quartet of famous people add spice to the production. The four woman are the late Hedda Hopper, Merle Oberon, Nancy Sinatra and dress-designer Edith Head. Rouse directed the film in a realistic manner.

Seeing the film on the screen is better than a conducted tour of the exterior Hollywood and its studios, as “The Oscar” gives one a real inside look at the cinema capital and its people. However, I hope that this picture of what happens to an Oscar nominee is presented more in fancy than in fact.

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Parker, Adams and Sommer with Boyd

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Oscar Awards : Shouldn’t Stephen Boyd have been nominated for his role in “Ben-Hur”?

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Stephen Boyd…outspoken Irishman

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.”

Changing Rules

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.”

Fatalistic View

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.

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Stephen Boyd attends the Academy Awards, April 4, 1960

Stephen Boyd attended the 32nd Academy Awards on April 4, 1960 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/32nd_Academy_Awards)

On his arm that evening as his date was a young woman named Romney Tree, who was a Belfast socialite whom Steve had met at a Christmas party given by Vincent Price. The two realized they had met before four years earlier in Belfast, according to Screenland Magazine (Nov 1960).

This was a HUGE night for Stephen as Ben Hur was nominated for 12 Academy Awards that evening, and by the end of the night it had won 11 of those awards, including Charlton Heston for Best Actor. Sadly, Stephen was not even nominated for his performance as Messala, even though he had won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.  Apparently that fact was the elephant in the room that night. Hedda Hopper was puzzled, as were several other Hollywood press writers. This was Hedda’s comment:

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Apparently the studio had forbidden Boyd to pick up Griffith’s award in person should Griffith not attend the ceremony:  Hugh Griffith was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor for Ben Hur instead of Boyd. Griffith was on hand to receive this award, so that awkwardness was avoided.

Stephen took the evening in stride, however, and was the first to congratulate Charlton Heston on his award at the after parties.  Here was a few pics of Stephen that evening.

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Can you find Stephen Boyd  in the crowd?

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