“Stephen Boyd Captures Her Fancy, His Ire” – 1968 Newspaper Feature

Sadly, the general public today seems to have forgotten about Stephen Boyd. But when you look back in time at newspaper articles and magazines, Stephen was such a well-known celebrity in the 1960’s! The buzz Stephen created when he hit the screen in “Ben Hur” as the complex villain Messala truly kept humming for an entire decade after the movie came out.

This is a fascinating article from the Baltimore Sun on February 18, 1968, that relates the simple excitement a British housewife experiences when Stephen Boyd is set to film a scene for “Assignment K” in their apartment.

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From a Window In Fleet Street: “Stephen Boyd Captures Her Fancy, His Ire”

by Charles Flowers

LONDON. “Well, too bad,” he smirked. “It looks like Brigitte Bardot beat you out.”

“Beat me out of what?” she asked.

“Beat you out of Stephen Boyd,” he said. He handed his wife a tabloid newspaper containing a large picture of Brigitte being fondled by Stephen Boyd in Southern Spain. Stephen Boyd is probably her new boy friend, the article said.

She studied the pictures and then said in a wistful smile: “I have my memories.”

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

It all began nearly a year ago when a movie company was filming “Assignment K,” with Stephen Boyd and Sir Michael Redgrave.

“Guess what?” she demanded one night when the husband came home for dinner. “A movie company wants to rent one room of the house for one afternoon. Stephen Boyd will rest and be made up in the room while the camera men set up and all. The house two doors away is supposed to be his London home and he will be filmed going in and out of it.”

“What’s the movie about?”

A SPY STORY

“A spy story. Stephen Boyd is the agent and Sir Michael is his boss- the head, or chief, or whatever.”

Two or three weeks passed until, one night, she said that a date had been set for the filming in their alley, called a mews.

“Be sure to put on clean pillow cases,” he said, “I’ll bet Stephen Boyd always rests on clean pillow cases.”

IN THE BEDROOM

The arranged date had to be postponed, though, because the movie company was having trouble blowing up a house out in Hampstead for another scene. In mid-afternoon one day the following week, the wife phoned to say that demolition in Hampstead had been successful and that the film company had moved in.  “He’s upstairs in the bedroom,” she said.

The husband went home early for dinner, finding the mews full of cameras, generators, electrical cables and a huge chuck wagon to feed the 40 or 50 technicians and directors. His wife had asked a few friends in for dinner to share the occasion and perhaps her a glimpse of Stephen Boyd.

When she peeked, she said, a girl was putting makeup on Stephen Boyd while he read aloud from Dr. Spock’s baby-care book. Stephen  Boyd and the girl were laughing, she said.

FORGOT THE BOOKS

The husband groaned. “I thought of clean pillow cases but forgot to mention to put some impressive books in the room. We could have borrowed some.”

Shortly after dinner, huge, dazzling lights were turned on and Stephen Boyd was summoned. He emerged fro his afternoon of rest and merriment, tall, very handsome and considerate. “How are the children?” he asked an assistant camera man, Doubtless, he had been influenced by Dr. Spock.

Stephen Boyd walked to the end of the mews, where police were holding out traffic and gogglers and where a car awaited him. His leather heels clicked properly on the bricks,and he smoked and flicked his cigarette as an actor should.

“Tell me when you’re happy, Cyril,” a camera man called.

ROLL IT

After Stephen Boyd got into the car and turned on the lights, Cyril said he was happy. Stephen Boyd was given the sign and the cameras began turning.

Stephen Boyd drove rapidly up the mews, stopped in front of one of the houses, turned off the lights, picked up his trench coat off the seat, climbed out of the car and went into the house.

They went through the thing once more, turned off the lights, began packing up and Stephen Boyd went whereever handsome movie actors go at night.

“Stephen Boyd can really drive,” the wife said.

MORE GOOD NEWS

“I’ve got more good news,” he said as his wife kept glancing at the picture of Stephen Boyd and Brigitte Bardot.

“Such as what?”

“Assignment K has just opened and I saw it this afternoon. I genuinely am reluctant to tell you, both he and it aren’t much.”

“I’ll decide that,” she told him after advising him that he was supposed to work in the afternoons rather than go to movies. “You can baby-sit Saturday while I go to see Stephen Boyd, who has been in my bedroom. Dr. Spock is still there.”

She smirked last and best.

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Stephen Boyd in ‘Assignment K’, 1967

 

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The 1960’s was rife with British spy movies, starting of course with first  James Bond movie in 1962 starring Sean Connery, and later the Harry Palmer spy movies starring Michael Caine, along with endless spy caper movies. It’s hard to count how many spy movies came out in the 1960’s – which of course makes sense due to the Cold War tension at the time.  The course of spy movies – and Stephen Boyd’s life- would have been drastically different had Stephen been chosen to be the lead in “Dr. No”. Stephen was the primary choice for this role! However, due to a number of conflicts with studio contracts apparently, Stephen was not able to accept the role. For someone who preferred character parts to a leading man part, this was probably a blessing for Stephen as Sean Connery himself later found out that trying to escape the role of James Bond was a daunting task. Luckily for us, Stephen still got the chance to be a spy on-screen, and in a movie which was much more fitting to his personality. The movie, “Assignment K”,  was based on a book by Hartley Howard and it was filmed in February and March of 1967 in wintry Germany and London under the direction of Val Guest. Besides Boyd, it also featured svelte Swedish newcomer Camilla Sparv and veteran actors Leo McKern, Jeremy Kemp and Sir Michael Redgrave. Stephen’s character runs a sort of spy within a spy organization, and when one of his operatives is killed in Germany by another branch of the English spy circuit, his world begins to unravel. The highlight of the film is actually the layered romance between Stephen and Camilla Sparv. They have a sparkling chemistry together,and you end up following their romantic moments more than the intrigues of the spy story itself. It is also great to see Stephen on-screen with his early career mentor Sir Michael Redgrave.  The late 1960’s fashions are also on display with Stephen dressed in stylish slim 1960’s suits and ties, and he even gets to try his hand at some amateur skiing! Below are some pictures from the filming of “Assignment K”.

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