Stephen Boyd in “Beast of Marseilles” (Seven Thunders), 1957

Stephen Boyd spent most of 1957 romancing French starlets and sex-kittens. He started the year off filming the WWII drama “The Beast of Marseilles” with Anna Gaylor, which was filmed in Marseilles and London. Later that year he would go to Paris to meet Brigitte Bardot and Roger Vadim to begin filming “The Night Heaven Fell.”

“Stephen Boyd, young Irish actor who romances Joan Collins in “Island in the Sun,” won’t be coming to California in the near future. 20th Century Fox, where he’s under contract, loaned him to J. Arthur Rank to star in the Danny Angel production “Seven Thunders, ” which will be shot in England. French Star Anne Gaylor will play a top role and Hugo Fregonese directs.” (Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1957)

The film is based on a novel called “Seven Thunders” by Rupert Croft-Cooke. The movie follows the novel fairly closely, but it is well worth reading the novel to get more insight into all of these characters.

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Stephen truly commands the screen with ease,  considering this was his first major part. He is assisted by some wonderful English and French character actors which make all of the story lines engaging to watch.  Exactly a year after filming “The Beast of Marseilles” Stephen would be filming the biggest role of his career – Messala in “Ben-Hur.”

Stephen Boyd fights the crowd while trying to escape the Nazi destruction of Marseilles in “Seven Thunders”, 1957

Stephen Boyd commands the screen in his first true starring role.

Stephen Boyd and French starlet Anna Gaylor in “Seven Thunders” (The Beast of Marseilles), 1957

Stephen met French actress Anna Gaylor in 1956 while filming “The Beast of Marseilles” for Rank films. Anna even looks a lot like Stephen’s first wife,  Mariella Di Sarzana, who would met about a year and a half while filming Ben-Hur. The film seems to have been made on location in Marseilles and in London. Anna was an up and coming French starlet, and this was her first film. For Stephen, this was the first movie where he received top billing and was essentially the main star of the picture.

According to Modern Screen in 1960 and other sources, the two became very close:

He made a picture called Seven Thunders with French actress Anna Gaylor and lightning struck them both. Anna, -who still acts in Paris, is in Steve’s words, “beautiful, fascinating and a true artist.” The liaison lasted for 18 months and Steve still hasn’t forgotten Anna. In fact, he still writes her now and then. Like all romantic involvements since, it ended without hard feelings. “It always comes to the point where either you do or you don’t,” explains Steve simply. ”Anna and I reached that point and we made the right decision. But she was very, very good for me.”

Below, from Inside Story magazine in 1960:

In another interview, this time with Photoplay in July of 1960, Stephen hints that his relationship with Anna was close to being the perfect male/female companionship.

“Why do some men want to stay single? Maybe, it’s better to ask, Why should a man marry? A woman must understand what a man is looking to find in her and in marriage with her.

“I’m looking for something that I came very close to a few years ago. I met a young French actress and from our affinity in work grew an admiration, a respect, a loyalty- and finally a great affection. I feel that she is my friend and will be my friend for life and I will be hers. We had a friendship affection, but it was not enough to put in the form of romance. We never really considered marriage although we did talk about it. Immediately, it became personal and we dropped the subject. But I sincerely believe that it must be possible to be in love with a woman and have that same kind of friendship, If it isn’t, perhaps I’ll never marry.”

Hedda Hopper further confirms the close bonds had with Gaylor in an interview she had with Boyd in early 1959.

“This was Boyd’s first marriage but I understand he’d been deeply in love with another girl prior to this and had hoped to marry her. This he did not tell me but some of his friends did.” (Hartford Courant, Feb 22, 1959)

Although Hopper doesn’t mention a name, I think Anna Gaylor was the girl.

Here are some pictures and posters from “The Beast of Marseilles”, sometimes known as “The Seven Thunders”.

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