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 Ulla Bergryd from “The Bible” premiere, 1966

Stephen and young starlet Ulla Bergryd, who played Nimrod and Eve respectively in John Huston’s dream-like, biblical epic “The Bible”, attended the Hollywood premiere of the movie together in October of 1966.  Ulla was from Sweden, and she was somewhat overawed by the dazzling Hollywood stars that surrounded her during the premiere. She attended the New York premiere with John Gavin, and the Hollywood premiere with Boyd. From an article at the time, the 24-year old Bergryd said this:

“I used to read the movie magazines avidly until I was about 14 and I just couldn’t tell Mr. Gavin and Mr. Boyd that when I was a child they were two of my pin-up boys.”

Lucky lady!

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with Ulla Bergryd, 1966

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Boyd signs autographs, and Bergryd is close behind at another “The Bible” event 

Boyd as Nimrod, Bergryd as Eve in “The Bible” 1966

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Stephen Boyd in “The Bashful Genius”, summer of 1967

In 1967, 50 years ago this July, Stephen Boyd happily returned to the stage again. Of course Stephen had started on the stage, but after coming to Hollywood in 1958, movies had obviously taken priority. After completing his Twentieth Century Fox obligation, Stephen was excited to look for new projects, and “The Bashful Genius” soon followed. In the spring of 1967, Boyd started to grow a beard for the role and dyed his hair red. “With his two-month growth of beard for his role as George Bernard Shaw in the Broadway play, “The Bashful Genius,” Stephen Boyd made the mistake of walking along the hippie Sunset Blvd. section. One of the hippies asked Boyd to help sell their underground newspaper for three hours a day.” (Honolulu Star Bulletin June 28, 1967)

This play ran for a short time in the summer of 1967, being featured at the well known Playhouse in the Park in Philadelphia from July 31- August 5th, in Denver, Colorado (my hometown!) from August 7-12th at the renowned Elitch Theatre Company, and ending at the Fallmouth, Massachusetts Playhouse in mid-August. Unfortunately it didn’t make the cut to appear on Broadway.  It was a comedy about Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw written by Harold Callen.  The fact that Boyd would be portraying a famous Irishman certainly must have appealed to him! The play had originally debuted in London at the John Neville Nottingham Playhouse in 1964, with John Neville in the title role.  On a side note, a young Ian McKellen had acted a minor role in one of the original performances in London (http://www.mckellen.com/stage/00025.htm). The play was now revamped for Boyd as an American production.

As with all his projects, Stephen studied very thoroughly for the role.

“I play Shaw at the age of 40. At that time he had four flops on stage, five failures as an author, was a complete washout as a painter and a failure as a councilman. Then he met Charlotte Payne-Townsend, the woman who was to organize his life and remain his wife for 40 years.”

The film star recently completed a picture in London – “Assignment K.” “I decided to come back to Los Angeles the long way. The play was sent to me on my holiday in Hong Kong. By the time I reached Tokyo there was a cable: “You have to say Yes or No.” I said “No!”” (Philadelphia Daily News, July 27, 1967)

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Boyd did, however, eventually say “Yes!”

 

Stephen was interviewed by the Philadelphia Enquirer and had this to say

“Even if the play is a flop I don’t care. Success for me is within me. Audience reaction is only an ego thing. I have had more personal satisfaction from this in the last 10 days than I’ve had in the last 11 years. There’s not much room for personal satisfaction in movies because you’re not really in control of your own performance.

“What appeals to me about this play is said in the title, ‘The Bashful Genius.’ Inside, Shaw was really the Marchbanks of ‘Candida’, not the Dick Dudgeon as he would have like everyone to believe. The role is a complete alphabet of emotion and range.”

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Extremely rare picture of Boyd rehearsing on stage as Shaw, with Nancy Wickwire as Charlotte. (Philadelphia Daily News, July 29, 1967)

The comedy mostly involves Bernard Shaw’s fear of marriage to a woman called Charlotte Payne-Townshend.  I’m sure Boyd could relate to this aspect of the story as well, considering his own caution about wedding bells! It sounds like it was a fun play from the review in Philadelphia Enquirer as well.  Boyd himself received great reviews.

“Britain’s Stephen Boyd, in his American stage debut, scores solidly in the title role. His is a carefully drawn portrait, retaining an air of spontaneity in making Shaw a believable human being.  He is matched by the performance of Nancy Wickwire (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Wickwire) as the faithful Charlotte, who loses her cool only when their engagement of a few minutes seems to be broken.”   (Philadelphia Enquirer, August 1, 1967)

“A red-haired Irishman, Stephen Boyd, is cast as another redheaded Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, in “The Bashful Genius,” which opens tonight…Boyd wears a flowering beard grown especially for the production, stands 6-foot-1, which was Shaw’s exact height, weighs five pounds less than the master playwright when he was 35, the period in the Irish dramatist’s life with which the play is concerned.”

“The time is the 1890’s in London, and the story concerns the fulminating but shy writer and the wealthy and clever woman who persuaded him that, with her money and his talent, they could break into Britain’s literary establishment.”

“The comedy’s idea is the persuasive one that only Miss Payne-Townsend recognized the bashful, even timid, poet that was hidden beneath all the red-headed one’s buffoonery and opinionated intimidation.” (Philadelphia Daily News, July 31, 1967)

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A review by critic-at-large Otto Dekom from at the time criticized the play itself and the amateur cast, but had high praise for Boyd’s portrayal.

“This is English drawing room comedy and requires a very special kind of production and cast. There must be the charm and quality of the English, their gentility and particular quality of speech. Without these essentials, the play makes no significant impression…indeed, amateur night at the Playhouse.”

“The one significant exception is Stephen Boyd, the well-known movie star, who plays Shaw.”

“Despite the phony Irish brogue (Phony? I wonder if this critic knew Boyd was Irish!), he comes through with a great deal of fire and authenticity. That grin and wide-eyed look of self satisfaction are typical of Shaw. They are to be found in most photographs and motion pictures of him.”

“One cannot help but enjoy Boyd’s characterization, all the more because it comes as a surprise. Some of his pretty-boy movie roles were not intended to inspire confidence in his acting ability. Boyd appeared on Sunday evening on television on a replay of a motion picture with Doris Day. It was not possible to endure much of it.” (The Morning News, Delaware, Aug 2, 1967)

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The News Journal, Wilmington Delaware, July 29, 1967
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(Philadelphia Enquirer, August 1, 1967)

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“The Bashful Genius”- Stephen Boyd returns to the stage in 1967

Stephen Boyd grew up on the stage, but once he came to Hollywood he did not return to the stage- except once. In mid-1967 Stephen was asked to star in a off-Broadway production of The Bashful Genius. This was a play concerning the life of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Stephen was a perfect choice since he was Irish, and he started to grow a beard for the part. The play toured in the summer of 1967. It was featured at venue’s like the Historic Elitch Theater stage in Denver Colorado, Aug 7-12, 1967 Unfortunately the play had a short run, and Stephen was back making movies. I have not been able to find any reviews of the play, but below are some nice pictures from the time it was running.

This is a rare July 1967 playbill from the out-of-town tryout of the new HAROLD CALLAN play “THE BASHFUL GENIUS” at the Playhouse in the Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (The production played the Summer Stock circuit in the summer of 1967, but closed on the road failing to arrive in New York. (From Amazon.com description)

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